Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A broader and ambitious sweep of human history

Starting with a deft drawing of soldiers done somewhere around the onset of World War I by Jean Louis-Forain, with the term 'le commencement de la peur'/ 'the beginning of fear', to captivating cubist drawings by Felicia Pacanowska (a rare female cubist artist who managed to survive  the holocaust of the World War II)of the town of Lodz, to her drawing of a ubiquitous man handling the levers of a massive magnificently spinning factory; and then to Prabhakar Pachpute's charcoal drawings focused on Indian open cast mines, to the scripts and photographs of Amol Patil's father's theatre penned for the uprooted mill workers in the city of Mumbai – a new exhibit at Gallery Art & Soul graphically reveals autobiographical elements  even while taking a broader and ambitious sweep of human history.

Born in the industrial city of Lodz in 1907, Pacanowska's parents were also artists, a part of the near 200,000- strong Jewish population there. The place was among the most industrial ones in central Europe at that point of time. It became a major centre of the Nazi occupation. As documented, the Lodz ghetto was made where its Jewish population was forcibly put to toil to produce goods. Only 900 could actually survive the holocaust in the city of Lodz. The artist lost all her family members; she survived only because having moved to Paris in time, subsequently joining the avant-garde art movement.

A collection of portraits, mostly comprising cubist drawings of faces by Felicia Pacanowska (these include a self-portrait) are in a way psychological studies done in clean, neat scalpel-succinct lines. Titled 'it-so-ur-sco-pop-hob-ia', a series of drawings by Shernavaz Colah, references a phobia or anxiety apparently caused from constantly being stared at, and the hidden, subtle sub-text of Justin Daraniyagala’s oil painting, a Sri Lankan artist, on whom she had been continuously researching and writing for over a year; ending in a book, and this set of drawings of disquiet.

In the series, the bearded 'Philosopher' of Justin Daraniyagala's painting, surrounded in his aloof studio, by crowding faces, looks to transform its phobia - as a claw approaching a seated nude woman amidst the chaos and clutter of faces, transcending and combining into a saint with a trident.

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