This show could not have come at a better time. With CWG having changed the city's landscape beyond recognition, the moment of truth has also arrived. As we ask ourselves if India can truly have an urban modern city, Hyderabad-based Sujith S.N doubts this very much as he surveys the utter chaos and bewilderment in a city under construction, trying to cope with the need for expansion and modernization. Now in the city for his first solo show in Delhi, titled “Map is Not the Territory” at Latitude 28, F-208, Old MB Road, Lado Sarai, New Delhi, from September 29 till November 1, 21010, Sujith says that Delhi’s cityscape creates far more anxiety in him than any other city in the country. The show includes watercolour, mixed media on paper, dry pastels on gavro paper, tea wash on paper & charcoal on paper.
He had enrolled himself in the army but Sujith S.N was not made for the regimented life there. His next stop was making technical drawings for construction firms but even that didn’t interest him for long. It was with the encouragement of artist-friend Ajith Kadumthuruthy, that Sujith finally found his calling in art. Born in Baroda but brought up in Hyderabad, Sujith joined College of Fine Arts, Trichir, University of Calicut for BFA and followed it up with an MFA from University of Hyderabad. Several awards and art shows later, it is obvious that the 31-year-old artist had chosen the right path for not only his preferred medium of watercolour but also his charcoal drawings and photographs have already found a ready market.
Says Bhavna Kakar, Director, Latitude 28: “This young artist’s work, so detailed in its miniature treatment, superbly showcases the violence and predicament inherent in our cities that are undergoing chaotic construction in the name of urbanization.”
Says Sujith. S.N: “My paintings broadly map out the radically changing spatial rhythms and the territorial disciplining of urban landscapes in the modern times. By appropriating the visually arresting images of the contemporary urban life, I, in the light of my experiences of the city, try to explain the moments where the architecture becomes political. In doing so, I specifically try to address the questions such as the disciplinary powers and the regulatory mechanisms of the modern cities. This, in effect, explains; how do urban landscapes and its architectural ordering express and practice modern institute’s rationalities, how architecture determines the activities of people and how it influences and affects their behavior. These paintings suggest, as Bourdieu has pointed out, that buildings not only serve a functional purpose, but they also express a set of symbolic opposition and hierarchies that order the societal divisions.”
These propositions lead to other layers of his work, with violence being an overarching presence in his paintings. It, in many ways, explains how violence is structural to the very idea of our modern-secular life. For Sujith, cities dramatically demonstrate this phenomenon. In works such as “Once upon a time it was a curios(c)ity”, “Between silence and dark”, “there is no brick in the wall” and others in the show, he visualizes an ancient struggle between history and the notion of urbanization in future. Can India have a truly urban modern city? Sujith doubts this very much as he surveys the utter chaos and bewilderment in a city under construction, trying to cope with the need for expansion and modernization. It is almost with a feeling of despair that Sujith witnesses the unplanned growth of Indian cities.
In the course of visualizing this phenomenon, Sujith situates himself in a rapidly changing urban space like Hyderabad, India. He says: “My training as a draughtsman for the Indian Army and the brief employment in the construction industry have left their imprint on both the themes and the formal tendencies of my works. The dizzying prospects and panoramic views of rice fields around my hometown in South India, the huddle of tenements in neighboring Erode and Coimbatore, the architectural monstrosities that thrust upwards from the implacable flatness of the Deccan are the other memories, influence and structures that shape my visual strategies.”
Sujith’s landscapes are vast expanses of bleak shapeless urban terrain with sudden outcrops of structures such as factories billowing smoke, warehouses and towers, in miniature form scattered at random distances. This un-pattern of miniature buildings is inevitably broken with the sudden interjection of a monumental building under construction whose workers once again take on miniscule proportions to blend into anonymity and marginalisation, typical of the murky depths of contemporary urban society. The counterbalance of miniature and outsized structures possibly serve as collective metaphors for the struggles of loss and gain in urban society with the old being replaced by the new. Influences from 20th century Stieglitz School photographer Ansel Adam’s works are evident in a number of Sujith’s works as they convey similar desolate, reclusive and volatile cityscapes as his 1941 work Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico. Sujith is also strongly influenced by Bosch and Bruegel.
Although his preferred medium of working is water colours, dry pastel and charcoal on paper, on occasion Sujith also experiments with oils on canvas and photography. It is his choice of medium that mostly defines his use of colours in a palette of mostly charred siennas, ochres and grey and he elaborates on the struggles he experiences when suddenly dealing with colours by saying, “Suddenly colours appeared in my scheme. Earlier entering into my work was almost like getting into a tunnel. Whatever bright thing is carried into the space of my drawing, the effect of the work turned to be darkish. May be I profusely used black because I could suggest or hide many things. Or sometimes I could also escape without addressing a lot of things. But turning to colour means a fair share of things needed to be clear. Escape acts are difficult then. Fresh colours seemed ‘not mine’ at some stages of doing this work. I had discontinued doing this for sometime. But I have certain obsession. That made me work further on it.”
Interestingly Sujith’s work inflates the situation to get a grasp of it. Though drawn objects are many and repetitive in their pose, he makes an order – and art too - out of them!