Review by Sarmistha Maiti
January 20, 2013


The Indian Parallax or the Doubling of Happiness works in two dimension
and sculpture towards the third image or the abstract reality

Curated by Shaheen Merali
Sheba Chhachhi, Remen Chopra, Vibha Galhotra, Probir Gupta, Jitish Kallat, Reena Kallat, Chittrovanu Mazumdar, Manish Nai, Mithu Sen and Hema Upadhyay
Birla Academy of Art & Culture, Kolkata
November 30- December 23, 2012

“The Indian Parallax or the Doubling of Happiness: works in two dimension and sculpture towards the third image – the abstract reality” – well, that’s the title of the exhibition inclusive of what its approach is or what it actually attempts to state!

Confused… contrived or both – the first impression! Standing in the exhibition premises!

An excerpt from the concept note presented in the press release states: “…the Indian Parallax or the Doubling of Happiness… describes the way we come to an understanding through an abstract reality; as a process of seeing from what we sometimes recognize as looking from within, a slight connection maybe between two spaces occupied by the same idea… consolidating the possibilities of formulating a space in which to contemplate contemporary art from India, which remains geographically and culturally imaged, in its concerns and particularities (arguably also in much of its formalisation) but which has a language that transcends boundaries and is successfully applied to destination cultures.”

In an attempt to consolidate the possibilities of formulating a space for contemporary Indian art which has a language that transcends boundaries, what we actually get to see are as follows: Manish Nai’s sculptural propositions with the collection of clothes from the greater community and the use of newspaper in day-to-day life. The concept proposed would read out of an inner realisation that the artist stated to have undergone in the process of collecting these clothes from their owners and relating them to their personal associations but on the platter of execution of this sculpture to formulate abstract reality, it remained a few blocks on a big pedestal where the realisation part could be only assumed and not felt after reading the concept note.

Similar was Jitish Kallat’s “Anatomy of a Fortnight” in oil, acrylic, household gloss and pencil on canvas. On two round canvases, the cross-section of a fortnight’s anatomy or the tale behind it was needlessly oblique in perpetuating the concept without letting us to emote and experience even the basic idea revolving around it.

Further horrendous was Vibha Galhotra’s “Construction De(Con)struction (Re)construction” in timer controlled kinetic work, fabric, pneumatic system and air compressor. Except for creating noise pollution inside the gallery due to the constant running of a motor generating energy, which was intentional or not, is yet to be deciphered by me, the work of art, again if we at all considered it to be so, left an aftermath of headache and nausea after a while making a difficult situation for the rest of the works to be seen. Irritating viewers through art is a bygone concept of a century ago. Long live the ‘Dadaists’; but please let me live now – I would rather plead to the artists.

The positive relief came after seeing Remen Chopra’s works in mixed media on paper and image printed on glass. “Lives within time if time lives within it. And then we can just write. Part 1, 2 and 3” – the use of drawing, photography, painting and presenting a qualitative sculptural 3D effect on the 2D surface of the picture plane in monochromatic shades of the gray-scale and adding human figures through photographs encapsulated a well-built narrative in her works. And in layers the stories could take you in its own womb and built an involvement among the art, artist and the observer’s relationship.

Hema Upadhyay’s works on the contrary were full of hidden metaphors related to the sectarian intolerance bringing together the perpetrators and innocent victims caught up in this situation. The mediums used like gouache, acrylic, graphite, photography on Arches paper added to the execution of the work of art helping the multiplication of layers and meanings associated with them.

Mithu Sen’s “I chew, I bite” in dental polymer and artificial teeth, paint and glue on the pink backdrop of the wall could make a graphical display on the wall invigorating the essence of pink in a subtle way but not to such a scale of transcending this essence beyond the boundaries.

Sheba Chhachhi’s “The Trophy Hunters” – an installation with two moving image light boxes, duration prints, wooden stools, weaving implements could be perceived as a work that presents the integrity of this persona’s long journey with public art and independent works that critically explores gender, violence, ecology, and personal and collective memory.

Probir Gupta’s “Smiling People” in painting and photo transfer on archival canvas portrays a signature touch of the artist but “We are in the same boat together brother”- the installation in fibre glass sculpture and mixed media was again an outcome of essentialising a particular socio-political scenario with the bombardment of emotional patches that could hardly allow anyone to evaluate the scale of loss.

The work that made me to pause and ponder was Reena Kallat’s “Untitled Cobweb (knots and crossings)” in acrylic paint, rubberstamps, metal with variable dimensions. It was simple, it was intriguing, it was essential, and it was emoting! And that’s exactly what ‘conceptual art’ or ‘the abstract reality’ should attempt to do. Reena’s whole idea of using rubber stamp as a bureaucratic apparatus of the modus operandi in public service and a hegemonic weapon on one hand and the ease of execution through the chosen mediums on the other hand that is quintessence of this process of marginalization, elevates this art work to that level where it can speak of the cross-cultural boundaries.

Last but not the least, was Chittrovanu Mazumdar’s “Red blaze, the carriage of nights” in mild steel, mechanical parts and sound track – a boy of Class II stood by my side watching it and instantly exclaimed, “I’ve seen it in the Science & Technological Museum the other day…” Well, I wanted to make him understand that it’s not that but inevitably failed to give him a proper explanation. And thus remained silent !

Coming back to my first impression, I do owe an explanation to my readers. “Confused and contrived” was something that I felt on my part deciphering the undercurrent of the works put forward in the show but my confusion and the feeling of being contrived, nonetheless holds no less redemption for the artists and the curator to assert such a tall claim of ‘doubling of happiness’ and leading towards ‘the abstract reality’.