Even though our constitution defines the term ‘democracy’ quite clearly, the true meaning of the word is lost in translation in modern India.
Even though our constitution defines the term ‘democracy’ quite clearly, the true meaning of the word is lost in translation in modern India. The term has been popping up in most conversations and debates lately, but only a few can relate to the actual gravitas of the situation as decoding democracy for dummies is an art in itself. While we can’t help but wonder about the various nuances of democracy, a 53-year-old artist Kishore Chakraborty dedicated a solo show titled Decoding Democracy at Art Konsult, New Delhi, to showcase his version of the current state of affairs in India. The show curated by Kiran Mohan is ongoing till December 29, and consists of 12 sets of work in the form of installation artworks that are painted predominantly in hues of blood red.
The artist, who calls himself ‘an old idiosyncratic Bengali, passionately involved in the Indian version of Marxist politics,’ took almost three years to complete this series. Speaking about his latest exhibit, he says, “My newest body of works is a collection of pieces that will take you through my tryst with life — the experiences that have shaped me as a person, an artist, a citizen and a consumer of democracy. My passionate involvement in the so-called Indian version of Marxist politics terribly disillusioned me as a youth, and since then the urban dilemma, the crisis of regular killings, sexual abuse, corruption etc. lead me to pour out my feeling in a series of works. This is a form of my constant dialogue — my art as an outburst of expression in the present existing scenario in our society vis-a-vis country.”
The artistic expressions in deep shades of red depict a strong sense of anger and rage, but Kishore calls it a ‘statement’ that he wishes to share with his viewers. He says, “The colour red is the hero of my work and binds these themes together. It is my language of choice that holds and communicates my experiences, my angst, my elation and all that my art reveals - consciously and subconsciously. Red is my aura, my medium and my abstraction through which I comprehend, assimilate and explain the human condition. The etched lines are scars, not wounds, that depict the myriad emotional experiences of my journey.”
The artist uses the term ‘politicking’ to describe the central theme and believes that it is an inevitable legacy that we inherit by birth. He questions the current state of democracy and says, “Is it really a part of our DNA—a dubious double helix of warped ideology and skewed sensibilities? Or is it only a superimposition on our original character? Can we rid ourselves of this superimposition or are we bound to politics in eternal servitude? Is democracy the messiah to end this servitude or the prodigal progeny that will entangle us further in a seemingly new manifesto of age-old Machiavellian manoeuvres? My work is a realization of this struggle, a burning question that scars our existence.”
Trained as a sculptor from Rabindra Bharati University, Kolkata in 1993, Kishore was a senior fellow in sculpture from Ministry of Culture, Government of India. He was awarded the Charles Wallace India Trust fellowship (by British Council, India) to work at a professional sculpture workshop in Ballinderry (United Kingdom). Moreover, several institutions have also awarded him for his two and three-dimensional works, and yet, he calls himself a “slow learner and equally slow executor.” He says he likes to read, learn and absorb from his close surroundings before creating artwork, because he doesn’t want to be known as someone who “produces” art.
As the artist chooses the medium of art to express his sentiments about the country, does he feel the need to choose controversial subjects to make a point? To this question, he replies, “I do not work for fame or anything; I only know this form of expression which is close to my soul; I don’t know anything else which is why I am only practicing my way of visual expression without any expectations. My teaching in a design school is a regular supplier of my bread and butter and my work is not for the faint-hearted. What I present are not inert pieces of artwork but a potent manifestation of many moments of awareness, discernment and consciousness that are a part of me. Laced with gunpowder, each piece is a weapon in my arsenal meant to provoke thought and instigate action. I don’t think that only political subject has the spark to make anything controversial. My works are always (for the last 27 years) a manifestation of the human condition - so automatically some political ideology and sensibilities do become part of them.”
When not working on his sculptures, Kishore mentors students at a reputed art and design school in Delhi. The artist points out the current challenges for the artists and feels that the creative freedom and censorship in the country needs to be questioned. He remarks, “We are world’s largest democracy; after 71 years of our independence as a country, we are still struggling for food- education and shelter for our fellow citizens, but interestingly, smartphones have reached every nook and corner of our country within one-tenth of the years of my nation’s age. How ridiculous! I think artists have every right to use symbols and metaphors in their work regardless of public opinion, but not at the cost of defaming our nation or any fear. I don’t know how an artistic controversy impacts an artist’s career path but if the controversial expression is artist’s own and original, then it only further grows to strengthen his or her artistic forms of expression.”