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Artist Profile3
A sensitive artist highlights his concerns over the culture of excesses
Perceived reality invariably has another hidden layer to it, often unfathomable, which fills the artist’s mind with countless queries. It arouses curiosity and a sense of wonder in Riaz Samadhan that his paintings try to unravel. Rearranging of a logical line allows the artist to create his own world and enjoy his artistic freedom. The artist consciously discards his comfort zone and abdicates a conventional line thinking in order to test his technical and perceptional abilities.

Two colliding images give birth to a third entity, entirely unknown, with its own unique properties, to provide a great psychological expanse. To him, the challenge lies in dislocating the elements from their roots by changing their color, appearance, surface and the connotations attached to them. This results in the perceptional tension. This transports him into the uncharted territories, allowing him to rediscover himself. By not striving to make his paintings visually coherent, he looks to challenge the viewer’s set notions. Explaining his thought process, he states, “I am not particularly keen on selecting the genre for the subject matter. Usually, it’s my (spontaneous) reaction to any particular incident. If creativity imitates life, and if life moves at a tangent, then trying to create a pattern, analogy, evolution or logic is like decoding the cuckoos’ song. To be in the moment is important to me.

The common thread that binds Riaz Samadhan’s oeuvre is an intense introspection of the contemporary society, life and the people around. His works essentially examines the mindless greed of multiple desires and the culture of excesses, reflecting in the ruin of things and offering the image of petrified unrest. The confinement of the soul at hands of the consumerist forces withholding the real self’s identity and potency, unnerves him.

The manner in which these sheer material needs are met is rendered inconsequential, even corrupting the soul to achieve luxury and power. Basic human values and bonds are often forgotten in this quest. The artist quips: “If one looks at one’s true self in the mirror, one might say hello - to a complete stranger. Self hypnotized, we cannot identify with ourselves! Everybody - the millions of this self hypnotized humanity - is searching for a master key, as if (real) life exists beyond locked doors.”

Born in Maharashtra in 1969, he completed his degree (Fine Arts) from Sir JJ Institute of Applied Art, Mumbai (1992). Among his recent selected solo exhibitions are 'Self Alienation: Celebration of Myopia II' courtesy Art Heritage in New Delhi (2009); ‘Impact of Commercialization on Emotional Life’, The Osmosis Gallery, Mumbai (2007). His thought-provoking work has been featured at several group exhibitions, such as 'Who Has Seen Gandhi?' courtesy Tangerine Art Space, Bangalore (2010); 'Peripheries of the Whereabouts', Tangerine (2009), ‘See You Again’, Osmosis and Cymroza Gallery, Mumbai (2008); ‘Thought And Being’, Osmosis; a show at AIFACS, Delhi; ‘Young Faces In Indian Contemporary Art’, Birla Academy of Art & Culture, Kolkata (all in 2007), apart from featuring at Art Expo India, Mumbai (2008), and Harmony Show in 2007.

His work also formed part of a significant show, entitled 'New Perspectives of India', at Avanthay Contemporary, Zurich (2009). It showcased works of five emerging artists from India, representing the contemporary art scene and giving a fresh perspective. He has won several awards including the Bombay Art Society Award in (2001-02), the Maharashtra State Award (1987, 1992), and Outstanding Work Award, Sir J.J. Institute of Applied Art, in 1992.

Riaz Samadhan continues to articulate a sense of self alienation caused by the increased desire of consumption. The world has been transformed into a marketplace. The prevalent culture of excess has created excessive options through our apparent freedom to choose. The race is on for more. Run be the first: but where we’re heading, he asks: “Are we running away from ourselves? Are we running towards a standstill?

The artist moans the fact that blatant profit seeking witnessed in the marketplace is influencing the mindset commodity hungry customers and reengineering their emotional behavior beyond recognition. This causes a state of a partial psychological amnesia, as he elaborates, “Man has lost his identity. Presentation and panache are now more vital than the soul. Presentation is the mantra - project something you’re not, be somebody that is not the true ‘you’. The market has entered the households. We state our worth, flaunting price tags, even in our personal lives. Even luxury has turned into a need – one that breeds miseries.

For example, his ‘House with a window display’ (oil on canvas; 2009) portrays a point when the market invades a household. Behavioral patterns of these two separate worlds distinctively differ. Depicted juxtaposition of elements from two separate worlds, an expensive dress and a humble clothesline represents peripheral visual chaos of the new market society, where house windows are on display. Another work that amplifies his fears, ‘Living in pieces, looking for peace’ (oil on canvas; 2008) depicts the incapacity of today’s man to see his self inventive fragmented existence. The depiction of hands in different gestures suggests disharmony and chaos within. Spilt face points to a myopic celebration at the cost of his existence. Camouflaged social ladder emerges as the prominent catalyst of the modern times, where incessant desire fuels up every move to secure a higher place on it.

“Saving money is common sense, losing the innocence and purity of life is not. Commercializing of emotion is something we support covertly, yet whole heartedly, because it provides us masks, gives us the illusion of at least being somebody, behind whom we can hide ourselves. Now what is our true face is a matter of investigation. It is almost impossible to make out that deep down our own emotional patterns are corrupted by marketing,” Riaz Samadhan emphasizes, underlining the stark realities of today’s discontented society and the disconnected self.