Questioning the Signature Style

3 Mar

An exhibition at Art Centrix, in the Capital, interrogates and offers up artworks that invite us to interact and ‘discover’ the hidden signatures behind them

Georgina Maddox

Ganesh Gohain_ ‘A Tree Of Illusion’ , Dry Pastel, eraser, paper on board, 69 x 48 in

Exhibitions of artwork without labels does seem to be a growing trend in the recent weeks, for I attended three such shows where the audience was left to guess at which contemporary artwork was made by which artist. In the two exhibitions there were floor maps provided so one could locate the artwork and then discover the artist who had created it, but in the third at Art Centrix one was left to guess who had created which work. Then if one could no longer bear the suspense, one asked the gallery director Monica Jain in dulcet tones, “Whose work is this?”

For an art critic this can be an interesting exercise, given the number of exhibitions one has seen on an average, one should have been able to guess all the works in the show, but in truth, there were a few surprises, where some artists had created works that were different from their signature styles or there were works by a completely new artists on display. 

B Balagopalan, ‘The Omniscient Norm’, wood, 36 x 36 X 36 in

“The exhibition ‘The Signature in the Image’ intends to put forth some broad questions related to a signed image, to a set presentation by an artist. How does a signature style establish connections within the characteristics, values, and attributes of an artwork? “writes Pranamita Borgohain who has co-curated the exhibition with Jain.

“This exhibition examines the implications of a signed image. Does the signature in a work generate preconceived ideas?” says Jain for her part of the explanation. “Can we say with absolute certainty that each work is ‘typical’ or could the artist have also created art intentionally in defiance of this ownership? The world recognizes an artist’s signature from a ‘limited’ body of work whereas an artist may have several phases, experiments, influences and renewals during the long span of his/her career,” she adds.

D Priyanka, ‘Book of lainika, Chapter flora fauna Page 1, lainika,’ watercolour on paper, 5 X 7 in

Hence one was invited to play a bit of a hide and seek, and discover the artist behind the work, and it was an interesting experience: For instance, one has gotten quite accustomed to seeing sublime sculptural works from the Assam-based artist Ganesh Gohain. Which is why one spent quite a while in front of his dry pastel of a grand leafless tree that stood against a slate grey sky in absolute quietness, contemplating the dark clouds floating toward it. One was equally surprised to see the accompanying work, a flamboyant silver on yellow tree, looking the absolute contradictory of its quiet counterpart. One was reminded then that if the artist ‘treads across multiple realities through his works. By juxtaposing glimpses of memories and interactions with the discursive and the abstract…’ then surely the artist must want to express himself in multiple mediums and quote styles that we as a viewing audience are not familiar with.

On the other hand, it was easier to spot the works of artist Priyanka D, as one had been recently exposed to her new experiments with installation and drawing, which explores the anatomy of flowers, anatomy, architectural structures and the idea of waste and nature, it was easy to spot her corner in the gallery. The large red vegetal-flower forms hanging from the ceiling, dripping red pigment onto the floor may be interpreted as an assimilation of astrophysics, myths and arts. She quotes, ‘myths are nothing but a misunderstood reality’. Creatures and elements which we find in our mythical literature are just the ‘other’ version of our own reality and how we perceive the truth of our past history. The water-colour series of paintings presented here are the extension of artist’s imagined reality.

Making an acquaintance with the work of Avjit Dutta, one encounters his mixed media on canvas board, titled ‘Nested Grid.’ The nest, logically becomes a metaphor for home, and life in the city as nature finds its precarious footing to carve a niche for itself among the concrete. Interested in past life and the lifestyle of people, he contemplates the intertwining of the history and the present day, and how that plays out in the socio-political landscape. This painter from Rabindra Bharati University, Kolkata, brings his sensitive query to the window-ledge of the urban dwelling commenting on the haves-and-have nots, their modes of survival and little triumphs.

One was also introduced to the intricate and evocative sculptural pieces of artist B Balagopalan. The piece titled This too Shall Pass, created from wood, cotton and coir is an abstract form that resembles a boat but could also be a cradle. The ambiguity lies in the multiple readings that the forms evoke; like the white mast of cloth stretched across the wooden form could be the sail of the boat but it could even be a decorative cloth or ‘hammock’ for a child. The wooden swirls on top could be waves or a creeper a tribute to nature or God. Certainly not a ‘signature style’ the artist leaves his work in a path that is open to interpretation and that is what makes it intriguing.

George Martain PJ’s work is however in his well-known signature style, that brings together imagery of colourful pop, everyday objects, the crowded city and its restless inhabitants. The artist is interested in exploring the varied metaphors and symbolism that lurks behind what appears like an everyday scene, with the intention of interrogating our hidden attitudes and fears.

Overall the exhibition waits for what may come next from these artist’s studios. Will it carry the known, the familiar or will the artists and the curators take you along on a journey of discovery into the deeper realms of the artists’ psyche and find a signature without the signature?

‘The Signature in the Image’, Art Centrix, 20 March, 2020

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