Review by Vrushali Dhage
January 20, 2013


Jagannath Panda
At Faculty of Fine Arts, M. S. University Baroda
By Vadehra Art Gallery
November 20-25, 2012

The show of recent works of Jagannath Panda titled, Opaque, by Vadhera Art Gallery, Delhi, was held at the At Faculty of Fine Arts, M. S. University Baroda in November. As has been the wont of the artist the show tried to capture the interplay between the visual narratives, both, as fictional episodes and as lived realities. These were looked at from a dual perspective of various historic positions/periods and contemporary socio-political scenarios. Restraining from having a defined didactic tone the works provided a view of multiple moral positions, encouraging the viewer to move from the status of being a mere retinal viewer to that of a reader of the layered works.

Even as Panda ricochets between the historic and contemporary, drawing influences from varied sources he feels that various myths and their corresponding visual narrations hold close relevance in contemporary scenarios, like the landscape, the flora fauna, individual characters be it the positive or negative , specific episodes, the dialogues, etc. Since these too (like the myths) are a product of the human psyche to him they become valid reference points. In the work titled Chastising the Fruit Seller, Panda portrays a demon from the 12th century Jain miniature paintings, on the verge of probably chastising the fruit seller, who is busy transacting, ignorant of the presence of the demon. Panda says, “Here the intension is not of portraying the act of punishing the fruit seller but of understanding it as a social comment, for example it could be an act against the widespread corruption in the society, not as a simple conceptual solution but of an urgent action.”  Given which the historic image becomes more than a mere visual reference – as a demon, a negative, clumsy looking creature to that of an act which defines a critical position.

Another such point of reference is drawn from the love stories of Radha and Krishna, constructed through the ornate body embellishments, postures, and a special reference to the landscape, especially the Yamuna. In works titled, Restrained Geometries, he creates a play between the abstract constructions and the literal. With strips of images from the photographs of the miniatures, and fake jewels studded, Panda removes these from the romantic and attractive realm to that of scapes resembling a near ground plan. In The Dark River, Panda makes an attempt to show the transition of the Yamuna, once a dominant part of the idyllic, romantic landscape, and one of the important sites for the Krishna-lilas, in the miniatures, to its current condition of a river with rising level of pollution. Designed as a butterfly The Dark River the only sculpture in the show transforms into a dark ornate snake, symbolic of the snake demon Kalia. With the term ‘dark’ Panda presents the dichotomy of the imaginary and the real; a fictitious demon to that of a river which has in practicality lost its pure existence; an act of re-looking at the past and questioning the future. Conjuring ornate material with the functional PVC pipes, the viewer is presented with a striking visual at a distance but a close look makes the underlying comment evident. Even while working with incongruent materials like the ones mentioned Panda strikes a balance such that neither supersedes. Even as he maintains the ornateness of the works by using material like brocade textile (as in the work titled, Trajectories of Love and Hate II) he does not allow the obviousness of the shapes of the PVC pipes to be subdued. To him the fabric is like the skin of the object, and to be looked upon from a dual perspective too; a fabric as a material, a product of a particular culture, of its economy, taste, etc., and at the other level as a skin, which defines the character of the object. Then the skin becomes a potent tool to play with and depict the mentioned dichotomies. Such that the Opacity, then hints at not the unseen, but at the element to be deciphered / read in layers slowly / gradually reducing the opacity, and widening possibilities.

At every juncture Panda while portraying the transition considers a point of timelessness through various metaphors like the trees, which in a mild layered presence are emblematic as observers; similarly the Yamuna as a prime scape witnessing the love sport and various lilas of Krishna to that of its own sullying. As a witness himself he takes a look at the landscape around his own studio which has undergone rapid change. To him every new construction seems like a physical form of personal desires. The series titles, Re-Location, partly done as photographs and as a small sculptural installation, at the first sight the work seems incongruent with respect to the other works but on understanding the need for being a witness, it seems to find a justified space.