The current show at CIMA entitled ‘Symbols and Metaphors’ is an ensemble of 47 pieces by 27 artists from across India, whose works are knit together by the common theme of depicting “a subjective reality” through an “objective symbol.” Considered from that perspective, the semiotics of this visual extravaganza cover a broad canvas of issues both contemporary and timeless.
The participating artists, Hussain, Ganesh Pyne, Jogen Chowdhury, Samir Aich, and Paresh Maity among others, comprise a veritable “who’s who” of the country’s more socially conscious culturati. Using their canvases to highlight a range of socio-political maladies, they often resort to using satirized signifiers to point towards a blatant, ubiquitous signified.
The works of the veterans aside, particularly striking are the pieces by Farhad Hussain, Alok Bal, Ram Singh Urveti, Baiju Parthan, and Sanjeev Sompimpare. These artists infuse bracing freshness with their innovative techniques and sharp poignancy of content. Farhad Hussain continues with his bright ebullient colours and disproportionate figures to denote “shiny happy people” and the hypocrisies beneath such dazzle that make up the Indian family. Alok Bal’s surreal canvas is a throwback to Abanindranath Tagore’s iconic ‘Bharat Mata,’ signifying in female figure’s altered context the status of women in independent, post-global India, where she is still trampled upon in the guise of heightened deification. Ram Singh Urveti’s paintings are, as always, a visual delight-- delicately delineating his recurring motif, the tree. He maintains his distinctively traditional Gondi-style, harking back to a rural nostalgia in beautiful earthy complements of red and blue. Baiju Parthan’s diptych has a distinctly Warhol-esque effect, even while the subject is the most popular mytho-religious export from India, Lord Krishna! Sanjeev Sompimpare’s hard-hitting ‘Barefoot back to Bihar’ is a scathing and deeply distressing commentary on the recent spate of parochial politics in the so-called fulcrum of cosmopolitanism in Bombay. This piece portrays the face of a man, perhaps a “north-Indian,” with an entire concrete façade emerging from and covering his visage. The artist movingly conveys how the pulsating spirit of Bombay is indeed founded upon these ‘outsiders’ for whom the city of dreams is as hostile as it is alluring.
-- Paroma Maiti
(Images, from top to bottom: Untitled by Farhad Hussain; ZameenBarefoot Back to Bihar by Alok Bal; by Sanjeev Sonpimpare. All images courtesy of CIMA and the artists.)