Tuesday, February 25, 2014

EDITORIAL - Holla-Mohalla -An Exhibition Made on Order.. and more..

Holla-Mohalla- An Exhibition Made on Order
( Work on display. Image for illustrative purposes only)
In fact I do not want to say anything negative about the art exhibitions that I see these days. But sometimes I cannot help saying what I really feel. ‘Holla Mohalla’, a two persons’ show at the India Habitat Centre, New Delhi is a ‘made on order’ show. I know this comment would hurt both the artists; Cop Shiva, the photographer and Suresh Muthukulam, the painter. Their point of departure is the Nihang Sikhs, the followers of the ideals of an army founded by Guru Gobind Singh. Holla Mohalla is a celebration of the Sikhs that often heralds the beginning of the Sikh New Year. You will get more about it if you google; so there is no point in me telling it. What surprised me is the absolute naivety of the exhibition. First of all I do not find any logic in Cop Shiva, a Bangalore based policeman doubling up as a photography artist, and Suresh Muthukulam, an acclaimed mural artist from Kerala, taking a very serious interest in Holla Mohalla. Now the ‘curators’ of this show; Jaya Mani and Sumati Sondhi. Jaya Mani is a gallerist who sells anything from paintings to brass vessels. Sumati Sondhi is an interior decorator. If you have already googled, Holla Mohalla falls in the month of March. Something clicked? If not let me tell you, Sikhs revere their gurus and most of them are extremely affluent. In the month of March, every affluent Sikh cannot go to Punjab to celebrate Holla Mohalla. So what do they do? They buy a work of art that celebrates Holla Mohalla, period. It is a well timed show, especially when it is inaugurated by none other than the flying Sikh, Milka Singh. Of course not Farhan Akthar.
( Work on display. Images for illustrative purposes only)
Is there any problem if someone creates a custom made show? For me, absolutely  no problem. But I am concerned about these two artists who are my Facebook friends. When I say, I am concerned, I mean it. First of all Cop Shiva. He is Basavaraju, a cop by profession and artist by choice. Being a cop helps his identity of becoming an artist. Had there been no cop tag, I wonder whether we would have gone into superlatives with his first show? But the world is like that. When he presented his first show, ‘Face Two Face’, media hailed him as a new finding. In the show Cop Shiva had documented the life of two people, who impersonated Gandhi and legendary actor-politician late M.G.Ramachandran. The works had made a good show; at least the theme was curious. It was a quarter anthropologic, a quarter documentary, a quarter aesthetical and the fourth quarter was the place where Cop Shiva could have improved himself. But before that people came in to cash in on his popularity. I am surprised to see that noted alternative art promoter Suresh Jayaram also has endorsed it by ‘jointly’ writing the catalogue text with Jaya Mani. I can forgive Suresh because Cop Shiva is his cousin. In these days of a dried up market, it is always good to have cousins who could sell art, whether it is on Sikhs or Marwaris. 

(Work by Suresh Muthukulam. For illustrative purposes only)
Suresh Muthukulam is a mural artist. His works have been very faithfully following the mural tradition of Kerala. But what about a Sikh buyer who would like to flaunt Guru Gobind Singh or virile, athletic and warrior-like Nihangs in fluid lines and dreamy eyes? He would definitely not like it. So here goes Suresh, out and out ready to water down his style which is neither Kerala mural style nor anything to do with Punjab or India in general. If Cop Shiva is depending on his camera, Suresh is depending on the pictures that he might have clicked for himself during his visit to Punjab. But let me tell you Suresh, the paintings look funny and caricature-ish. I was appalled to see a portrait of Jaya Mani in one of these paintings. The painting is sold as the red bindi tells me so. But isn’t it so ‘made to/on order’?  I feel sad. Because both Cop Shiva and Suresh Muthukulam are not supposed to be working like this. There are occasions when even a writer like me writes for the ‘clients’. But even then the writer’s self or style is not compromised. If my name goes along with an article, irrespective of the greatness of the works that I endorse, I take all care to be sincere to the hilt and well meaning. But here, both Cop Shiva and Suresh seem to be indulging in something that they should not have even touched. 
(Work on display. Images for illustrative purposes only)
Cop Shiva’s entry into art has already become folklore by repetition. He came to the city with his ailing father and Suresh Jayaram accommodated him at his 1 Shanti Road, the hub of alternative art practices in Bangalore. Cop Shiva, like many other cops who do not have IPS rank (for IPS and IAS people know everything including painting and poetry), initially did not understand art. But slowly he took a fascination for clicked images. He got hooked soon to the camera. Rest is history. Such a history needs to be embellished with sincere works. Frankly speaking, the works on display could be taken even by me provided I have an inclination to take it or have a good camera with me. Why I say me, because I am an art critic who has complete disdain for most of the images. To evoke liking in me is a difficult task. Cop Shiva should be left alone. It is easy for him to become a travel photographer and let me tell you can make sure someone is a travel photographer if he has long hair and an Enfield bike; I hate my own stereotyping, but I can’t help it. In a nutshell, Cop Shiva has put a load of virus in his clear thinking. Clear them up as soon as possible. Suresh Muthukulam should think about better projects if he wants to become a good artist. Mural paintings had led revolutions in Mexico in modern times. In our own context, they have registered history for us. Degenerating into hagiography and work on order would actually demean the medium that you use. I do not have any problem if it is all about making some money. 
Hope the parties discussed here would not file a defamation suit against me. Also, Karnataka Police will not frame me in some drug case when I go to Bangalore next. Whatever said above is in good and right spirit. Rest is up to you, guys. 


Neon Temples, Masala Maggie and Iphoned Monks

( work by Sana Javeri Kadri)
Gallery Beyond, Mumbai presents a solo show of photographs by Sana Javeri Kadri. The show is titled, ‘Neon Temples, Masala Maggie and Iphoned Monks’. The show has on display a range of photographs which try to capture the versatile concoction of what India as a country represents. 

Balancing its religious roots and traditions which go along with the influences of the modernity and the new age, the photographs present the ironical flux, the coexistence and the symbiotic relationships of multiple ideologies flourishing under one roof of a tolerant society and nation.

The show is on view till 28th February 2014.

( Work by Nisar Ahmad)
Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi presents a solo show titled, ‘Hamnashee’ of art works by artist Nisar Ahmad. Nisar is an Indian modern Urdu calligrapher and abstract Sufi painter. He is inspired by Nakshbandi and Chishty Sufi orders. 
Hamnashee portrays an expression of a lover, who is highly inflammable and consuming his self in love. At the exhibition, patrons can see the feelings expressed in colours, which reveals the powerful feelings recollected in tranquility. Metaphorically it is expressed as the anarchic expression of a true lover's heart and mind. The sublimity of Greek goddess trances in calligraphy, like a dimple cheeked celestial dame of a rosy hue transmuting the inner felt. The beloved, who is posing like an iris of genial desires, coming out in senses with gentle whispers. Hamnashee is not a guest, but a search within.

The show is on view till 1st March 2014.

Vibrant Hues

Jehangir Terrace Art Gallery, Mumbai presents a group show of art works by six upcoming contemporary artists. The show is titled, ‘Vibrant Hues’ and features the paintings and ceramic sculptures.

The participating artists are Ruchi Chadha, Sameer Sarkar, Subrata Das, Drishti Vohra, Mahhima Bhayanna, Shashikant Charbe. The works on displaya re vibrantly hued and portray figuratives and some abstract art styles. A few works have a spiritual bent in depictions. The show commences on 27th February 2014. 

The show is on view till 5th March 2014.

Nature Scapes
( Work on display)
The latest exhibition at Magnitude Art Gallery, Bangalore presents works of art which are original and exquisite in rendition. Following a new theme based on nature and its many bounties, the thoughtful paintings, would be best suited for anyone with a taste for good art or a keen art collector or buyer. 

The new theme titled, ‘Nature Scapes’ gives the city’s art lovers a beautiful respite from the mundane and morbid concrete jungle. The wide ranged subject has been dealt with very thoughtfully and many glimpses of nature have been captured in these original paintings.

The show is on view till 28th February 2014.

(News reports by Sushma Sabnis)

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