Of Humour, Wit & Satire
A n exhibition Laugh Lines: Humour, Wit & Satire, curated by Tunty Chauhan, sets out to look at the use of humour, wit, satire and irony in contemporary Indian art.
The show consists of a selection of works that reflect lighter moment of life, portrayed voyeuristically or directly.
Earnestness combined with a very serious demeanour seems to accompany the production and consumption of high art, with the artists and the connoisseurs taking themselves and the environment that they find themselves in very seriously.
This is as inexplicable as it is ludicrous. Most artists are colourful personalities who love a good laugh and an entertaining story. The colour of the paintings also gets lost in jargon in explanatory yet sometimes incomprehensible texts.
Satire and irony are built into cultural practices, including painting and sculpture, given that one of the essential functions of cultural action is to subvert authority, society and establishment through mirroring it lampooning it and thereby weakening establishment.
This can be seen in popular arts such as Kalighat paint ings where the artists were critical of the emergent bourgeois class and subjected them to comic treatment.
Similar strains can be seen the paintings of late Bhupen Khakhar that expose hypocrisy and the foibles and vanities of society. One of the ways of subverting authority is seen in defacing posters with moustaches, spectacles and bushy eyebrows.
Atul Dodiya employs the same technique with the portraits of Indian artists. The quintessential twinkle in the eye has been exaggerated in case of Manjit Bawa.
The familiar idiom is used by Dilip Ranade in his painting of a man walking behind a stork, both looking quite alike in posture and expression.
Who is following whom?
The show succeeds, in that it leaves a lasting impression in the visual memory of the cadences joi de vivre of ces joi de vivre of ife and as an expose of the foibles vani tas-vanitatum of society and culture.
The writer is an art historian, curator and critic