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March '07

art gallery
New Delhi

Curated by
Johny ML


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Of Objects and their Secret Lives

Amrita Gupta Singh reviews the works of the Baroda based artist, Sharath Kulagatti and says that the artist through his works has imparted voice to those silenced objects of the quotidian life.

What is the secret life of objects? Throughout history, the objects of everyday life have led strange lives of their own. These objects reflect and reproduce the societies that construct them and are symbolic of the social structures that manufacture them. Once entrenched in quotidian activities, they become invisible and their pasts become quietly hidden. Still-life as an art form has had a controversial history and it is interesting to investigate how a contemporary artist like Sharath Kulagatti uses this genre to reconstruct cultural meanings, of reconfiguring inanimate subject matter and transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary, imbuing everyday objects with new associations.

Presented by Pundole Art Gallery, Baroda based, Kulagatti’s exhibition in Mumbai ‘Still Alive’, presents found objects in large painted forms, placing them against ambiguous backgrounds, in monochrome, blowing up the mundane object to monumental proportions that assume an iconic significance.  The outcome is always unintended, imaginative and fantastical and opens up new ways of thinking about the field of still-life interpretation. Amid the figurative/narrative tradition of Baroda based artists where mediatic realism is the key-word, Kullagatti stoically finds a language of his own in these banal everyday objects, in which he gives them a visibility, encapsulating their forms, textures, surfaces and internal rhythms.

Kullagatti’s source “is the urban junkyard”, objects that are manufactured by unknown technicians or “cheap imports”, used for common labour, and quickly discarded as “obsolete” in the rush for the new. The artist also borrows from a local collector of such obsolete items, Amitabh Gandhi, and scours the Friday flea-market in Baroda, “ Shukrawari- is a bazaar that recycles the old: nut cracker, sewing machine, charcoal-fired iron box, engine oil dispenser, nuts, bolts, screws, carpentry tools, kerosene lanterns…Sharath has a grasp of the objects he collects, weaving the texture of their own richness. They all suggest labour; the use of hands. These tools are part of our culture…but are tucked away” (Suresh Jayaram in the catalogue).

The intimate resonances that reverberate in these paintings have a Zen-like quality, much like Chinese painting, where the voids and the concrete merge in a way in which the object seems to float, ethereal, surreal in nature. In another way, they also allude to Pop Art in the fusion of object, image, and commercial product, and the focus on a singular image, blowing it up beyond human scale. The artist also investigates the human presence in these objects, their material and contextual pasts and the economics of their utility in the frenzied world. A microscopic scrutiny of the parts of the object in relation to the whole alludes to the human anatomy in its erotic associations, of phallic shapes embedded and inserted in myriad forms. Subtle, contemplative and poetic, “ they become intimate autobiographical evocations as seen in the works of the celebrated Italian painter, Morandi…one can draw parallels between both these artists’ sympathy towards, and celebration of, these humble objects”.

Kulagatti’s paintings seem to transcend space and time, an investigation of the relationship between the real and illusory, revealing a poetic insight of his subject, a keen sense of compositional balance, a fine sensitivity to tonal rhythms, notable for their simplicity of execution.


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