Thursday, November 15, 2012

‘Metropolis of Mirage’, ‘Extra-Ordinary’, and ‘Listen to your Eye’

The Škoda Prize is now considered among the most prestigious and influential ones in contemporary Indian art. Its organizers have just announced the long list of select artists for the 3rd edition. The works reflect both diversity and depth of contemporary Indian art practices. They include innovative site specific installations, video installations, prints, drawings, photo collages, paintings, and performance art.

Jagannath Panda’s curious mix of the realistic and the mythological suggests the disoriented nature of today’s Indian identity, as it tries to straddle between the contemporary and the traditional, the imaginary and the actual, the indigenous and the international. In his works the surface of the sculpture or canvas is built up mostly with the addition of brocade fabrics, blended together so as to create the feathers of birds and skins of beasts, to mimic foliage or approximate man-made surfaces.

Such hybridized surface treatment corresponds with his themes that focus on moments, locations and icons in a state of flux, caught between oppositions. The artist’s portraits of the burgeoning Gurgaon city illustrate the tensions evident there owing to over-development that outpaces both infrastructure and natural habitats.

The artist explores the subtexts of the ordinariness of an ‘extra’ life that the metropolis offers its citizens. Unlike the overall decorative patterning of her earlier work (often used as a visual camouflage) within which the body/city conversed, fluid design appears at the edges of these paintings, framed within frames of overlapping narratives. Fixated at the centre in sombre dark hues of polluted grey and sleazy black, the decaying city emerges out of a bordered beauty. The actual and fictive, imagined and remembered city are evoked through personal and social worlds of the artist.

‘How do we see? What is the hidden agenda behind appearances? is what Sharmila Samant in her monographic series, entitled ‘Listen to your Eye’, looks to investigate. The artist retrospectively draws on her earlier projects continuing her critique of globalization, genetically modified foods and commentary on current socio-political undertakings.

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