Sudhir Patwardhan’s new works, which go on display in his show Family Fictions, today suggest a new direction for this veteran observer of the intersection between the social and the personal. His charcoal sketches and drawings demonstrate a bold, intimate engagement with people. In his paintings, his gaze remains trained on urban life, as it has in many of his earlier realizations of Mumbai’s public scenes. But this time, it trains itself inward as he paints playful, poignant scenes of life inside apartment houses.
Full Circle (acrylic on canvas) arranges old and young members of a family in a tableau of the ages of man. Yet the narrative it suggests is warmer and more personal than an abstract engagement with ageing and death. In the tightly composed, shadowed space of the city apartment, the painting creates a moving comment on the environment it invokes.
The theme of enclosure repeats itself through several of the paintings. At the centre of many of Patwardhan’s works is a window in an apartment wall that cuts out of the enclosure of the observer’s room to show other enclosed spaces. Buildings, verandas and even streets become bound spaces in these works, poised on the edge of cosy suburban comfort and a quiet claustrophobia. In this, as in his other work, Patwardhan affects a compassionate seriousness.
His playfulness illumines the eponymous Family Fiction, a work that interrogates fictionality by assembling a motley cast of characters and settings in its space. Uma Thurman from Pulp Fiction co-exists with a middle-aged Indian woman sitting by a bookshelf; a silhouetted gunman draws the eye to the figure of a nude, fleeing the edges of the canvas. The effect is delightful.
Sudhir Patwardhan’s Family Fiction is on at Sakshi Gallery, Mumbai, from 8-27 January. Prices range from Rs1-30 lakh.
Sweet Unease, Ranbir Kaleka’s first solo show in Mumbai, may lead viewers to wonder why it took so long to bring the extraordinary vision of this Patiala-born artist to this city. Bringing together new works with a retrospective of major Kaleka works over the last decade, the show offers a comprehensive look into his fascinating, unsettling trans-media art.
Framed: (top) A still from Sweet Unease by Kaleka; Street View by Patwardhan.
Art critic and curator Ranjit Hoskote describes Kaleka’s work as imbued with “epic disquiet”. It is a sense that remains consistent through the themes and concerns of each of his painting/video projection installations. Phantasms rise from tables and walk through eerie, intimate hallways (Fables from the House of Ibaan); history plays out along a railway line through a strange, half-alienating play on a film montage (Not From Here); birth, growth and death become the thematical underpinnings to a montage about a bird (Man with Cockerel). The ethereal effect of Kaleka’s use of media rests on strong structural and emotional patterns in each work; engaging with each installation can effortlessly take up hours at a time, and it’s not hard to imagine the works entrancing casual viewers just as intensely as they do serious critics.
Kaleka’s work sometimes evokes a joyous sense of the fantastical. As a man with a hammer pounds on the wall opposite which he is projected, to have a white horse manifest before him (Cul-de-sac in Taxila), it’s hard not to feel a spontaneous delight. But it is the multilayered, long drawn out sophistication of the narratives of each of Kaleka’s installations that complicates them, even more than their conceptualism.
In fusing video art with painting, Kaleka’s work finds its most spectacular idiom. In works such as The Kettle, repeated viewings can draw audiences into a nuanced contemplation of time and its illusory effects. The intimate familiarity of a street scene is always present; it is as though Kaleka opens a window through which stories come pouring through. The centrepiece of this effect is perhaps the marvellous, extended Sweet Unease itself. As its characters provoke orientation and disorientation in their endless, ghost story of a dance, it is impossible not to be torn away with an ineffable sense of the world made strange.
Ranbir Kaleka’s Sweet Unease is on at Volte, Mumbai, till 15 February. Prices range from Rs20-65 lakh.
Ganesh Haloi’s gouache-on-paper works, made between 2007 and 2008, are being shown for the first time. The abstract works mark a continuation of the veteran artist’s signature style, featuring straight lines and often slender geometrical shapes against a diffusely hued background.
Fittingly, Haloi speaks of his works in abstractions. “Time and space are separated from life and death. Every moment of this separation is marked by this separation,” he says. He describes art as a constant endeavour to move from uncertainty to certainty. The moment of certainty doesn’t last, yielding instantly to uncertainty again, and the journey begins anew. So there is no rest, and this dynamism is reflected in the lines in Haloi’s works that are often at an angle to each other and against a backdrop of subtly shifting shades.
The truth of ever-changing reality comes across starkly in human life: “When I was (a) baby in my mother’s arms I was beautiful like a flower,” he says. “Now I have grown old, my skin is wrinkled and rough, and my hair has become grey... It is a continuous process, but the essence is me.” To Haloi, his essence is his identity as an artist in the world. Art, he says, “quivers between the seen and the unseen, the known and the unknown, and the present and absent.”
Ganesh Haloi’s works will be on display at Gallery Art Motif, New Delhi, from 9-25 January. Prices range from Rs3-10 lakh. For details, log on to www.galleryartmotif.com