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Title:        MAPS FOR LOOKING SIDEWAYS…Solo show of Shiladitya Sarkar

Dates:      29 MARCH – 19 APRIL’10

Maps for looking sideways……

The allusion in Shiladitya Sarkar's mixed media works on paper is toward intertextuality. To know what Shiladitya has done and why, one has to know what codes have been broken and why. At the base of these works, there seems to be an engagement with challenging and re-locating modernist constructs. It is the codes of Modernism that Shiladitya is convinced to break, from within a seemingly Modernist arena charted by his works. Shiladitya does not stop at his critique but makes a statement. His sense-making strategy is multi-pronged, while the works are rather an active interplay of his positions than their deconstructed documentation.

The works seem to cheer/ ruminate/ ideate/ nostalgize/ presume the possibilities that precede change. Possibilities that invite change or even induce it. What makes possibilities 'happen', or one possibility to grow and others die? What is the agency that shapes these possibilities? A modernist position is to believe in the binary of Man Vs. Nature. If venture and violence / redefinition and reconciliation mark the process of change brought about by human effort, the interplay of eternal and ephemeral recurs when things change naturally. A modernist non-representative painting with its general inclination toward the man-made would rejoice in asymmetry, stark lines and strokes, and would uphold the uniqueness of the picture-plane. While a tribal, folk ‘pre-modern’ artist would follow the practices deemed eternal by him/her, and would craft the painting. Shiladitya also uses the Dadaist device of mockery, but in his own way to write an unreadable mock script over the picture-plane. Elsewhere in his schemata, the bold, masculine strokes are often challenged by repetitive and craft-like processes of producing lines with the use of the brush that is informed by calligraphy as well. Lines infested by small white rounds, done by stamping a round part of a pen or the like, further an argument against the prescriptive usage of tools and materials.

The present show makes room(s) for two bodies of work. The first is a fair selection of his recent suite of non-representational works, while the other is a miniscule culled from a multitude of figurations that Shiladitya has been doing over the years. There is no single narrative that binds these two, yet their togetherness, while being exhibited or otherwise, is notable. They are both parts of Shiladitya’s larger project to unlearn the excesses of Modern Art, and re-locating the Modern vis-à-vis a computer-inclined, consumerism-centered congestion of the contemporary in art. However strong the modernist inclination may seem in Shiladitya’s work, esp. his figurative works, conversations with Shiladitya reveal his urge to critique the notions and processes that would relegate Modernity to something Western, violent, Nehruvian or fascist. He advocates a reinvention of (the early modernist ideals, as history might brand them,) values like individual rationality and spontaneity, that might have their place in contemporary, plural, post-global and wired existence.

This insistence on such values may command a different reading of Shiladitya’s works. While processes that make these works, already endorse an interculturalist position, they do not entangle themselves in the idea of a universal culture, dictated by computers, consumerism or media. The deliberate choice to follow the pre-computers meaning of ‘mixed media on paper’, is at once a limiting and a liberating force. It limits the innumerable possibilities of having found/browsed imagery inadvertently enhancing the suggestive content of the work. It also undermines the post-television dictum of ‘less attention span’ of the viewer and makes him see the work and go back to it with reference to other works in the same suite, where it turns out to be a liberating experience.

To Shiladitya, his project is that to chart the conflicting spaces and conflicting time zones that challenge us in our self-conception, and amputates the possibility to bridge these gaps. The multicultural existence cannot be a product of ‘now’. It is bound to have strands and bays that belong to far or near past / future. Shiladitya’s works map the contemporary terrain with an aim to navigate through the time zones that belong elsewhere. If one cares to look up these maps, a word of caution: look sideways, don’t follow the grid.

Abhijeet Tamhane March 2010


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