Review by Amrita Varma
February 15, 2014


Ode to the Monumental.Celebration. Visuality. Ideology
A group show of 24 artists
January 29-February 4, 2014
at Lalith Kala Akademi, New Delhi

Ode to the Monumental is a tediously curated show over a span of four years which would have been demanding on both the 24 artists who took on the challenge and  Saffronart in the organization , placement and transfer of works. Very little is usually said about these aspects but these are particularly worthy of mention in this show where the task of mounting a show of such a scale would not have been easy.

The show which opened at Lalit Kala Galleries has the power to make one stop and gaze at the sheer size and timelessness of the canvases. One is used to sculptures expanding to larger sizes but what one is not prepared for is canvases which sprawl the entire length of walls encasing them in their imagery.

Elegantly presented, each work speaks with a soundness which is rare to see as in an average show, usually one may find some exceptional or average  and other below average works. Here, one finds the story to be different. True to its grain, it is a monumental show. It is interesting to note that each work has strength and the quality of works showcased is above average as each work is the labour of years of artistic experience and conceptualization.

Having said that, finding a critically weak area is a bit difficult. From KG Subramanian, Manu Parekh,Krishen  Khanna, Thotha Vaikuntham  to Laxma Gaud  the celebration of life and its associate temple and wedding rituals was expectedly vibrant with all the principal characters and events in movement simultaneously. It could have only been possible using scale.

However, the use of such space was worked on best by artists like Ranbir Kaleka whose video installation engulfed you in the work itself. Another artist who was noteworthy in her use of scale with such soundness was the abstractionist  Sujata Bajaj where her work held you with its strong angular lines and use of colour in clear strokes.

A work which spoke well on scale was the work of pen marks and acrylic by Ompal Sansanwal. The artists stretched  themselves to make their works speak with clarity.

The  work by Kishore Shinde added an interesting nuance diverting from the predictable work of the senior artists . One can see an evolution in his works with this exhibition. It was delightful to see the earthy tones of Pooja Irrana’s composition and Phaneendra’s work gained momentum in scale. GR Iranna’s  work also seemed to grow on you as you gazed at the musicians  in the foreground with the man in a suit  noticeably smaller in size,probably the colonial master figure, lingering in the background directing this immense pool of talent which was constrained by it. An interesting use of size in visuals.

One did feel however, that Dhananjay’s sculptures lost their delicacy with expansion in scale and Anandjit Ray’s works would probably have worked better in their language on a less grander platform in a smaller size.

One is used to seeing Jagannath, Manisha, Satish Gujral , Ram Kumar and Nataraj work on similar scales and  language and these works held their quality. Sudhanshu Sutar’s work was interesting in its use of iconic legends and mythological figures standing on sand and a pile of discarded machine parts in the illusion of a currency note. The work was invigourating in its concept, visualization and reference on the illusion of a money and fame powered world.

Besides, Ranbir and  Sujata’s works three other works stood out in the show. Content was one area where a certain amount of predictability was possible but this was given new light in Madhvi Parekh’s work. For her use of inverse imaging and finding a parallel dialogue on religious icons and amalgamating them in the Indian local mileu, it is a commendable effort.

Another was Jogen Choudhry’s work which brought out the grace of the human form tenfold in all its various postures and emotions. The third work whose image stayed embedded surprisingly even after one left the show was the large image of a torn world being sewn labouriously and patiently together by individuals as if stitching their torn identities and territories together. A beautifully poetic work and perfectly fitted to scale this work by Sachin Karne was  monumental and spoke of the hope, rebuilding identities and timelessness which are qualities so much a part of the works on show.

An exhibition which is worthy of being seen for its professional execution and soundness and some very interesting art, if you find yourself lost within you will not be blamed!