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Various shades of urban desire
NIDHI GUPTA  27th May 2012

Tonic

two-headed horse, sliced through the middle, floats in mid-air. Instead of its guts spilling out, a lotus blooms out of a hollow midriff, pecked on by a blue and yellow bird, as a zebra looks on. Lord Ram stands on a throne while Sita, armed with seven heads and a wand, crouches on a nearby cloud, looking close to livid.

This strange apparition, which could be straight out of an absurd dream, or a demented nightmare, is called Race Course and is meant to denote the tumult of modern, metropolis life. Don't get the connection? That's surrealism for you.

It's a World of Desire, the ongoing exhibition at Art Alive Gallery, is a journey into the outlandish, the Freudian and the real, all together. Sanjay Kumar Kashi debuts with power-packed punch – of the many -isms he could've used, he chose the surreal to cast a critical eye upon big-city life romping about in all its glorious materialism and narcissism.

"It's a basic human condition: we will always aspire, dream and demand. At the same time, our perceived selves will always be distant from the real and this inner conflict shall remain, becoming a much larger presence in our miniscule lives than should be warranted," he observes.

Hailing from the small district of Jamui in Bihar, Kashi claws at the heart of social life in Delhi, having spent the last ten years as a student and art director for a leading advertising agency. "We humans do not look at things realistically. Nor are we ever in a single frame of mind. The power of association itself is greater than we think," he says.

It’s a basic human condition: we will always aspire, dream and demand. At the same time, our perceived selves will always be distant from the real and this inner conflict shall remain, becoming a much larger presence in our miniscule lives than should be warranted.

Such is the thought that is echoes through paintings like Tonic, where every ordinary man is Hanuman for the Herculean efforts he puts into trying to achieve his dreams; Mother Dairy is a tribute to cows and motherhood who continue to love despite being milked for many wrong reasons; I am Cute is a caustic look at vanity, as Beauty and the Beast become mirror images of the same person wrapped in infinity while I Am Not Cute portrays the opposite – a cow as the symbol of all innocence and humility; Old Books in New Delhi is an installation of 70 bricks with book covers painted on them, meant to depict child labour.

Every canvas is littered with many micro-narratives, prominent among them being a zebra which is again meant to symbolise innocence, a dog-bird morph representing the passive-aggressive beings urban society gives birth to, a young man reading a book, which is his signature through all his paintings and also a point of intersection in his own life.

The paintings have a graphic quality, imitating South Indian devotional posters. "I'm also inspired by the architecture of South Indian temples, where a mega structure incorporates statues of any number of gods," Kashi explains. Similarly, his works build more of an atmosphere one might find in a hyperactive mind β€” leading to bizarre twists of imagination, much inspired by Salvador Dali and Subodh Gupta, as he points out.

Venue: Art Alive

Date: Until 31 May

Timing: 11am -7pm

 
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