Synchrome — Masters, the new art exhibition by Akar Prakar, is both challenging and engaging
Akar Prakar’s Synchrome — Masters brings together some of the most well known Indian artists alongside some who should be
Walter Benjamin prophesied that man’s self-alienation would at one point rise to a degree where he would consume his own destruction as aesthetic pleasure. There is little doubt, that a majority of our Art is created by people who alienate themselves and in turn, trying to interpret what shape or colour this negotiation between life and its purpose should take.
In a sense, Art is in no way devoid of a story, however plain or flat it may seem to the eye. It can at times struggle to find a language. But the clearest sign that a language does exist can be found in its disagreement with another. A mix of artists, some masters and some lesser known, together under one roof exemplifies that we need not necessarily read Art through a homogenous, universal language. Akar Prakar’s Synchrome — Masters is evidence, and it brings together some of the most well known Indian artists alongside some who should be.
Synchrome works like an aesthetic ambush of force. It is perhaps a visual oration of Descartes’ philosophy of each entity entitled to a unique agency. Here in this exhibition, there are plenty. Nikhil Biswas’ On Defeat (1965), shows a lone chariot dwarfed by the instrumental forces of nature, of mountains, of figs and trees, the sheer resplendence of colour. Biswas’ water colours attenuate the motion of the chariot by relaying all movement, with abandon, to nature. While the colours evoke freshness, perhaps the arrival of a lively, fertile season, the chariot becomes the anchor of our reading that must point to life’s many ironies.
Departing from context, Bikash Bhattacharjee channels Salvador Dali in Woman (1961). Odd, fiercely rhetoric and some would say, distinctly unpleasing, Woman is a bizarre play on shape that purveys grotesqueness as an aesthetic in itself. This mangled, morbid figure can be our view into uncivil histories like the holocaust or a clever critique of the cosmopolitanism taking over the cities, and most evidently the human form. Coming from the '60s it is perhaps reflective of a modern shift, both in our culture and living.
In contrast Paritosh Sen’s untitled painting from 1992 depicts a nude woman, relieved in the company of a cold shower, the hidden joys perhaps of letting go. There is general progress here, both in our response to the period and the cultural decay of the country. In Bhattacharjee’s work there is a prima donnish exuberance that manifests as queer and horror. Almost 30 years on, in Sen’s painting, all that is left is cold, naked, yet personal refuge.
Synchrome brings together a host of the masters that we have come to adore, and are still trying to grasp. From Nandalal Bose’s bold sketches to Souza’s minimalist nudes, to the utterly mysterious Gaitonde, there is a splash across the landscape of both the heavy and trusted hand. To stretch things, literally, to another dimension there are also sculptures by the likes of Himmat Shah and Meera Mukherjee. Shah is unique in every sense of the word. His bronze statues have always been tethered to the idea of vertical journeys. Here it is similar and represents, perhaps, the chaos of that upward movement.
For viewers who connect with the manipulation of light and colour from everyday life, Ganesh Haloi and Gopal Ghose embody the seamless transition into frame of things that though ordinary, give humanity its waking pledge (defending nature) — by leaving it out. For those in search of the eccentric, the ink and brush works of Jagdish Swaminathan would be a start. Swaminathan dissects, as if from the inside, a grotesque bird or animal. Here he perhaps inverts the quasi-optimism of a distanced view to the microscopic study of organisms that reveals something else. Is this his view of hell? That things aren’t what they seem from a distance. In contrast, perhaps, K G Subramanyan looks from considerable distance at an ailing woman, a picture of contemplation, perhaps re-evaluating her trust in her own faith. While Swaminathan remains abreast of context, Subramanyan talks with it.
Synchrome does not arrive without its challenges. While figurative energy (bodies of people and animals) lurks throughout the exhibition, and can be easily related to, there are a fair number of knee-twisting intervals that demand your attention. While some artists accentuate our interest in everything inhuman, others find a way of dissecting it through language that can be demanding. SH Raza, who only passed away in 2016, for example, deals largely with states (emotional and mental), to which his paintings usually point, while in the hands of someone like Gaitonde, these states are continually under transaction and at the mercy of a larger flux. Then there is the direct, almost digital-era, critique of Dharmanarayan Dasgupta who paints through a societal scope, at each point underlining the brutality of our choices, that only manifest when we face consequences.
In all, Synchrome, is both challenging and engaging. It may frustrate at times, because it asks a lot of the mind’s reset button. But there is a renewed sense of discovery at every turn. Even if you consider yourself lost after a point, you’d have made it to the other side.
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