Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Melancholy of a Political Land, News and other Stories


Melancholy of a Political Land: Sarika Mehta

Ahmedabad based artist, Sarika Mehta’s works have the sheen of poetical melancholy that drenches the onlooker with a sense of longing for the lost. JohnyML features the artist for the Art Daily

(Sarika Mehta)

Sarika Mehta stands amidst a grey pool of concentrated silence. Her works exude silence like a thick serum oozing from hurt memories. The melancholy however, is not hurtful; it doesn’t distract the viewer, instead it draws him into them. My first response is to have a quick look and proceed. But I stay back amidst these paintings. Sometimes you feel so overwhelmed by a work of art but such feelings are rare these days. Sarika’s works touch you deep inside and you oscillate between the familiar and unfamiliar feelings. Is the melancholy so enchanting and are the sap like greys so serene? Sarika’s enigmatic countenance does not provide you with any answers. In her age she need not be that melancholic and make it so infectious. But sheer happiness of life could make one aware of its extreme opposites. Her world view is darkened by pain but I would say it is slowed by poetry.

(Untitled Oil on canvas by Sarika Mehta)

Born in Ahmedabad, Sarika Mehta got her first degree in fine arts from the CN College, Ahmedabad. She worked at the Kanoria Studios in the same city for a while and obtained a post graduate degree in Print Making from the fine arts faculty, M.S.University, Baroda. Training in graphics polished her lines and experiments in painting made her techniques clear. A harmonious mingling of lines, colours and space makes her paintings quite enchanting. Formally speaking they are duo-tonal in nature and maintain a classical perspective. The vast spaces she opens up in her paintings come from her familiarity with the terrain in which she lives. She minuses the urban characteristics from the familiar terrains but interestingly she does not litter them with the rural imageries either. Sarika, the way a child removes toys from a basket, throws out the definitive landmarks from the place only to transform it into a space; a space of vastness.

(Untitled Oil on Canvas by Sarika Mehta)

Consider Sarika’s imageries; they vary from uprooted plants, floating rocks, spiralling ladders to upturned charpoys. They all exist in a vast space created out of grey and faint pink tones. Anybody who has travelled from Ahmedabad to Bhuj or Kutch would realize how the familiarity with that terrain has helped Sarika to formulate her mental landscapes. The barren landscapes where Sarika places uprooted plants and dying birds are near replication of those landscapes. Uprooted plants/trees lying like a fallen patriarch amidst the ice cubes strewn all over is a strong symbol Sarika uses in her painting. A closer look reveals that there is a small garland of red beads lying hidden around a piece of ice. There are ladders that begin at the ending and end at the beginning.

(Detail of a work by Sarika Mehta)

Sarika gives some autobiographical references to her imageries while discussing her works; it ranges from her growing up years to new motherhood. From fertility of imagination to fertility of body the artistic imagination flutters like a kite. She does not emphasise the word ‘political’ in any of her explanations. But in my view, what makes Sarika’s works intriguing and interesting is the artist’s skilful and covert way of making a political statement about her own land and her times. Gujarat is a land of politico-religious conflicts though these days it is considered to be a model state of development. Apparently Gujarat gives a happy picture for the moneyed and the affluent classes. But the reality is that the cosmetic development of the land is at the cost of average human beings. An autocrat’s political diktats may sound music to many ears but for the right thinking people, this music could turn into a military marching tune that walks automatically into private lives.

(watercolour by Sarika Mehta)

In my view Sarika’s melancholy comes from this deep understanding of the political reality. She sees everything standing still around her; there is an uncanny beauty in everything. The stillness and tranquillity are benumbing and deafening. The beautiful landscape of evenness changes into a dead and frozen land where life becomes impossible in Sarika’s works. Amongst the uprooted trees one sees the dead bodies of peace. Uprooting is a part of development and urbanization, both key agendas of globalization. But without directly referring to development or urbanization, Sarika underlines uprooting as an issue. The beads seen around an ice cube is Sarika’s reminder to those who ululate the achievement of an autocrat. The ladder that begins and ends at the same point shows the futility of the so called progress and development.

(Oil on canvas by Sarika Mehta)

I do not know whether Sarika Mehta is going to accept my interpretation or not. She may like to keep the subtlety of her metaphors as it is. Shrill interpretations could cause problem to the privacy of the artist. But I believe someone has to say this if nobody dares to say it. Sarika has said it through her apparently innocent looking metaphors. But she reiterates undoubtedly that the decay is on its way through the migration of ants from one ant hill to another being made under an upturned charpoy which is new and is in sharp contrast with the termite eaten charpoy lying broken around the ant hill. Another interesting aspect of Sarika’s practice is her installations. The growing decay in all aspects of life is emblematized by the artist as growing algae or fungi. She uses painted towels to simulate algae formations and places them at water pipes, cracks in the walls and air conditioner ducts and so on. Rolling stones do not gather moss. But we have stopped rolling, emotionally and intellectually, Sarika Mehta seems to say through her works.


Ruins of the Renaissance - a multi-discipline festival

A unique multi-discipline festival is going to take place at the Innovative Film City, Bangalore from the 25th of May to the 26th of May 2013. The festival titled, ‘Ruins of the Renaissance’  is a one of its kind festival with an array of creativity and innovation on display in the form of arts, science and music. The philosophy of the festival is that everyone is born creative and the spark is lost over time. The festival aims to rekindle that fire and bring one back to themselves.

The festival has workshops, artist galleries, innovation stalls, experiments street performances, installation art, open work spaces, live art, stage performances, prototypes and after parties planned. The multi curated festival promises over 150 new experiences in the world of creative pursuits and innovation.

Tickets are available at the site.

Sighting Sound: A project display by FICA Club

The Foundation for Indian Contemporary Art (FICA), New Delhi, presents a project titled, ‘Sighting Sound: A Project Display by FICA club’. The FICA club is a group of students from the Deepalaya School who along with the facilitator Sreejata Roy, try to explore non curriculum based topics using innovative and creative methods. Using sound in every day life as a theme the young members of the group discus their experiences of sounds and these ideas are then translated into visual and performative art works.

These visuals and performative art works will be on display on the 15th of May between 10:30 am to12:30 pm, in the Deepalaya School Foyer, New Delhi.

The FICA Club was formed under FICA’s  Learning with Art Project in 2009, with the intent of long term educational module that uses art and other creative methods to help children explore the world around them.

Sreejata Roy is an M Phil in new media from Coventry School of Art and Design, UK and has several years of experience in community related projects, and has been a part of national and international art residencies and exhibitions.

Embedded Memories -  A four persons show

(Painting by Sujata Achrekar)

Crimson Art Gallery, Bangalore, presents a montage of art works in a light-hearted vein from the lives of 4 artists, with most of the art works derived from their individual childhood memories or adolescence. Resurfacing their memories in the form of art works, from their innocent subconscious the artists display drawings and paintings.

The show is rightly titled, ‘Embedded Memories’ and brings forth an array of beauty, innocence, fragments of mundane informations, the secrets, all this forming a physically manifesting heirloom of memories which the drawings and paintings convey.

The participating artists are, Sujata Achrekar, Sukanta Das, Nagesh Goud and Shravan Kumar. The show is on view till the 16th of May 2013.

This Figured: Murals, Vandalism and Visualities - A show by artists, anthropologists

 Dakshinachitra art gallery, Chennai, presents a unique show by artists, anthropologists, titled, ‘This  Figured : Murals, Vandalism and Visualities’. This is a joint exhibition of works by Gita, K T Gandhirajan and Roos Gerritsen. The show exhibits photographs and replicas of the vandalized murals and statues and focuses on street culture in urban spaces.

The imagery of walls shown in this exhibition are by Gita, Gandhirajan and Roos and  have various connections to the world around them. They explore the iconoclastic occurrences on early murals that has been traced as depicted by anthropologist and artist Gandhirajan, the new inspirations that the older murals have triggered portrayed in Gita's paintings and the elaborate visual street culture in Chennai's urban spaces as shown in Roos' images.

The show is on view till the 30th of June 2013 at the Dakshinachitra Art gallery, Chennai

(News Reports by Sushma Sabnis)

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