‘18 By 18’ is an intriguing collection of minimalist paintings
For an exhibition described as a ‘happy’ celebration of Spring and Summer, ‘18 By 18′ at Apparao Galleries is surprisingly subdued. The works, all in small format — as the title of the exhibition suggests, tend towards the minimalistic, and somewhat, cerebral, rather than overtly lively or colourful.
It does, however, make for an intriguing collection, with the artists drawing inspiration from unusual sources. For instance, you have N. Ramachandran’s fascinating series that juxtaposes today’s tabloid trash and cine gossip against detailed descriptions and diagrams on how to proportion statues of deities from Tamil scriptures (a statement on our current cultural preoccupations?).
Then you have Pravin Sawarkar’s sweetly childlike doodles and drawings of animals and forests, ponds and oceans that recreate a child’s inner artistic world (from ‘ring-a-ring o’ roses’ to ‘A for apple’).
Our urban spaces are explored in a variety of ways, from Uma Shankar Pathak’s deceptively simple re-imaginings of conflict and chaos (filled with whimsy and metaphor upon closer inspection) to a gritty series of photographs.
George K’s pictures of dilapidated, grey-and-brown buildings in Kashmir’s streets are rendered beautiful by their composition and the startling streaks of orange paint across the glass, alongside an all-but invisible line of barbed wire emblematic of the strife in the region.
Varun Gupta’s darkly psychedelic photos capture the essence of another sort of urban space — the clubs with their thumping music and swirling lights, alcohol and Redbull, while Roy Senai’s photos frame the contrasts of our cities — beautiful flowering trees alongside dirty, rusted bridges, for instance.
Some of the works draw upon Nature, such as Neeta Gajam’s uncluttered red-on-white watercolours depicting seeds, germination and the birth of life, or Dignag’s pale watercolours depicting life at its most basic, cellular level.
Still others work on pure abstracts, from Monika Solanki’s flowing works, all awash in soft pastel shades of yellow, green and pink to Satish Bhaisare’s chaotic ‘Life on Vertical’ series, filled with a finely-textured set of thin lines falling down the grey or off-white canvas.
And, there’s a whole lot of more, all works that make you stop, maybe, think again. Not necessarily a collection one instantly relates to, but one that has a whole lot to say.