|One admires the sincere, bold involvement of performance by young Mangala to emphasise that art and life with its real, personally experienced and approached issues are inextricable.|
For ravaged nature
Krishnaraj Chonat successfully used earlier the disquietingly seductive glamour of materials to denounce middle-class obsession with fake opulence. ‘My hands smell of you’, his new exhibition at Galleryske (February 6 to March 13), carries the method with more complexity, sophistication, engagement of olfactory sensations and excellent display. Perhaps over-intellectualised, however, it leaves one confused between the actual works and the artist's statement. The title work is a bewitching artificial landscape with a carpet of red, oily soil, such uprooted tree stump and leafless, truncated stems faintly rising to the sky which reciprocates as a mass of old computer monitors and keyboards, their mouse cables descending as if about to settle into the ground. Reflected and multiplied on both sides by wall-size mirrors, it conjures an eerie, uncomfortable fluidity around our world where e-waste imparts a presence equal to that of organic life.
The enchanting but wounded land elicits sad tenderness. The aroma of the natural motifs thickly covered by sandalwood soap does indicate something essential and a connection with trees. Looking wax-like, though, the substance could lead to interpretations other than the implied by the artist - 'cleansing' our sensitivities of the homogeneous, aesthetically prettified filters that the tourist commerce imposes on the wild. To understand this context one would needed to draw some clues from the work. The adjacent space has a damaged fragment of a traditional fishing boat layered by sandalwood soap and an eroded wooden plank on which a white human skeleton reclines in sleep growing delicate traceries of tiny, dry shrubs along which there walks a herd of elephant figurines. The spectator can get this "Forest of mind, die sooner" as an image of the ravaged scenery reverberating in the human condition and one's ideas about or longing for pristine nature. This impact is reinforced by the charcoal and acrylic on canvas "Losing it" where Chonat portrayed himself as a limp figure of funny-grave helplessness draped on an arid tree branch. A similarly ominous reading of the previous sculpture, yet, is again undermined by the certain elegance of its rendering, since the regular, smoothed rhythm of the plank and the daintiness of the bones lack a greater degree of the raw, rough and rudimentary. This is compensated by the installation in a dark room in which an ornately encrusted but dissolving pair of binoculars on the floor is illuminated from below without offering a vista and a viewfinder-like circle of light on the ceiling holds a relief with parched earth and a broken tree trunk. Although it is difficult to without an explanation associate the heading "My boat at 6, your soul at 2" with technological intricacies of photography, the work powerfully evokes the aura of tense disconnect in our perception of the world and its core along with an urge to overcome the same.
One admires the sincere, bold involvement of performance by young Mangala to emphasise that art and life with its real, personally experienced and approached issues are inextricable. Even though her work comes through as rather literal both in its handling of existential situations or objects and of her metaphors, her passionate honesty makes the imperfections excusable and allows to expect much more later. Her performance at the amphitheatre of the Ravindra Kalakshetra (February 22) had a homa ritual with a priest reciting sacred verses in reference to the artist's recent marriage, a wooden cart studded with personal belongings, Mangala's poems, musings and sketches representing the journey of life, while the symbolic circle of the endless existential cycle was seen beside its illuminated version that suggested of both circus and trial by fire. The event concluded with the artist pulling the cart and an enormous circular cake being but and distributed to the accompaniment of poetic recitations. The idea behind the performance was certainly valid and potentially cathartic. In order to become that, however, its elements taken directly from reality should have been much more processed in aesthetic terms.
The photographic series of "Fluid Forms" by Farah Ahmed at Gallery Sublime (UB City, February 13 to 20) with technical finesse played around ponds and their vegetation transposing water ripples, their reflectivity and the capacity to blur hues, illumination, shadows and shapes. Thus, a tentative suspension was achieved between residues of the real and of quite painterly abstraction. Granting the artist her sensitivity, one could not, nevertheless, miss the too pronounced tone of formal indulgency, the latter sporadically resulting in somewhat sentimental effects. The best of the pieces were those that subdued the colours towards a darkish near-monochrome while retaining a degree of the raw and real.