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25 Years of The Guild


A. Ramachandran I Akbar Padamsee I Altaf I Amit Ambalal I Anupam Sud I Baiju Parthan I
Dilip Ranade I G. R. Iranna I Gieve Patel I Gigi Scaria I Gulammohammed Sheikh I
Jyoti Bhatt I K. G. Subramanyan I K. Laxma Goud I K. P. Reji I Krishen Khanna I
N. N. Rimzon I Nagji Patel I Navjot Altaf I Pooja Iranna I Prajakta Potnis I Rajkumar I
Rakhi Peswani I Ram Rahman I Rashmimala I Ravi Agarwal I Riyas Komu I
Sathyanand Mohan I Shadi Ghadirian I Shantibai I Shibu Natesan I Sudhir Patwardhan I
Sumedh Rajendran I T. V. Santhosh I Vidya Kamat I Vivan Sundaram I Zakkir Hussain

Preview: 19 August 2022

On view until 25 August 2022

at
CCA Galleries
Bikaner House
Pandara Road, New Delhi
 

     
 

Sasha Altaf
 

             

Intimate Geographies: Counterfactual Narratives 

Artists Pooja Iranna, Gigi Scaria, Sathyanand Mohan, and Sumedh Rajendran explore the complex field of interpretation in the visual arts, in a way that privileges neither the historical nor the contemporary, neither theory nor practice, but put them all into a constructed correspondence, as it were, a conversation represented by its double focus. They call attention to the significance of connecting issues of place, location, and cultural diversity, to those of nationality, imperialism, migration, and diaspora. Their personal - intimate geographies lie in the images that imply the issues of cultural difference and the specificity of location, which is cultural and social as well as political. Along that axis, we align a series of narratives that are theoretically informed and historically researched posed by a specificity around representation. A representation that finds a space to acknowledge the more durable temporalities of each artist's creative negotiation of time and historical, social, and political circumstances.   

It is in their diversity, that they find a common cause in thinking through the problems posed by artistic practices. They do this by means of the resources provided by interventions in philosophy, narratology, semiotics, psychoanalysis, geography, history, and politics. Their art reveals an aesthetic density and cognitive complexity only after a detour through the terrains of cultural framing: each with a specific story, a particular experience of the configurations of class, race, ecology, displacement, secular rationality, alliance...the list is not limitless, but it reflects our social and imaginative realities - mediated by the forms of representation. 

There is some system to the patterning of signs into meanings. We need, however, to find the codes that lend the symbols to generate resonance and meaning, both within the context of their production and across time and space, to other contexts. These codes, as I name them, are not merely semiotic signs, but those shaped in concrete social and historical conditions, which in turn shape and are shaped by the psychic life of these artists, framed, and formed in specific trajectories of a socially constituted but psychically lived subjectivity.  

Pooja Iranna’s diverse spaces and places of lived histories mark the beginning of an attempt to ensure that her practice is written about through the prism of a fissured and self-critical alterity and dissidence of what has been denied, negated, erased, and refused – urban/environmental degradation, along with the stark reality of climate change. What is the cultural dimension of sustainability?  How has modernity degenerated into a culture of unsustainability? How does one then change our actual culture of unsustainability into a sustainable one? Does one go beyond the utilitarian rationality that is so very common in our contemporary culture? “To make a good metaphor means to recognize similarity”1, as Aristotle said. It is this very similarity employing the dense referential structure in the paintings and sculptures that stories become metaphors – implicitly. They express something that characterizes the modern worldview, which is atomistic, materialistic, and individualistic – quasi – a flash of the present, that has always been a part of metaphors that create narratives.  Iranna engages us in a fundamental rethinking of our culture, our ways of knowing, thinking, and seeing the world.  Where we must learn not to be afraid of the complexities but to re-awaken a sensibility to patterns that connect.  

These patterns have been destroyed by time and circumstance, but Gigi Scaria attempts to reconstruct the blind spots in an art – historical or archeological sense, trying to make the complete image visible again. Honing in on the impact, the significance of the gaps, and the process by which he creates repositories of cultural memory - an important theoretical moral in his work.  Which is marked by an increasingly incisive investigation of the self, and political power, urban spaces in a fast-globalizing India, migration, and the social, urban, and institutional mechanisms within the Indian context. The pictorial program of Scaria follows the political transfer that concerns economics, power, and discourse, but is primarily one of the forms that evolve as a sequence of narrations, a weaving of stories that encompass different times or qualities of time. This palimpsest–like layering is heightened by numerous interpretations that open a new version of temporality. The artist gives space back to time. He exposes himself to the opening of the image, which resembles the structure of the symptom, namely an opening to time. “History is the object of a construction whose place is formed not in homogenous and empty time, but in that which is fulfilled by the here – and – now”, in the words of Walter Benjamin in his essay On the Concepts of History. In art, contrary to all probability, it is always a matter of finding a ‘form with present time’. Scarias' work opens a space in two ways. As a pure painting, it ties in with the tradition of classic modernism, but the forms are also linked associatively to cartography: that is, to an art capable of inventing space and representing interactions. Both in painting and sculpture the works open out; they are pictorial panels, carriers of far more than just themselves. This expressive action expands the connotations of a specific place and related themes.  

Photographs serve as an index, a print of a former life left behind as a ghostly referent, or are they marks or traces of a particular cause?  the cause is the thing to which they refer, the object they signify, a mise en scene providing a form of indexicality where the trace and imprint of the material world are made. “I attempt to explore this double bind – between the freedom that knowledge promises, and the inevitable failure and limits of this promise” Sathyanand Mohan contends and questions this parallel duality that we inhabit, the modes of living we aspire to, and the truth that we believe in, activates his works towards a multivalent modality of a ‘thinking’ photograph/s.  An index requires form: in imagery, and the small units that comprise of stories and histories. The surface of images and objects is impregnated in the place where content is stored. But looking – at and listening – to open the stories that the individual carries within, but which are also and above all inscribed into the collective. These photographs reproduce paths no longer remembered – places, therefore, where the remnants store memory – disclosing the fragmentary nature of every memory. In the same places with their essential fragmentary quality, the hegemonic, violent transcribing of interests becomes visible, and the individual's memory is expanded into ‘collective’ knowledge.   

Artistic practices which give form through specific articulations produced in time and place are an important site for critical self-knowledge about our world. This is not simply a political problem but a deep-rooted existential anxiety that life is brief and largely out of our control. Samuel Beckett in Waiting for Godot (1953): “They give birth astride of a grave, the light gleams an instant then it’s night once more.” Sumedh Rajendran questions this relation between “familiarity and unfamiliarity, land and distance, intimacy and identity, visibility and invisibility, with the organic transformation of materials in the layers of time…to contrasting elements drawn from the earth with its multiple meanings and emotions, transform into hardened structures. The gravity of immobile time brings cracks on these walls. Through the cracks…we can see our fallibilities, our prejudices, our fleeting humanity". He creates a world of a landscape that acquires the quality of a haunting and melancholic reverie – but its value here is in its invocation of an emotional state which suggests departures from a realist narrative and crafts instead an interiority onto the canvas and sculptures.  He weaves a dense network of fragmentary narratives, within his work, which is oriented on empty spaces, gaps, and negative forms, that contribute to the debate on the perception of the world, recognition, and memory- an imprint of time. They correspond to a narrative, at times are fragments from a compilation of stories. His motives are combined with historical events and other heterogeneous and narrative elements to create a story. It is in this repository of narratives that the conversation takes place.   

There is a particular significance in this new historical configuration. Artistic practices are a form of witness, a testimony of survival, a promise of imaginative projection as well as the commitment to honest appraisal, to stories that must be told. 

1 Cf. Aristotle, “Poetik”, 22 1459a, in: Anselm Haverkamp, Metapher. Die Ästhetik in der Rhetorik (Munich, 2007), p.32. 


Sasha Altaf

 

© Author and The Guild

 

     
Pooja Iranna                  
                   
             

Pervasive Mushrooming A, 2022,
Staple pins and cement,
14 x 10 x 3 inches
 
Pervasive Mushrooming B,
2022,
Staple pins and cement,
14 x 10 x 3 inches
 
Complex Symphony A,
2022,
Oil based ink on acrylic sheet,
48 x 36 inches
         
                   
               

Complex Symphony B,
2022,
Oil based ink on acrylic sheet,
48 x 36 inches
 
Complex Symphony C,
2022,
Oil based ink on acrylic sheet,
48 x 36 inches
             

 

 

                 

Gigi Scaria
 

                 
         

Belongings
, 2022, Oil on canvas,
60 x 48 inches
 
Untitled
, 2022, acrylic on canvas,
36 x 24 inches
 
Hide and seek
, 2020, bronze,
58 x 25.5 x 5 inches, ed. 1/3 + 2AP

 
     
                   


 
                 
Sathyanand Mohan