Way back in 1992, the famous Indian actor-playwright Girish Karnad had directed a movie called ‘Cheluvi’ based on a Kannada folktale. The protagonist was a woman who possessed mystical powers that allowed her to turn into a tree when water was poured on her; a tree that bore flowers with a fragrance so unique and bewitching that selling those flowers became lucrative for her family, who from then on, went on selfishly turning her back and forth into a tree and a woman at their convenience – completely overlooking, after a point of time, the physical pain and trauma the woman went through at every instance of transformation.
This linkage between a tree and a woman is as ancient as time itself: both standing in as symbols of perseverance, tolerance, shelter and unconditional love and support. What binds them in an even closer bond is perhaps the fact of mute resignation and submission to abuse, torture and a display of strength, resilience and endurance despite it all. And this sense transcends classes and cultures. Reason perhaps why Angeliki Inglessi found the same sense of association to inspire her enough for her first solo in recent years – Pareidolia – at the Ganges Art Gallery, Calcutta. The exhibition comprises a series of photographs that Angeliki took – photos of trees defying our usual visual sense of its form; trees that have roots or branches spread out in manners that make them look uncannily like human forms. It is not uncommon for the human mind to simulate forms and shapes out of other inanimate (sometimes animate) objects, and make them conform to those that it is used to in its immediate surroundings. It is a constant and unconscious process. Sometimes, of course, it is conscious too. What Angeliki attempts in her exhibition is a curiously enchanting blend of both.
Angeliki Inglessi, Torment, Fine art printing on Verona and German etching papers, 50 x 75 cm; Courtesy of the artist & Ganges Art Gallery.
The exhibition consists not only of photographs of trees with uncommon shapes and twists; the ones she captures focus only their uniqueness, so that there is no photographic brilliance per se in them, no touch-ups, no edits. Just pure visuals together with their untouched surroundings. All of these make the picture look like what it is intended to be, instead of overwhelming the viewer with its photographic manipulation. Some of these photographs have been taken a step further in terms of giving them fruition in accordance with the artist’s vision, whereby figures have drawn out in continuance with these photos, so that the final effect is a mesh that is, at one and the same time, seamless and disjointed: disjointed, because no effort is made to create an effect of imperceptible merging artificially.
Some of her works cut-out drawings of forms and figures in unimaginably queer states of contortion and deformity. While on closer inspection, these intertwined images begin to yield individual human forms – male and/or female – at a distance, it is difficult to tell whether they are human at all. Joined in such impossible knots, they may well be taken as anthropomorphic representations. When human, especially female forms are represented without any ambiguity as in Abdication or Cavity, stripped of all clothing and artifice, the empathy she manages to evoke with the use of strikingly earthy colours, is deep.
Angeliki Inglessi, Abdication, Fine art printing on Verona and German etching papers, 75 x 100 cm; Courtesy of the artist & Ganges Art Gallery.
One is not sure, at the end of the viewing experience (that is made intriguing by the gallery’s unusual display arrangement) if natural forms inspire her to twist her human forms or the other way round. Either way, what manages to stay with the viewer, particularly if you’re a woman, is a sense of rootedness, and pride at the absolute grace and dignity of form at a philosophical level.
(Image on top: Angeliki Inglessi, Disentanglement , Electrical wire, LED lights, Candle , 260 x 200 cm; Courtesy of the artist & Ganges Art Gallery.)