The significance of urban and natural ecological degradation is appreciated by a large section of the global population. Yet, an inherent irreverence and disregard for relationships, lives and our immediate environment is perhaps encrypted in our genes. The tangled web of social, political and economic factors has created a sense of displacement and unreality, which in turn has given rise to a deep rooted inertia that acts as a deterrent to introspection or positive intervention.
A propensity for commoditization combined with an erosion of value systems corroborates the necessity of re-evaluating where we are heading. In all probability, our (in)action today may result in a planet so severely mutilated that it is no longer able to sustain life. The relevance of this rapid transformation, which is scarring physical and emotional landscapes across geographical boundaries, is evocatively reflected in contemporary art practices. The creative sensibilities that an artist infuses in his/her art can become a powerful tool in sensitizing the viewer. In this exhibition, nine artists, who share these concerns, analyze and query the resulting socio-cultural and ecological dimensions that prevail in the real world.
For Alok Bal, unrestrained urban growth and man’s instinct to control and manipulate natural resources has resulted in irreversible changes in ecology. His cropped images of trees and lampposts set against dark backgrounds echo this statement, even as he creates an alluring visual with a promise of an enchanted land. The play of colours and light create iridescent zones with dramatic effect and draw the viewer into its intimate folds. His metropolis glows with beacons of light that lure the multitudes, but then as reality reveals itself causes disillusionment and cynicism.
Apurba Nandi explores the interrelationship of elements that are encountered in the mundane, and the interdependency that exists at the core of relationships. His visual language comprises of juxtaposing elements and creating contrived and unconvincing situations, which generates new and uncomfortable meanings from the proximity of varied images. He uses natural calamities such as tornadoes, whirlpools and quicksand as metaphors, to equate them with disasters created by man.
Ashutosh Bhardwaj draws inspiration from mediatic images but is also highly sensitive to social and political realities of our times. Recently, he has been trying to examine the politics of demand, production and consumption in the world that we live in. He extends the concept into the process of knowledge production and its relation to the market forces. Here, he attempts to raise questions around the making and production of artwork in our times. Wherein, increasingly, repetition and persistence of style and imagery is used more in order to meet the demands of the market rather than as a semantic tool.
Birendra Pani draws from his academic experience and his engagement with local and popular culture. The ‘capsule’ is a recurring motif in his recent works and is used as a metaphor - an indispensable part of our life - tiny, yet powerful. And, grossly misused. In this series of photographs, various popular mediatic images are juxtaposed to suggest visual and conceptual relationships in order to emphasize the tension that transcends boundaries. The black and white, monochromatic photographs create an atmosphere of silence beyond the material condition.
Amidst the existing chaos and confusion, Debraj Goswami introspects and searches for answers. He looks for a solution through his works and believes, “perhaps that is the only way to know myself better.” He often uses symbolism as part of his works to express the anguish and perplexity with regard to the existing situation, where despite ample natural and human resources, there continues to be discrimination and war for the sake of politics, religion, cast, gender and much more.
Heeral Trivedi’s world is an idyllic one – she passionately advocates the notion of harmony in existence - for all living beings. In a pictorial narrative, she creates an imaginary landscape, where the drawings resemble enlarged pages from a diary. A collage of images, motifs (of mundane objects such as a scooter or a bicycle) and pictures of birds, which resemble peel-off stickers are arranged in random order, and yet they are meant to be connected as a dot-to-dot puzzle. She says, “My work somewhere intends to ponder on this as a reality-check treatment and in the process often traces images from history, people's lives and places."
Prasanta Sahu’s current preoccupation is x-ray films, ultra sound and baggage scanning images/treatments, which are procedures that reveal the underlying truths/mysteries, and act as a foil to man’s desire to conceal. Perhaps, an unusual predilection for an artist, but he extends the concept to gently unsheathe, shift and place each piece of the puzzle, as he delves deep beneath the psyche of the individual and society, beyond the camouflage of pretensions to reveal real intentions, dark and sinister secrets, animalistic instincts and wild fantasies. And, what one sees on his canvas is a remarkable mixture of fact and fiction, documentation and imagination.
Pratul Dash’s concern for ecology is strongly reflected in his artistic oeuvre, whether it is paintings, videos or sculptures. He often uses animal imageries to emphasize and highlight the ‘unnaturalness’ of urban ecology. His pictorial renditions are deceptively pleasing, veiling the ugly truth – of disdain and cavalier attitudes responsible for the environmental conditions today. The robotic human chain comprising of identical, featureless puppets are poised on a light bulb, probably survivors of a catastrophe. And, life as we know it, no longer exists. The bleak and surreal imagery that he paints is a warning of a calamitous future and not merely an academic exercise.
In his current series of works, Rajiba Lochan Pani makes an attempt to communicate, to resonate and send vibes to all out there who are concerned about destruction of the environment, loss of harmony between man and nature, and about manipulation of the human mind for commercial or political gains. The sharply silhouetted visual of a dog in the foreground moving towards the prominently etched ‘g’ accentuates the shift towards a new definition of ‘green’ - a synthetic ‘green’. Not surprising in a world that is increasingly adopting plastic in every way.
The underlying theme of ecological harmony and balance has been poignantly expressed with great sensitivity by the artists, and their works reflect an innate understanding and critique of the larger issues that are at the core of human existence. The endeavour aspires to engage the viewer and evoke an intuitive empathy that goes beyond the physicality of the exhibition space.