Of work, play and creativity
ART Gerd Rohling's paintings recently shown at New Delhi's Max Mueller Bhavan drew upon numerous issues even as a group show at Bodhi Art Gallery gave a glimpse of Indian abstract painting.
ABOUT PERCEPTION: Gerd Rohling's works.
TRAVEL, WHIMSY and the politics of global economics form part of the recently-concluded exhibition of Gerd Rohling at the Max Mueller Bhavan in New Delhi. Rohling, who is a sailor- turned-artist, brings unusual inversions to play, setting himself up as part traveller-enquirer, part first world sympathiser of a post-colonial society. Two works in the exhibition titled The Wrong Note, address different concerns. Water into Wine, with its ironic reference to the Jesus narrative of first demonstrating his divinity through this miraculous act, and then resisting changing water into wine at the injunction of Herod, draws upon numerous issues. Without any apparently didactic gestures, Rohling manages to speak at the same time, of the idea of the precious object and its `museumisation,' as well as waste and the politics of the created needs of synthetic drinks in the global market. Rohling creates what appear as precious objects framed in beautiful vitrines from waste bottles, which are inverted and conjoined to appear like precious glass or stone goblets from another era. Certainly, this is the art of economy and retrieval but it is also about perception that shifts with very deft and economical reapplications of materials and the play with form. This work has been shown earlier at the Venice Biennale (2001) and the Berlin National Gallery (2004).
This quality of inverted expectation is marked in his work The Wrong Note, a series of performativephotographs which are the outcome of his visit to India. The outcome of the artist's encounter with a snake charmer in Mahabalipuram, it assumes his appropriation of the snake charmer's `been' and the confidence that underscores such acts. The work itself is a comic- political take on such acts of appropriation and the role of the white man as the negotiator-player in cultural encounters. Rohling reverses the outcome of this white - black, spiritual - scientific cultural binary. Back in Germany when he plays at snake charmer, a large form emerges in reverse, finally knocking him off balance, and breaking in the process, the musical instrument of control.
Bodhi Art Gallery
The modernist principles of art making, of a non-representational art continues to flourish. Towards Abstraction curated by Marta Jackimowicz at the Bodhi Art Gallery, presents many of the ruling tendencies of Indian abstract painting. There is the increasing tendency towards minimalism, in which abstraction approximates negation particularly in the reduced palette, (Seema Ghurayya, Manish Pushkale) the use of a symbolism that is evocative of ritual usage (J Swaminathan, S Harshavardhan, John Tun Sein), amorphous indefinable forms, (Vanita Gupta, Jeram Patel), and a preoccupation with textural and surface effect (Rajneesh Kaur).
For a tradition that is over five decades old, the shifts in register or risk-taking are minimal, and the evolution is graded rather than radical. One may see a kind of movement from the combination of drip and colour field in Prabhakar Kolte to the more daring use of these elements in Chittrovanu Majumdar, who also adds text to create a deeper resonance. But for the main, abstract painting continues to be conservative. The surprise element in this exhibition is the inclusion of small objects presented on table like surfaces by Latika Katt and their playful resemblance to objects of domestic use.
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Chennai and Tamil Nadu