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Artist Profile1
A glimpse of new-generation artists keen to unfold a larger vision
He is an artist who intensely ponders over ubiquitous conflicts we knowingly or unknowingly confront on day-to-day basis. The ironies and the unanswered questions of life arouse his curiosity. The objective is to try and convey them as objectively and dispassionately as possible. As part of his constant creative churning, the commonplace object acquires symbolic stature, representing aspirations or even rigid dogmas.

Environmental and social issues greatly concern this socially aware and sensitively artist. Jagannath Panda mentions: “I’m aware of the fragility of coexistence and also the fact that physical and emotional spaces sometimes act like quicksand.” His deceptively simple visual imagery consists of linear drawing and/or a rendered form or two that appear to float on the surface. Though his drawings are realistic, he refrains from offering a direct reference to the subject’s existence. On occasions he employs tracing sheets, silver foil and thread, to emphasis the reality of the material he uses. Color plays a limited albeit vital role of highlighting form.

His personal experiences, both as a rural inhabitant and as a migrant, represent his imminent projections about the not-so-distant future, having their origin largely in the contemporary and related phenomena of mass exodus, urbanization, and the resulting dislocation of life. He also looks to explore several of most fundamental dichotomies inherent to individual and societal psyche – pitting urban against rural, traditional versus contemporary by juxtaposing Nature/Culture, Figuration/Abstraction and so on – the divisions that have no plausible explanations and carry no easy solutions.

Coincidentally, Justin Ponmany’s creations largely owe their origin to the dynamic cityscape undergoing a constant metamorphosis, presenting its inhabitants a new set of challenges, and keeping them on their toes. To remain grounded in a city defined by flux, to put it bluntly, implies constant reinvention and adaptation of self. The artist digs into the turmoil of the city life in this context, to seek inspiration and motivation for his painterly act. He ably captures the struggles of the ordinary beings through a contemporary and astute aesthetic. The street is oft-repeated metaphor for panning out self-images of a commuter in transit or trapped in a traffic jam, marking a moment of repose; a temporary rupture of the pervasive speed, shaping the world by sheer force. He interprets living values to depict the changing cultural climate and also to project the city-state - the skyline and structures, with inbuilt plastic cables and wires.

The artist even opts to distress surfaces of his canvases, creating gritty portraits drawn from day-to-day life. He prefers to work on and with definite documentary evidence contained in the print media and photographic images. As part of his painterly processes, the same undergoes many upgrades. Employing unconventional modes and methods of expression, he ably conveys his artistic concerns. Using photo images as a basis of his work, he imbues the surfaces with resin, plastic, printer’s ink, holograms and salt to conceive his typically rugged stylistic effects. He also makes use of traditional acrylic paint, charcoal and smoke. The slick holographic media often coats the canvas, purposely sanded and worn away, akin to the scarred urban landscape of India.

On the other hand, Amarnath Sharma often depicts caricatured scenes drawn from daily life. Elaborating on his artistic process, the artist mentions: “I work in a photo-realistic mode. I draw different images from ubiquitous urban locations and lives to reposition them in a new context. They together tell a totally different tale with an element of surprise to it.” The images and the inputs, which he grasps through a multitude of sources like magazines and television, act as a starting point to most of his works.

Weaving these images and references into a combined meaningful output forms the core of his complex process. A mere photorealistic rendering without any artistic agenda does not interest him. He recreates and relocates the known and the imagined visual references, filling them with alternative meanings. His compositions, largely figurative, comprise ubiquitous characters, sometimes larger-than-life. The artist looks to create a paradox on canvas by juxtaposing contradictory or supplementary images. He says, “I perceive and portray reality in such a way that the viewers get to know a hitherto unexplored side of it.”

Another noteworthy artist of his generation, the 1961-born Chandra Bhattacharjee completed her studies at Kolkata’s Indian College of Art and Draftsmanship and got a gold medal in 1986 from the Rabindra Bharati University. His compositions are largely influenced by traditional tribal or rural themes owing to his deep associations with communities like ’Santhal’. His paintings exude a textural quality reminiscent of mud walls of the remote villages. The artist has had several solo and group exhibitions of his artworks in India and internationally, in South Korea, Tokyo, Toronto Singapore, and New York.

While referring to India’s emerging talented practitioners, another name that invariably crops up is that of artist Navin Thomas. The introspective and innovative creator is known to experiment with an array of forms and mediums. For example, at an unconventional residency program organized by KHOJ art organization, he was one of the sound artists invited to experiment with their medium. Driven by a visual world, a whole new world of sensorium was opened up in front of viewers. Other than his preoccupation with voice culture, automation, and sleep cycles, the artist is known to keenly explore the mesmerizing sound worlds of different organisms. He often draws his inspiration from the sudden element of surprise in order to arrive at something unexpected and keep the viewers engaged. The deliberate merging of exterior stimuli with inner thoughts is a strategy that he skillfully employs to achieve this.