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Coloured by controversy

Did you know that you could buy a painting and take one free? There is one such sale going on in the city, and it has whipped up a hullabaloo



Gallery owners feel that such offers make art accessible and affordable. - Photo: K. Murali Kumar

THE MEGA Art Sale organised by Gallerie Zen and Time and Space Art Gallery has brought under a single roof, works of several well-known names of contemporary Indian art. The event has also generated its share of controversy, primarily on account of the Buy One Take One Free offer made by the galleries to their buyers.

This has generated ridicule in the art circles, condemning the whole idea as cheap gimmickry, which also raises several moral-ethical questions. Several artists have already voiced their anguish, disapproval, and protest about the crass-commodification of art. They allege that resorting to such populist measures is tantamount to devaluing works of art and plunking them on par with everyday consumer products.

However, gallery owners sing a different tune. They feel justified, because such offers, according to them, not only provide incentive to buyers, but also make art more affordable and accessible.

If one were to temporarily set aside this unfortunate row and look objectively at the works on display, there are very few works in the event which could be termed as truly outstanding. Many of them sport familiar façades, and are recognisable basically for their "signature" value. While quantity takes precedence over quality, the display also does not rise up to the mark. Art works are seen nudged in every nook and corner, with little or no "breathing space" between them. Despite these limitations, one cannot ignore the fact that the event puts on show some refined works with unusual themes and approaches, and rendered in a variety of mediums.

Among the interesting works, the viewer could sight Somenath Hore's small, but energetic woodblock print, Jogen Choudhary's mixed media work of a vicariously smiling man, Sunil Das's engaging watercolour, Rini Dhumal's etchings, Anupam Sud's intaglio work titled Purush and Prakriti and Vivan Sundaram's intriguing pastel on paper titled Vessel With Razor Flank. As endearing are Shuvaprasanna Bhattacharya's mixed media work on board, featuring the rugged profile of a bird with outstretched wings, Krishen Khanna's etching of an incensed canine, Suhas Roy's minimalist Chinese ink strokes outlining a couple of birds, Rekha Rodwittiya's assembly of four square canvases titled, Letter To a Loved One, and Nataraj Sharma's robust Road Maker, a mixed media work on specialised paper stuck on board. Evocative moods are created by Aditya Basak's tempera on board (Sisters), Altaf's profile of a stricken man carrying a huge burden on his head (A Tenacious Struggle), K.G. Subramanyan's portrait of a lonely woman, Shibu Natesan's colourful monoprint image, Rekha Rodwittiya's ink drawing of a lady in bed, and Atin Basak's meticulously executed etching, Sex Lines in Dark. Jagdeep Smart displays an amazing array of forms and colours in Day and Night, and Arpita Singh settles for a sober serigraph of a seated couple on a park bench, while T.M. Aziz paints a brooding group of men in his oil painting, titled Conversations. Among the abstract works on display, Jasu Rawal uses mixed media on paper to create his subtly textured work predominantly in yellow, save for a few tiny colourful dots and a curiously tilting masthead. Bose Krishnamachari's penetrating works, titled Erased Space, and Gopinath's untitled acrylic on canvas attract through their colour and composition. Achytham Kudallur is present with his familiar nudges and splashes in a darkly coloured acrylic, while Prabhakar Kolte's abstracts never ceases to amaze.

Coming back to the controversy raked up by Buy-One-Take-One-Free offer, it would be better if disputes are resolved through discussions, consultations, and negotiations. The city is shaping itself to becoming a vibrant hub for art, and it is time that such avoidable controversies are quickly put to rest. The mega art sale goes on till May 24.

ATHREYA

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