Review by Subhra Mazumdar
September 01, 2018


Empty Desire
Manoj Paswan
August 3-12, 2018
Triven Gallery, Triveni Kala Sangam, New Delhi

The plight of the migrant in every major metropolis has often instigated novelists and sociologists to write reams on their struggle for survival. Seldom has such a situation stirred the roots of an artistic take-off. Thus the works of artist Manoj Paswan titled ‘Empty Desire’ at the Triveni Gallery, provoked dialogue in  terms of its unique subject choice as also thematic execution. Sprawling across the compact gallery space, and in a format of large acrylic works, the artist depicted migration as ‘the desire to survive’ among its sufferers. The efficacy of the subject matter rang true because the artist is a first hand witness to this phenomena in his native state of Bihar, where the problem has been afflicting generations of families in the rural parts. Hailing from the same locale, he had moved to the Jamia Millia University for his undergraduate studies where the experiences of his early years, became the wellspring of his creativity.

Having moved to a large metropolis, his works thus became the bridge spanning the two lifestyles so that images of metropolitan architecture has impacted on his canvases in the forefront, while the blurred outlines of infants crawling along a grid-like path towards a distant goal of a mesmerizing world of city lights and opportunities, provides a connectivity between the real and the aspiration-filled angles of migrant lives. ‘Right from childhood children in our area are geared to imagine migration as their way out of poverty and misery and the lure of city as the basis of opportunities, is ingrained into the psyche,’ muses Manoj.

These illusory perceptions of reality have found expression in a miniature format of even sized circular forms within which miniature figures are embedded. They conjure ideas of the collective thought process of the workers who find an escape route from their current circumstances behind a series of miniature ramblings contained in these circular discs. Pictorially too, these disc-like coteries format the work into a cohesive depiction. Overall the effect is one of containment, of exclusivity and even a tad tracing of loneliness,, where the artist has contained his muse, within a constrained geometric boundary.

Other symbolic choices for expressing the thought behind his artistry consist of colonies of ants, that enhance the miniature closeness of the artistic space. They become a symbol of the emotions crowding his psyche as they engross the larger object, which they surround with their numbers.

Elsewhere, the symbolic touches are of recent relevance. The hawk-eyed bird, the throne –like seat, the empty one, are indicative of the artist’s take on political commentary in the  current  context. On the other hand, a winged animal, much like the mythical Pegasus suggests the prevalence of desire in the human psyche. While these are fresh takes on conventional symbolic representation, the inclusion of an aeroplane as the symbol of higher desires has a played out stance.

The pictorial, symbolic and the colourful combine, makes for a colourful mosaic on the walls through Paswan’s gripping art and the underlying social commentary alongside.