Styling the Sheen

Styling the Sheen
Dr.M.Balamani-Art Critic& Cultural Analyst.

This is my analysis writing for an exhibition catalogue organized by ‘World Stainless Steel Art Festival’ at the time of Vibrant Gujarat, 24th to 27th January, 2015. Presently the same display is continued at Vincent Gallery, Ahmedabad. [Imagaes-1-‘Breathless moment’ by Ketan Amin 2-‘Steel men of India’ by Alok Prabhakar ]

-Reflection of images can be seen over the water or on mirror. Mirror reflects all the images without getting involved or without any interaction with the objects that come in front of it. It reflects at the surface level. Water represents the soul like tranquility along with reflecting the image of the object/element that crosses over the water body. That tranquility is complimentary for the perceptions. Such reflection can resemble an interactive serene conscious because there are depths behind the surface of the waters.
What is that represents in the reflection of mirror or water images? Why should we search for our image, conscious, mind and soul in those reflections? We can view our face and feelings only in such reflections. We cannot see our face on our own. Probably this was the question of many thinkers, poets or artists throughout. When John Keats writes about nature, “I’ll smoothly steer my little boat, for many quiet hours, …let Autumn hold, with universal tinge of sober gold,..” It’s a clear search for the reflection of soul and consciousness. It’s a thirst of that search to view those inner meditative images on the water reflections. Human mind always is/was longing for viewing such undisturbed reflection of the soulful thoughts.
Poets/artists want to handle an undisturbed and unbroken image and the self reflective meanings in the image. A mirror can reflect what has come in front of it as an immediate reaction not holding any answerability. Mirror throws back and water breaks its images with whirl winds. There is another surface that is metal surface, people used brass metal surface as mirror. This is a reference of 8th C. and it was the story of Goda Devi of Vellipottur of South India and Pandyan kingdom. Very recent, 100 years old discovery, Stainless steel surface has better reflection than brass. This metallic reflection represents the image similar to water, without its whirls, it reflects like mirror but unlike mirror it also process on its surface for the metallic interaction and aesthetic deliberations.
A large group of artists are given Stainless Steel plates to create the artistic deliberations for this exhibition. Such metallic meanings are stylistically molded by these artists to get the compositions of their choice. Sometimes artists made the viewer’s reflection also as part of the polished stainless Steel art work. That is adding a dimension of a moving life along with the static image on some of the works. Some of the artists pooled those reflections of the polished surface, yet another time the sheen of the grey surface effectively combined in the art work as a negative or a positive part of the composition.
Every material offers hindrances along with its meanings while offering aesthetic explorations. Stainless Steel material cannot be vertically invaded like wood or melting brass. It should be tapped, touched, made friends with, confide in it, interact with it. Then alone it reveals itself to the artist. Then alone this materiality coordinates with that creative thought process to project the objective form of that concept. The artists given the Stainless Steel plate are sculptors, painters and print makers. Those artists composed their choice of sculpture or painting. Few have maneuvered this material and few made the surface as platforms to perform their ideas and handled the challenges while handling the new medium. They have performed grappling with its hindrance as aesthetic. Expression travelled through the challenge of material in such cases.
These vertical invaders handled the material and malleability and have stylized the work in two kinds-controlling the latent forces of this metal or fully exploding those inherent force of the materiality. In a way artists of both these categories have performed over the plate or along with the plate given in the hand. Few also took the control over the emotions till the material has permitted them to exercise a corresponding control over the materiality.
Vertical invasions and sentimental sensations are portrayed together sometimes. Yet another times domination of intellectual interventions had to be given the lead role when impossible invasion did not allow the sensations of materiality to get released. When the challenge of this material didn’t allow their exercises then few levered the sensible representation alone at the surface of this materiality. But the materiality is handled by all those artists on steel strength, glossy shine and grey color aesthetic even by those that are not aware of this material handling. This is proving the qualities of this material for their artistic expression but not mimicking or making a parody neither by the artist nor by the material. As artists are always on look out for new material explorations for new sensibilities and expression, this material came in their basket of acceptable material explorations.
Metal’s materiality can be taken for granted as traditional that provides an archaic decoration for a third person understanding. As Ms. Deepikaa Jindal explains Stainless steel is contemporary material and different from that age old material list. Its finish is different from the earlier ones. This metal also has similar materiality of fearless strength but the response of steel is different from the earlier metals as far as artistic experiments are concerned. Contemporary art concepts and sensations have easy possibility on this finish. ‘Beauty’ of this metal finish eagerly responds to those meanings. Violent emotions, angst, hatred also seem to be polished possibility on this metal’s aesthetic explorations. Physical sensations are strong on this metallic sheen. There is a magical sensation on the whole of this sheen which is stylized aesthetically for expressions by these artists. In the process of accepting it’s unique shine, it could be also an intellectual rejection of conventional metallic understanding of materiality alone. In a way it is a rejection, acceptance and combining the primitive and civilized differences through this materiality and shine in these art works.
Its objective strength has given two kinds of artistic expressions-1-Maneuvering the materiality- who took charge of the metallic strength dominatingly to express their way, 2-Material deliberations -who performed making friends or keeping a distance with its strength while bringing the hidden sensitivities or yet another time working at its surface level. It is a performance because artists utilized their body language in handling the sharp edge and hard metal, controlling or retaining the mat or metallic shine finish. On the whole every expression created a congenial form acceptable to the metal as well to the artist.
1- Maneuvering the materiality -Largely sculptors are adept at handling the metal for art representation. This category of artists have taken the control over such materiality and shine making the viewer to surprise on their technical control.
Ajay Parmar- His work titled ‘Image’ and ‘Mirror image’ have reference to human being’s personality and the conflicts within. When the baby is born the image of the mind is clean and it is a vacuum, when the child starts growing, surroundings make a mould on the mind. Human beings can even develop a conflict, one is internal that is different from the external interaction i.e, displayed personality. He used the mirror reflection of the steel shine meaningfully to symbolize the image of any such personality. Another work, pyramid of energy is indicating the needed energy to solve the different and colossal problems of this world.
Ketan Amin’s work is ‘Breathless Moment’. A tree is protruding from the window of a house. Surprisingly the technical smoothness and the technical handling of the material leave a pleasant viewership though the thought of the work creates an uneasy feeling.
We believe that, earlier and our past had the simpler civilization. Growth brought in ‘Civilization and Culture’ and developed the social organization. One can also understand the social being from the point of view of culture of that society, that is, social being carries or represents that specific culture. Culture and civilization growth influence the human minds and that gets reflected in the artistic expressions too. It’s another and cultural critic’s way of looking at the art. If we believe our present time has a developed civilization, then, is it the hard time for greenery? Ketan feels with increasing urbanization and increased concrete constructions the climate and the vegetation have become breathless. Space of the earth cannot be stretched like elastic to divide it for concrete constructions and vegetation both. He feels now the time has come we have to grow the trees and vegetation from our interiors.
Ratilal Kansodaria a sculptor by profession, worked on the stainless Steel sheet with card board ease. Technique of handling this material is like a toy for him. His thought expressed is on the unity of nation. The connecting thread for uniting the nation should be working culture throughout the country and at every nook and corner. Only through work, commitment to the work, ethics and morals of work, our India can become powerful and can acquire a high position on this world map. He represented emperor Asoka’s wheel for ethics and morals, unity of work is through thread of connectivity, someone is flying the bird or a flag to put symbolically India on the heights and others are supporting in reeling the thread.
Yogesh Mahida—His work is on the conflict between place and space, lived geographies and changing times, interior and exterior, zigzags and architectural spaces, struggle of old order in relation to new makings and real estate consummation. Couple of hogs ascending the staircase on his dome like composition creates a curiosity for the viewer to question, whether his work is a comment on political scenario? Perfect metal molding and mini scale architectural design and the turns of staircase, astonishes the viewer on element of reality references. References of reality of mini scale certainly tickles the feet of the onlooker. A statement of criticism is obvious in Mahida’s art work. Political statements, a wit, and a parody dominate his work while maneuvering the technique of metal handling.
2-Material deliberations -This category of artists had made friends with the material and the sheen.
Ajay Choudhary-“My paintings are essentially a form of rebellion”, says Ajay Chaudhary. He feels he is free from conventional inhibitions of an art technical training. The abstraction and child like freedom of his rendering the composition is the result of it. He feels his work is spontaneous comment on reality. He says one has to take care to avoid scratches on the steel plate. He retained the steel grey as a border for the composition as well as the combination for his black and white color composition leaving that as positive and negative effectives on the composition.
Alok Bal-He works on a thought that few of the subjects might appear as binary opposites though they are not. Probably what he means is they are like two sides of the coin complimenting each other. We can extend ourselves further to discuss about Deleuze’s, one of the influential philosophers of 20th Century, and his idea of ‘Difference and Repetition’. He explains a visual description of the difference between resemblance and repetition. If a glass of water is filled, it is the collection of many water drops. Every water drop repeats and echoes physically like other water drop while filling the glass. But one water drop’s character does not resemble the other. In the sense if the first water drop may echoes the ninth water drop in physicality but the placement changes the soul. If the first water drop is not filled, ninth cannot be placed as well tenth cannot follow. Probably we can extend our thought to express that what is called resemblance is not the repetition as well the binaries are not the opposites as well.
Alok Prabhakar-His composition appears like a stage performance or a conversation between the illustrious personalities is disclosed to the audience. Whether Gandhi or Sardar Patel both were strong personalities of quit India movements or uniting Independent India. His composition found the similarity in steel strength and its shine as personality and popularity. Material surface has become the stage to perform his artistic idea. Composition is surrounded by linear objects are enhancing their steel strength characteristics.
Arunanshu Chowdhary- Certain works suggests a criticism of civilization. Arunanshu’s work is like narrating a folk stories or nursery rhymes. He works on environmental imbalance and space chaos in the urbanization. Development of cities, he probably says, is causing the displacement of nature.
Hindol Brahmabhatt-Combination of Art and technology has exciting results. Mimesis as a way of art expressions is talked about by many thinkers in east or west. What art does is not the imitation. It’s catching the essence of the object drawn. What the technology does is also a kind of mesmerizing for Hindol. He utilized the positive and negative shine of the plate effectively to render meanings to the shine.
Jagadish Dhyan Shreyas-His work “Wagah the Berlin wall of Asia” talks about Wagah border problem that is something similar to Berlin wall. The ‘talks for peace’ political meetings happening are only ritualistic. The situations in between the politically divided countries remained the similar. He had cut the portion of the steel plate to carve a border gate to symbolize a gate in between the divided countries. That gate symbolically dividing the inside and outside and opening or closing.
Jagannath Mohapatra-he folded metal sheet like paper folding resembling bird figures. These forms are very different from his regular painted figures that have a enticing realistic approach and these bird figures have an abstract configuration.
Jitendra Oghani-He treats steel sheet like paper. To retain the shine is also important for him for his composition. His work appears like paper cutting designs leaving a feel of paper on the hard sheet. It’s a thought to maneuver the hardness of the sheet symbolically.
Mahendra Kadia-If the birds are on the flight what is the visual measurement of its speed and energy? Such questions were the preoccupation of ‘Futurism’ artists of 20th C. of Western world. One can visualize imaginatively that speed may display many fast moving figures of the same person who is on the speedy move without leaving any figurative details. Is it the similar preoccupation when Mahendra is painting many birds in different postures and angles blooming with energy?
Manish Chavda- There is serenity in the moonlight or growing energy in the infant rays of rising morning Sun. He juxtaposes delicate bird figures in their sensibilities against the metallic smoothness. That reveals a meditation and simplicity, like music of nature, serenity of early morning devotional songs in his compositions. He controlled the shine of the metal to release only so much that can project his idea and required portrayal. Shine of this material is handled by him in a sensuous way.
Manish Modi-He conceptually symbolizes a meaning for ‘Satyagraha’ and references of Gandhi and freedom fighting. Freedom and Satyagraha also symbolizes independence and joy. He sees the similar problems of then times related to national and international disturbances in contemporary times also. He envisages a freedom from all those problems. He uses visual symbols of Satyagraha as groups of people together, contemporary times with news paper script on the plate surface, and birds’ flight as a symbol of peace, etc. He also brought in the references of earlier technique of making holes for print making of mass production. His handling of the material is a perfect amalgamation of techniques and motifs symbolically carrying the message.
Muktinath Mondal- Made an interactive work commenting on the Eco system imbalance. When the viewer comes in front of the image one’s reflection become part of the composition. That questions the viewer on their part of duty in this climatic change and ecological imbalance. It is probably to generate a thought in the minds that the present is always under attack from the past and future balance or imbalance simultaneously.
Nilesh Suthar is working to display the visual metaphor for human energy. His preoccupation with energy is again a question similar to artists of Futurism that we referred a while ago. He tried to portray the energy through boys who are playing and do not get exhausted. Excitement and enthusiasm of energy is visually shown with many images of one boy who is on the move.
Priti Kahar-“Me+You+Planet Earth” is her explorations on different materials associated with wars of this earth. War front always has a combat, chaos and power game, seeking supremacy over the other. Wars cause destruction at micro and macro levels. Stainless steel certainly reached the Military and Defense material of war fronts. She is saying her mind through the steel-cut figure of the world map.
Ruby Jagrut Patel-A fish in the cage sounds very symbolic. Fish cannot move outside the waters as well in the cage. That fish is doubly imprisoned. She mixed thread and a piece of cloth dyed with natural dyes fixed at the back of the cut portions of the steel plate, created a meaningful metaphor. Hardness of any thought will certainly have soft corners and the soft moments. Probably fish here is used as a metaphor for the caged thoughts, needs to be placed at its dynamic and effective base.
Shikha Chavda- She visualizes the world around and the life as a composition of many units, lines and dots. She portrayed domestic animals on the plates effectively making the shine of the steel as part of the composition. Her portraits explain the tranquility and unruffled nature of the docile character. The eyes of animals and postures made as real as possible and they are interactive. The relation and the placing of both the cows are shown as if that is the definition of companionship and the composite relationship between the human beings too. Viewer’s reflection on the plate creates a lively dimension of such cozy relationship in her composition. The figures are made while scratching the lines and dots leaving the shine of the negative space of the composition for positive meanings.
Tushar Kamble-Stainless steel has magical feel. He tried to catch the magic of steel through the subjects he composed. Michael Jackson is a magical man spread the magic of music and his presence had a magical role. Saxophone is also a magical instrument with unique notes, and reflexive quality to itself. He tried to catch both, the metal magic and reflexive quality of steel and the subjects he chose.
Uday Mondal-His work is like a visual documentary of what he observes and feels in the surroundings. The grey and black tones project certainly a melancholy. The imposing feet of reclining women surrounded by others feet and figures represent claustrophobia. His work looks like a parody of reclining rosy figures of Titian.
Vinod shah-He is a water colorist and adept at transparent and translucent possibilities of landscape paintings. He handled steel plate too like his paper surface. He brought the translucent feel of sky from the sheen finish. He camouflaged the material and his artistic comparable skills. That brought opaque color application in the place of his usual transparency. His figures slip away into timelessness away from History.