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Of passive life and the active brush

Of passive life and the active brush
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Subjective Idioms – is a display of surreal and still life through canvas by Nilotpal Dhwaj Sinha and Hans Shinde. ‘Strangers in a strange land’ is the phrase that comes to mind when looking at Sinha’s work. His figures have an odd disconcerting quality about them.

While the figures appear highly stylised; sometimes looking like characters from some Japanese caricatures, it is the pathos of their melancholia that makes the works eerily beautiful. Shinde and his series are simple still-life. When it comes to painting, he have always had an inclination to express or depict a subject matter through objects as I find that they reflect the surrounding environment in the most subtle, passive and indirect way.

It is the full frontal gaze of the figures that draws the viewer in. The faces of the people therein wear frightened silences; we see this from their haunted eyes and small mouths. The large eyes indicate fear and passivity, as if they were overwhelmed by some massive sorrow. The small mouth indicates the lack of a voice, in some works the mouth is absent altogether and in another there is just a silent scream, as the mouth remains a mouth no more, morphs into a dark tunnel opening out to the sky above.

Sinha’s landscape resists interpretation, very much in the same way as a dream reveals to us so much but still leaves us puzzled by its true meaning. These women present themselves to our gaze passively, in their dull, frightened beauty. Yet, despite the gaze and their scars we know nothing about them, while being passively present, it is through their silence that they refuse to reveal themselves, it is the silence of suffering yes, but it is only through it they resist.

Artistically, Nilotpal seems influenced by the approach of the Baroda Narrative artists, like them he is interested in particular life narratives, however there are two major ways in which Nilotpal is different. Firstly in his compositional values, while the Narrative movement draws on traditional idioms such as that of the Mughal miniature, Nilotpal draws from popular sources, evoking a comfortable sense of the familiarity of illustrations from a children’s book. And secondly, the ‘local’, ‘mundane’ and ‘bazaar’ elements of the Baroda Narrative still have a sense of familiarity,
belonging and comprehensibility. The dream rendering of these Narratives makes them more opaque, incomprehensible, and at times hauntingly nightmarish. He enters Baroda as a stranger in a strange land.

For Hans Shinde, the tradition of still life painting is one of the most enduring in the history of art. From the times of the Egyptians when paintings of food and valuables were depicted on tomb walls to the floor mosaics and wall paintings of Pompeii to High Renaissance works of art to contemporary still life painting of today, the genre has always been one that artists turn to again and again.

Where: Art and Aesthetic,  Lado Sarai When: December 8 – January 8, 2015 TIMINGS: 11 am till 7 pm

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