Untitled, 2006 - 07


Of the absent presence...

Vrushali Dhage looks at how Sudarshan Shetty induces a feeling of loss and absence through his works.

At the very first sight Sudarshan Shetty’s works seem to be embedded and engrossed in their own spaces, brooding solitarily and detached from their surroundings, unwilling to interact; and yet they call / demand for their viewers gaze. What strikes evidently is a feeling of awe, created by an overpowering spectacle. These mechanical constructs functioning in a lyrically automated manner seem to rouse an eerie feeling. These objects certainly do not have an other-worldly presence - be it innocent pink valentine hearts, white milk, red blood or a large carcass, individually recognizable, and loaded with meanings accorded over the time. Shetty conjures these nearly incongruent elements to build an associative logic justifying their assemblage. Further drawing them away from their prescribed functions he redefines them while unifying these dissimilar entities. Meaningfully they come together and yet lose their individual meanings and collapse under the weight of their own spectacle.

Shetty at times with modesty and at times unsympathetically questions our understandings and beliefs which have got structured over time. He chooses words like Love, which are widely used, rather over-used to an extent, leaving it bereft of any meaning. In his series of works on Love he explores its various preconceived notions and their mutability. A Braille typewriter ceaselessly types ‘Love is blind’; these lines cannot be ‘read’ (but need to be felt). With this he raises a question - how blind is love to an unsighted one? And creates a new possibility for interpretation -- love in the world of the blind is retinal. Moving ahead from the visual, he takes us to a more material aspect of love.  Trying to read its significance in a consumerist society, he feels that - a Heart (a symbol of love), has undergone transition from a serious, sensitive and highly personal to a marketable, sellable commodity, an object of mass production.

And then Shetty tries to create a spectacle grounded on two notions of love – one related to basic human emotions and the other carnal, rather mechanical; one intense and emotional and the other, governed by the logic of passion, of the corporal.  With two outsized mechanized figures indulging in an intimate act, coupled with a repetitive, hypnotic movement, and the cacophony of sounds, lending it a pornographic uneasiness, Shetty presents a (virtually) carnal power play; thereby displacing the notion of the act from that of intimacy to that of exhibitionism. Individually these figures don’t raise a feeling of discomfort; they could even have an innocent toy-like presence. Shetty not only magnifies them to grant a monumental form but also plays with their character by distorting it, nearly erasing it and recreating a new one devoid of innocence.

He raises a spectacle from nearly ignorable notions, for instance, the overflowing of milk associated with prosperity - Shetty inverts this with extreme abundance; by letting the pristine white liquid flow over the top relentlessly, creating a discomforting hyper-real situation. Deep red liquid unmistakably, blood, flows, overflows, and yet there is no tangible presence of a body to support this act of circulation, creating a sense of loss, of absence of the human presence. Similarly in, Party Is Elsewhere, (a work conceived for a relocated gallery space) had two hammers which repeatedly and rudely hit and crushed 365 precariously placed wineglasses on a large table. The sound and the act both very loud intended to compel the people who were absent / elsewhere to leave, rendering the act – meaningless; the human absence itself becoming an experience, making the viewer conscious of oneself.

These works attest the artist’s keen desire to deviate and derivate form notions that are largely accepted as ‘real’. And in the process he presents what one could say a near performance, an act, which seems to captivate and yet disenchant.  Apart from the monumentality or the technical proficiency, the repetitive movements in these works seem futile acts, an artifice, but Shetty feels that futility itself lends meaning to an act. Not merely restricting in portraying paradoxes, Shetty explores and exhausts all possible references which feed his works, further he employs a process of constant - creation and erasure. Even as he plays with existential notions he induces a feeling of absence of a void, of emptiness, itself creating a condition for regeneration.





Picture Courtesy : Untitled- Bodhi Art, Mumbai

                             Party Is Elsewhere - Palette Art, Delhi








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