Crescent and Table


B.V. Suresh's sculptural installations at Chemould Art Gallery, 1998

Sathyanand Mohan finds the late 90's series of works of B. V. Suresh ahead of time.

Exhibited at the Chemould Art Gallery in 1998, these works marked, at the time, a somewhat surprising departure in the oeuvre of B.V.Suresh, yet managed to feel like an extension of his more ‘painterly’ concerns in its translation of his signature effects into a completely different medium. Suresh’s language as a painter was forged in the cusp of a generational shift within the social and historical milieu of the Baroda school itself, and belonged to one of the pioneering attempts at deflecting the emphasis away from the narrative movement, foregrounding gesture, surface, and the pleasure of the creative moment. The tradeoff was, in a sense, with the more socio-political grounding of the former that was located in its commitment to figuration - but Suresh’s works, even at that time managed to hold and convey, in a delicate balance, underneath the encrustations and layerings of pigment, a sense of unresolved tension that  resisted closure and gestured beyond the frame itself. These works, in a sense, inaugurated a return to figuration full blown, but one that had assimilated the lessons and the discipline of a completely different aesthetic logic with its own unique demands.

Put together from carved and modelled MDF boards, onto which surface he had, in a manner of speaking, ‘inscribed’ (as they say) his signature facture in its textures, these works comprise a stock-taking of sorts at different registers. Visual pleasure has always been an important component of Suresh’s practice - the unseemly, and seemingly illogical joy that we find in random marks and splashes of pigment that is here channeled into an economy of signs of remarkable brevity and tightness, in the service of a language that is at once evocatively sensual as much as it is tragic.  The works hint at darker subtexts, yet hold them at a kind of arms length in a limbo of perpetual deferral that resists easy readings.  Some of these assemblages draw upon familiar tropes of hiding and revealing, echoing the physical possibility of opening and closing the various cupboards, shelves and containers that make up a significant part of the show and evoking ambiguous dramas of selfhood, as well as setting it within a domestic context. They often hint at veiled private anxieties, verging occasionally and uncomfortably on a confessional mode (in fact there is a work titled Confession Box); they are also an anatomy of disquiet, employing metaphors of death, the journey, and atoning for some loss that is not always spelt out. Some of them also appear to be dealing obliquely with the pleasures and pains of domestic life, for example, Wardrobe, in its invocation of an explosive boudoir eroticism that is simultaneously coupled with death - as well as the work titled Who will bell the…? that speaks of a desire for an almost talismanic power over a perceived threat to the private sphere. It is generally agreed that this show was ‘ahead of its time’ in its unconventional (for the time) use of material, space and context, and in the ways in which it articulated themes of universal significance through intimate, hermetic works.

Sathyanand Mohan is Baroda based practicing artist.





Pictures Courtesy : B. V. Suresh





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