This is my third solo-show and the first online exhibition of paintings and drawings that is available everywhere through the world wide web. The first one Dreams Deferred was in May 2010 at D H Art Centre, Kochi and the second one titled To Husainwas at Kalarikal Art Gallery, Panampally Nagar, Kochi in July 2011. I have also displayed my works for public view in group shows in Trivandrum, Kottayam, Kochi and Thrissur from 2008 onwards.
The present and third online solo is titled Tax and Cuts and is an artistic response and resistance to the growing violence and aggression that are corrupting and demeaning persons, institutions, processes and greater political formations in Kerala today. It is a symbolic gesture against the naked and abusive experience of tyranny and repressive regimes in constitutional public institutions and cultural spheres including the higher academia and media.
Personal experience of pro-fascist autocracy in public institutions and historical experience of cultural hegemony constitute the symbolic realm of this art-show. The body of work draws icons and visuals from the past and present. It touches upon various crucial moments including the dehumanizing breast-tax in Kerala history to the shameful suppression of speech and expression in the current cultural conjecture. If the imagery, genealogy and heterology of these works are provocative and shocking the contexts of barbarism needs to be blamed and changed. It is an artistic and semiotic critique of Kerala culture, politics and society in a profoundly personal way.
It is an artistic homage to M F Husain the legendary creative genius of India and the world. This immortal artist has been one of my greatest inspirations since childhood. It is a public shame on every Indian that Husain died abroad under the threat of cultural nationalism in his homeland. It is my desperate way of getting out of that collective shame and cunning amnesia through presenting my own visual imagery that critiques hegemonic forms of representation and representational violence in the contexts of India and Kerala.
My first solo exhibition of painting at Durbar Hall Art Center, Kochi from May 9 to 15, 2010 was titled “Dreams Deferred” after Langston Hughes’ illuminating poem that exploded the American Dream into a nightmare as Malcolm X would say. I focused on key political questions of marginality, exclusion and representational violence in Kerala. Continuing the themes of the politics of visual representation and countering the hegemony of the dominant visual idiom through visual subversion and allegory of images “To Husain” also presents some old and some new works that probe the realities of the visible and the less visible in a mediated world of illusions, simulations and repressions.
A scathing critique of cultural nationalism and elitism in the contexts of India and Kerala are prominent in the works on show. The elitist and traditionalist signs and icons associated with the high culture in our socio cultural and historical contexts are under severe visual critique and revaluation in the current works. The works also explore allegorical and surreal ways of engaging with the visual cultures and contexts. The meta narratives and hegemonic semiotics of high Brahmanical culture are under specific critical visual explication.
The works in general fall back to the heterodox and radical traditions in India as epitomized in contemporary times by the works of Husain himself as they threatened the pro fascist brigades who mutilated works of art in public and humilated the people of this great country that has a history of art dating back to Indus valley, Ajanta and Sravanabelgola. The simple visual statement is that art in India is less Hindu and more Mlecha or Heena in Brahmanical terms. The Sramana and Sufi traditions of art and culture are also hinted in the visual exposition.
The cultural nationalist propaganda against freedom of speech and creative expression are also addressed and refuted by the defiant and daring bold imagery of some works in the solo. Some of the works also elaborately use imagery drawn from the flora and fauna of Kerala. A series of portraits focus on radical social reformers who led the people’s resistance movements against hegemony and cultural subordination in India and Kerala.Most of the works are in Acrylic on canvas. The possibilities of hybrid or mixed media are also explored in some small works. At least 15 paintings and drawings are on display in the small ground floor at Kalarickal Art Gallery, Panampally Nagar, Kochi from August 20 to 27, 2011. The solo is inaugurated by Justice K Sukumaran, Former Judge of Kerala High Court on the 20th at 10am. The gallery would be open from 9am to 7pm throughout. All who are interested in art and the politics of culture are welcome…