Cities unfold themselves in the works of these two artists: Suchit Sahni and S.Ayesha. Born and brought up in the city of Delhi, they portray the lived and living experiences in their own unique ways of understanding and executing the aesthetic reflections. The city in their works appears before the viewer as an emblematic city, embodying the characteristics of all cities that are changing fast, thanks to the advent of global economics and proliferation of liberal democracy. The trouble and strife of people, and the pangs resulted by the changing socio-economic and politico-cultural fabric of such cities manifest in their varied colors and at times, the artists deliberately allow a celebratory mood to overcome their critical viewing while underlining the need of it in a very subtle way, cautioning the viewer of the traps these celebrations could offer to unsuspecting ‘citizens’. In this sense, these works could be called ‘critically celebrative’ and ‘celebrated critiques’ of the urban discourse.
Registration, interpretation and chronicling are the modes in which Suchit Sahni interprets the city of Delhi as he understands it. Suchit considers himself as a stealer of city images and for him, an artist keeps plundering the vast treasure troves of images both hidden and apparent in a city’s body. And also he believes that the artist behaves like a contemporary Robin Hood, who gives the rich images back to the society with a deserving dividend. True to his philosophy, Suchit moves around the city of Delhi (and also many other cities that according to him impart the ‘feel’ of an India in transition) and from his moving car, he captures images from those places which had made an impression on his mind during his growing up years. These photographs that Suchit presents in this show both as an installation and a video projection, supply the artist with the primary sketches.
It is interesting to see how Suchit considers these photographs as a ‘starting point’. In artistic terms, he calls them ‘drawings’. Every time an artist approaches his canvas he has a set of mental or actual drawings with him; these doodles or lines provide them with the basic blue print for further alterations and manipulations on the real canvas. Even a random comparison between the photographs that function as Suchit’s drawings with the final works in the display would reveal that in none of these paintings the artist transfer the same image as seen in the photographs. For him, experience is the real filter and eyes are the real photoshop. Through this double manipulation on the drawings he yields not only a new image but also a new reality, which is apparently experiential and for the viewer, true reminders of their own lived/living experiences now mediated through colors, forms and rhythmic movements.
Suchit, in his works, invests his energies in two ways; one, he likes to live the city nostalgically and see how the city changes before his eyes even when some parts of it resist the change, leaving certain reminders of the past intact for the people to witness. Two, Suchit, as an artist, goes beyond the urges to realize the apparent instead, he wants to transcend it through imparting an intimate sense of abstraction. While the images of a tonga (horse driven carriage), scooter, old vans and cars, forts and so on stand evidence to the former stance of the artist, the distance of perception that he demands from the viewer exemplifies the abstract values that he invests in the images. As the viewer goes closer to the paintings, the images dissipate to reveal a riot of colors and forms. Suchit, within his paintings re-invents the same physical aspects of understanding a city through body adjustments within the actual urban sites.
S.Ayesha, an artist-designer and a designer-artist, who does not allow her works to be ‘assisted’ in any manner, approaches her paintings the same way an excavator approaches heritage as well as historical sites. Ayesha, in her own self, sees the manifestations of urban realities and often it becomes an agent and metaphor for her to exemplify the same qualities of the ‘urbane’. As she goes on revealing the layers of her own identity as an urban being, a creative individual and an independent woman by masquerading herself in mock stereotypical selves, she intends to reveal the layers of an urban space, which in fact seriously involve in masquerading not only by external agency but also by internal re-organizations. Ayesha, in this sense perceives the city as an organic being with a life of its own and her efforts are to find out the reality hidden behind glittering facades.
Like a clinician or even more like a novelist, Ayesha uses her visual aesthetics as an extract of the urban realities (both the physical and the spiritual as urban space is an organism) and uses it as an antidote to produce desired results. A novelist details even the minutest of the events and objects, layering them through loaded words in order to create a complex but comprehensive picture about the places/plots that she deals with. Similarly, Ayesh goes deeper into the urban texts and textures that are confronted, engaged and experienced on a daily basis by the human beings and de-layers them primarily only to conjoin them in a different fashion so that the events and images could gain a desired complex narrative structure. She employs the same urban layers one after another, exactly the same way a city is built (not only through the layers of architectures but also through memories and personal acts, which later on come to hold city as a comprehensive structure).
The panache with which Ayesha uses the materials is a very interesting characteristic of her ‘constructive’ paintings. To emulate the glittering exteriors of the urban architecture and facades, Ayesh executes most of her works on a mirror surface or a polished steel surface. She extensively uses found images and materials (like packing materials and holograms) apart from using certain images of her own self in upfront and daring postures. Between grave realism and ironic surrealism, Ayesha deliberately positions her works/paintings as two dimensional installations that are capable of holding these multiple layers of material as well as visual engagements. Each work of Ayesha exudes a sense of construction and a kitschy sense of reality, which in deeper level would invite the viewers to see the mirror reflections of the realities that they often fails to recognize.
Venue – The Claridges,
Aurangzeb Road, New Delhi
Dated – 5thMarch to 20th March 2011