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Desire and despair

These digitised images by themselves are quite simple and generally straightforward views of the back of the artist's head and neck, lending an autobiographical touch.



The pictures make room for verbal narrative.

IN HER works, Smitha Cariappa does not provide answers. In fact, she does not even pose any prodding questions. She does, however, create a mood, a setting, a stage, which on the surface appears simple and even ordinary, but eventually grows on the viewer — slowly but surely.

In her latest venture, a photo-installation titled Facing The Wall, Smitha chooses to profile her moments of desire and despair, by combining the use of visual with the written word.

First, a set of photographs are created and repetitively used. The digitised images by themselves are quite simple and generally straight-forward views of the back of the artist's head and neck, lending an autobiographical touch.

The face, of course, faces the wall, so no one can profile the protagonist for sure. Even then, the way the palms hold the neck creates a visual tension and makes room for a verbal narrative.

Waves of written word scribbled around the pictures or stuck on postcard-sized paper are then used to generate a mood of munificence, while clumps of simple yet colourful dress material and garments hang around on the pillars. Strategically placed mirrors and flower pools complete the setting of the installation.

Around the simplicity of these images and objects is woven a visual statement. Repetitive use of the same picture induces a sense of integration and, at the same time, strikes a disquieting suspense.

Repositioning of hair and eyes in some frames further adds to articulate notions of intrigue. That the artist is able to transcend several layers of material reality, even while using every day objects and more importantly, mundane and routine activities like hair colouring, is a tribute to her creative eye and innovative ability.

The structure, construction, and concept of wall have been figuratively and symbolically used by artists to convey different meanings. The wall, at once, could refer to a cage, an enclosure, a barrier, an obstacle or even the end. What does Smitha purport to convey through her work while naming her installation Facing the Wall?

Her own "statement" refers to it as "a further step to reflect — realize the present age, to step, step to the side of the wall, study the application, observation, practice of the age in biotechnology, cloning, genetic engineering". These words may or may not (intentionally?) convey the artist's goals in its entirety or consolidate all elements of her search. But her installation itself effectively endorses her anxiety and concerns, while softly hinting at some deceptive delinquencies of our times.

Facing the Wall was installed and enacted recently at the Chitra Gallery.

ATHREYA

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