Three artists, united by a medium…and not much else. This past month Nature Morte has brought a triumvirate painters together in their Delhi space for a show that seems to be little more than it’s name suggests: “Three Painters,” though a few works of sculpture are thrown in for good measure. Perhaps in keeping with the general lethargy of the last weeks of the hot season, it seems the gallery has elected something on the conceptually light end of the spectrum. Nonetheless, let’s see what the canvases have in store.
The first artist the viewer confronts is Jayanta Roy, a young Calcutta-based painter whose clean minimalist-pop style is a far cry from the extravagant expressionism that one often associates with artistic production in the city. The subjects of the works seem to range from the personal to the political, and are often an intentional blending of the two. Pictures like “Mount of Venus” and “The Forbidden Fruit” address a geography of love as intimate as it is idiosyncratic, while other works like “Public Opinion,” take on the bricolage of visual onslaught that is contemporary media. Many of the works are text heavy, while others, such as “The Baboo,” employ only a few marks of syntax—in this case a set of brackets on either side of a simple cartoon outline of a seated and apparently self-satisfied Bengali baboo figure. This drawing is “taped” on to the canvas via a few flourishes of trop’el oi, and the artist’s own self portrait is painted in miniature above in a gesture of rye self-deprecation. Roy works with a constrained palette of grey, tan, and blues that make the viewer feel like they are in a beach house or a hospital waiting room.
Roy has also contributed a pair of sculptures to the exhibition. The first, “The Finger,” is a very large rather liga-like statue of a fair finger with text printed on the nail that coyly suggests the sexual pleasures such anatomy implies. The other statue also features writing, and takes the form of a speech bubble. On one side, facing a room of the gallery the bubble reads “Any object can be a commodity if you can sell.” The other side, which can only be read descending the stairs from another gallery room, reads: “Any object can be an art object if you can see.” Both works are rather masturbatory, however I prefer the former for at least being straightforward about it.
The second painter in the exhibition, Dileep Sharma, also takes on the pleasures of the body in his work. His pictures are uniformly bright, bold, and dynamic. Athletic figures in neon shades of blue, orange and green lunge across the canvas in a variety of scales and sizes. If the colors imply, once again, a beach house, then it is surely in Miami rather than the Hamptons. If there were a hospital waiting room with these shades, it would be known for its high incidence of heart attacks.
Still, there are some subtle surprises to reward looking beyond the awkward glitz of the first glance. Each canvas is generally composed of one or two larger than life sports stars—known or anonymous, with toned figures, often in provocative poses. Their outfits feature a variety of oddities, ranging from machine guns to playboy bunny symbols to other sports stars in miniature. Perhaps my favorite touch is the half eaten bananas that sprout from (or are at least painted vaguely atop) the bellybuttons of the lady subjects. There are a few sculptures by Sharma as well, though they are fairly straightforward translations of the two-dimensional figures in his paintings: some glossy torsos with banana belly buttons.
The third painter, Jaya Ganguly, offers a grotesque antipode to Sharma’s celebration of surface. Ganguly brings us inside the body, and its all bones and entrails. “Untitled 2,” for instance, is a sort of x-ray portrait of two vaguely human figures unnaturally bent to fit the confines of the large canvas. One has a pair of bloated feet in the place of a head, and a mid-section full of shrunken lips and crooked teeth. The second figure has retained his head, but it’s continence is distorted by such angst that a compassionate viewer might wonder if it’s any better off for it. The only suggestion of beauty in the canvas is a patch of lush red flowers that bloom out of one of the figure’s rear-ends.
The total impact of the show is hard to put your finger on. Perhaps this is because there’s little reason that these artists were paired in the first place. They are doing different enough things with painting not to be very obviously in conversation, while their work is not so radically at odds for the contrast itself to play out as a natural theme. That said, each of the artists are doing something at least somewhat interesting, and their efforts are worth the casual look that the exhibition invites.
-- Sophia Powers
(Images, from top to bottom: Dileep Sharma, Kick Start; Jayanta Roy, The Baboo; Dileep Sharma, Touch Me Not; Jaya Ganguly, Untitled II. All images courtesy of Nature Morte Gallery and the artists.)
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