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Eye for expression

Published : Jan 31, 2016, 10:12 pm IST
Updated : Jan 31, 2016, 10:12 pm IST

Ralph Waldo Emerson, American essayist and poet, once wrote, “The eyes indicate the antiquity of the soul.” From the Mona Lisa to Picasso’s Weeping Woman, an eye plays an influential role in great pie

Anita Dube’s work ‘Beef or mutton’
 Anita Dube’s work ‘Beef or mutton’

Ralph Waldo Emerson, American essayist and poet, once wrote, “The eyes indicate the antiquity of the soul.” From the Mona Lisa to Picasso’s Weeping Woman, an eye plays an influential role in great pieces of art. Many speak volumes and stir something inside all of us. Some would call it creativity while many would call it an artistic vision of a great master. In the eighth edition of Indian Art Fair, there were numerous canvases and sculptures making the viewers marvel at the capacity in which artists can use eyes as an element to express themselves in intentional, prolific and sometimes painful ways.

Many works that solely focus on the human eye often make us feel as if we are viewing the soul or spirit of the artist or his muse embedded in the frame. London-based Indian artist Rina Banerjee’s paintings and delicate drawings on paper show female figures float in chimerical landscapes, often in states of transformation or with hybrid features of birds and beasts. Her titles are long, free form refrains that immerse the viewer in the physical and emotional space of the work, heightening its quasi-mystical magnetism. “Her work investigates the possibilities of cultural identity; its relics, how we identify ourselves and how that perception changes through the eyes of others. Her works reflect both her transnational background and her sophisticated understanding of the narrative power of objects. The artist is not interested the permeability of barriers in a globalised world,” shares Todd Hosfelt, director, Hosfelt Gallery.

He adds, “Eyes play a symbolic element in her works. In her canvases, whether she is representing a figure in swim-wear or a transparent cloth, the viewer will not miss the point that the ‘eyes’ are stating — ‘you could only see what I wish to show nothing beyond, nothing more’. The eyes question the norms of society but also present a strong prospective of speaking one’s own mind and standing up for it.”

Exploring the ideas of femininity, empowerment and multiplicity, Gallery Escape showcased Brooklyn-based artist Chitra Ganesh’s new works on paper titled ‘Conversation with the stars, 2016’ at the fair. The small format powerful works grabbed the viewers’ attention and made them revisit it at the fair. The human eye plays a significant role in her works, narrating a tale within her Amar Chitra Katha style. The works are very strong and are mostly the representation of femininity as a complex and layered cultural construct.

Artist Nilofer Suleman’s paintings are a witty and colourful illustration of our country, offering vibrant vantage points and comical observations about the country. Sangeeta Raghavan, director, Art Musing Gallery who is showcasing the Bangalore-based artist’s work at IAF 2016 says, “The characters which animate her canvases, produce a signature effect with their elongated almond eyes and stylised features. The colour palette is very Indian and so is the content. The people that you see in her work are from our surroundings.”

She continues, “Nilofer is hugely interested in miniatures and one can see its influences in her work. If you focus on the eyes, they are clearly inspired by the Kalighat Patachitra tradition. Every corner of the canvas has a tongue-in-cheek story unfolding.”

‘Fulcrum’ by artist Anju Dodiya showcased by Vadehra Art Gallery tries to represent a theatrical situation in an attempt to explore internal and external reality. The work narrates its own story through the ‘eyes’, detached from the artist.

On the other hand, artist Anita Dube’s work titled ‘Beef or mutton’ is based on a concept inspired by the recent beef ban and its related phenomena. In the work on display she has peering eyes collectively looking through the red that is scattered on a white sheet underneath. Being shown by Lakeeren gallery, the Delhi-based artist’s work drew attention because of the political debate it raised.

Artist Nayanaa Kanodia’s work on display at Gallerie Ganesha reflects the changing face of our nation, through the images of the urban elite and the common man on the street. Shobha Bhatia, the gallery director says, “Nayanaa Kanodia is a contemporary artist whose depictions of day-to-day reality are charged with humour and irony. The figures she paints are intricately detailed, in peace with their surroundings and within this format, she paints eyes which are also at repose, almost like a mirror to everyday occurrences, objects and people.”

Paintings and drawings take on cartoonish shapes and colours to examine the body, society and the world in Raghava KK’s body of art. In the series of work on display at IAF, he takes inspiration from a child’s life and aspiration. Sangeeta from Art Musing says, “The series is inspired by his son who is full of dreams. The child in his body of work is looking at the world through a magnifying glass full of awe and admiration. He is trying to show ‘eyes’ — that are born with new dreams and aspirations every single day. It also signifies the innocence of a child who only sees the beauty and goodness in our society.”