Sunday, April 28, 2013

Depicting futility of war and human conquest

As Upendranath T. R. has evolved as an artist, his practice has turned inadvertently politicized in a sense. Though unintentional and not done to nudge the viewer towards predefined conclusions, insertion of text in his latest series points to the artist’s preoccupation with twin themes of equality and emptiness.

The term ‘WARTIST’, as Lydia Randall mentions in a profile hosted on the Kochi Muziris Biennale website, reflects a recurring sentiment throughout the series and touches on the artist’s inner struggle – his fight against the emotions caused by real fighting and real wars. Perhaps the most poignant of statements to adorn his work is the slogan: ‘the political and religious views of domestic animals’.

The contradiction of this statement points to a bigger picture – as a race we’re all caught up in wars inherited from generations passed, for reasons not our own. The artist sees the lives of domesticated animals as an allegory for peace; without political or religious agendas, they live out simple lives. “We’re conquering Jupiter and Mars and at the same time we are fighting for small pieces of land,”

For Upendranath, the truth is emptiness. Our wars, our past and the differing perspectives that we bring really mean nothing when, underneath it all, we're all essentially the same. In his words, “In war, the killer and the killed are no different”.The medium of collage and the transposing of his image onto art magazines and the works of artists before him, speaks to this message of equality. He is creating an equal plane, one which invites the viewer to shake off existing connotations and see with fresh perspective.

For this reason the artist’s space at the historic building Aspinwall House – a collection of rooms – were treated as if they had been found. The raw, unfinished aesthetic (complete with rusted, ancient electronics) was closely connected with the subject matter, Lydia Randall elaborates.

Upendranath hopes that the Kochi-Muziris Biennale will act as a catalyst. Its vast potential to improve art infrastructure in the region, and to connect younger art students as well as local people with art is an exciting prospect for him. He believes Kochi has the potential to become a thriving cultural metropolis and that the event sure will create a new roadmap for art awareness and education.

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