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Puckish and playful

Mohan's works, with their childlike playfulness, proves his ability to avoid being silly or overtly theatrical



One can perceive a subtle warmth in Mohan Singh's works

ON THE face of it, the 30-odd paintings of Mohan Singh, which he collectively calls Joy Of Life, appear deceptively simple. But there are two striking features. In the first, the artist dons the garb of a storyteller, even if it is a momentary narrative. The images consequently appear as if they were snapshots or rather, a series of picture postcards of and by people on a holiday on a beach or close to a waterfront. The posed protagonists — couples in proximity, families whose members are closely positioned and an odd face of an outsider snooping in — create a feel of warmth and colourful communion.

In the second, the artist plays cleverly with the background. While one would consciously deem it to be water, the colours are, at once, enticing and distracting. Deep green and red moods dominate, often creating an unusual if not entirely unacceptable backdrop for unfolding an interesting tale.

Besides these features, there is a third dimension that comes into play in several of the paintings. As one looks closely at the people featured in the works, despite their proximity, one can also detect that there is a hint of an eerie silence between them. The holiday mood slowly seems to give way to some wicked humour, particularly when onelooks at the self-appreciating female characters and the snooping "outsider". There is not a comprehensive validation or explanation to these, except probably as a deliberate attempt to create a mystery about some informal identities of the people featured. But the redeeming aspect in all the childlike playfulness is the artist's ability to avoid being silly or overtly theatrical. For this reason alone, Mohan's works are worthy of applause.

One can also perceive a subtle warmth in the works, as in Search, where a happy family portrait is accentuated by the attention bestowed on the younger kid with the parents ruffling his hair. Delicate humour also finds a place in some works. Desire, for instance, where two men cavort around a female figure, who, by her posture and looks, is obviously aware of the attention she attracts. Nayika works similarly, showing a clean-shaven boy with a tiny butterfly on his finger while three other kneeling figures include a coy woman looking herself in a tiny mirror. Silent Conversation impresses by its mood and clarity, portraying a couple who are physically close to each other, yet there is an invisible psychological distance — accentuated as it were, by the fallen flowers and a postal cover.

In contrast, the series Heads, appears quite ordinary given the staid expressions and flattened features — despite the delicate handling of expressive eyes and carefully folded fingers.

The exhibition, on at Time and Space Art Gallery, concludes on October 25.

ATHREYA

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