For a long time Sankho Chaudhuri has had the status of a modern classic in Indian art. The artist, who studied at Santiniketan and taught in Baroda for two and a half decades, was known for his prolific output and enthusiastic promotion of sculpture until his death in Delhi last year at the ripe age of 90.
The mini retrospective of his work, brought by The Seagull Foundation for the Arts to Gallery Sumukha (June 29 to July 14), comes soon enough, especially that the city has not seen his solo before. From the contemporary perspective of engagement with issues and unconventional media, the Modernist dominance of finely crafted form, one often echoing of European inspirations, Chaudhuri’s oeuvre may not be as engrossing as it must have been some half a century ago. Nevertheless, it possesses its historical importance.
The exhibition may have been conceived like an overview with different kinds of themes, styles and materials. This, contributing to a slightly disjointed or uneven presentation, holds for most part an informative value. The selection for “untitled metal” was made from images done during 2000-2006, but it contains examples from earlier periods as well as a few stone pieces. In fact, it is the marble carvings that appeal the best to present-day sensibilities.
“Stone 3”, a marble sculpture barely suggestive of a seated female figure has a sensuous tactility – in a gently raw way imbuing the hard, smooth mass with bodily compactness and softness containing a tinge of the rough. Almost abstract in its simplification, it all the more captures the core of a woman’s presence.
Such bond between elegant abstract form and traces of organic reference informs Chaudhury’s mainstream work varying only in their proportions.
Another aesthetic thread that persists throughout belongs to the interplay of volume with its opening up and with linearity which always involves an element of flatness, be it evident or subdued. A still another trait is the sinuous dynamism that often simultaneously curves onto itself and extends outwards.
Polished or mildly textured in different shades of brass, the evocations of light feminine shapes and soaring birds are very aesthetic - subtle and cultured. They reveal the Brancussi source perhaps too directly. A good number of irregular ellipses and softly spiralling forms open themselves to space and illumination less visibly recalling the Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth lineage which also pervades the high-glistening casts.
The bent and folded pieces made of sheet metal rely primarily on the effect of actual or original flat surface whose edges define linear contours of the silhouettes. The playful images of birds here seem a little more literal and lightly decorative. The show includes also a consummate, if conventionally realistic, portrait in bronze as well as an instance of rugged, near-expressionist figuration. On the whole, the show would have been a greater visual treat, had it been restricted to works more consistently related in their idiom.
Krishna Pulkundwar, a youngish painter from Mumbai, calls his exhibition at Time & Space (June 28 to July 4) “Embracing the Mystic Abstract”. Just the fact that abstraction as such cannot be defined in its references does not necessarily make it mystical. Actually, the prevailing impact of his acrylics on canvas is one of simple yet indulgent design. The artist plays with combinations of heavily textured abstract brushing and clear, rectangular planar divisions.
There is an effort to impregnate the whole with vibrancy and a sense of atmosphere being enclosed in an architectural geometry with window or door-like framing, shifting building blocks and symmetrical close-ups. One may even guess the memory of nature behind some of it. All of it, however, remains on the surface of things, as attentions is paid mainly to an easy attractiveness of thick colours and, more yet, to designing. A comparatively better impact is achieved when the artist loosens up and intensifies his brushing over limited motifs seen at a proximity and almost freed from the geometric pattern.
Sekar Ayyanthole, a mid-generation artist from Kerala, displayed several large canvases at the CKP (June 24 to28). Densely populated by rustic and occasionally urban people among animals, temples and mundane buildings, dancers and deities, the images mean to conjure a scroll-like procession of life. Even if the intention can be read, it comes in a rather slight manner.
The combination of a traditional, folk-related idiom and contemporary sketchiness appears to be illustrative, hasty and somewhat prettified despite surface-bound efforts towards amusing distortion.
The repetitive squiggly lines with monotonously distributed shiny dots on a quite uniform, strong coloured ground do not make it any more serious.