Contouring reality

The Asian Age.

Life, Art

Man and his tendency towards violence highlighted at colossal sized exhibition.

Cannibal’s from the capitalist reigns

The hybrid reality of our society, man’s likeliness for violence, and his tendency to control every living thing came to the forefront with the opening of the solo exhibition of Indian Contemporary artist Reji Arackal’s life-sized artworks at Alliance Française de Delhi on Thursday.

Organised in collaboration with The Raza Foundation, the exhibition is the second in the ‘Back from France’ series which holds two solo exhibitions of two different artists every year in order to provide a platform to deserving young Indian artists who have returned from France after a stay of more than six months and now continue their practice in India.

“Well-known for his non-conformity and diverse interests, Reji Arackal’s colossal, god-like superhuman figures are a result of a study of form. The ‘out of line’ superhuman become a platform for dangerous speech, human desire, appetite and unruliness and a symbol of moral and ethical decay in his compositions. As a catalyst for social change, Arackal draws from a variety of sources to expose the heresies of disenchantment, exploitation and persecution” Shruthi Issac, Curator of the exhibition titled ‘Living Outlines’ said as she explained the idea behind the artist's works.

Talking about his work, the artist said: “Humans always consider themselves as sophisticated and advanced. But my understanding is that we are like bugs trying to control every living thing on earth. We convert living, thriving habitats into artificial, dead spaces. We are no longer able to differentiate between what is precious and living and what is artificial. Humans, the most dominating being on earth act like Gods. We behave as if we are superhuman. But we have already lost our basic skills of survival. We have lost balance.”

One of his works from 2009, titled ‘Hybrid Reality’, explores the metaphor of an alternate actuality wherein the human society is a production factory. A single, shapeless mass is cut, sawed, pulled, stretched, shaped and given purpose to meet the needs of a society of small human-like beings.

“I think we live in a hybrid world where things no longer happen naturally. Humans are interfering in every aspect of life on Earth. We are physically and mentally tuned to the mechanical clock and machines to the extent that we ourselves have become small cogs in a large industrial unit,” Arackal, who came back from Paris after a one-year internship program from  The École  Nationale Superieure Beaux-arts said.

“His very personal pictorial style imposes itself on spectators with its expressive and poetic force. He possesses a dreamlike and sarcastic way of evoking the environmental ravages caused by the lack of respect for nature. Beyond their astonishing artistic qualities, Reji Arackal’s works have a political dimension...they invite the viewer to become more aware of the major issues that our planet is facing,” Director of Alliance Française de Delhi Jean François Ramon said while pondering over the Arackal’s works.

In another one of his works, titled The hunter or Mirror image’, Arackal comments on man’s penchant for violence. The new-age God-like soldier reaches out to the caveman with his primitive spear.

Michelangelo’s God reaches out to Adam against the background of an imaginary map of Wayanad (Kerala) with names of once thriving tribal villages that have now been displaced from collective memory.

His earliest work on display, ‘Displaced’ (2007), critiques the erasure of cultural memory under the pretext of urbanization. “The lyrical tribal structures have over time been uprooted and replaced by urban, commercial structures,” Arackal said.

This cannibalistic tendency of capitalist structures to feed on thriving social structures has also been highlighted in Cannibal’s from the capitalist regimes (2013) wherein each country in their military garb bites into the body of another under the pretext of war.

“The explicit and implicit violence inherent in the socio-political body has been a perennial issue for me since I started my career as an artist. My early canvases stand in this respect as they show different types of gestures and postures of a world of violence and which are extremely polished in order to obliterate any brush strokes. This is no paradox indeed. It is rather a direct representation of the nature of violence we come across in our daily life,” the artist stated.

The exhibition, featuring seven seminal works of Arackal will be on display at Alliance Française de Delhi’s Gallerie Romain Rolland until March 28.