Artville Contemporary Artist Of The Day
Baricade (with Props)
Medium: Digital print on paper
Size: 38.5 x 62.5 in
Vivan Sundaram, painter, sculptor, installator is a key figure in a group of contemporary artists, who have, over the last decade, moved away from the enterprise of easel painting.
Opposed to the comfort of looking at art from a drawing-room perspective or with disengagement, Sundaram, is more committed to realising multidimensional projects which invite audience participation as in open-stage theatre where, the distance between spectator and performer is minimal. You can sit inside a room, or on a car-seat or bed or within a sheltered space, for instance, in a hut with live video and music to experience and evoke multiple meanings.
Sundarama’s work is conceived as a cultural product or debate rather than fine art to hang on the wall. It crucially relates to social and political history, the environment and to historiography itself. The viewer can take part in looking and thinking about event and issue and story in response to painted, crafted constructions and enclosures which are placed as excavated phenomena on the stage or, what can be a museum-like gallery space. Alternatively, the exhibition arena resembles an abandoned machine workshop or the karkhana (factory,in Urdu) of a toy-maker.
Sundarama’s monumental artworks or relic-like objects acquire different meanings on different sites. An industrial landscape, is polemically represented as a totem-like structure, made with charcoal on paper and a tray of gleaming engine oil; the body of a man, killed in a communal riot, photographed by a reporter is an appropriated image, used by Sundaram as a “Fallen Man” emblem for many exhibitions; the memorial cum gateway,(a recurrent theme) made with tin trunks, the dwellings, cast as the House/Boat compositions or the dilapidated trawler-boat and its fragments are the image-structures which recur as the grammer of the environmental condition he models and re-models. The sculptures are erected and dismantled for shows in different cities.Their architectural instability, their incompleteness, along with the recently, added animistic exhibits of a bed with soft toys and the shell of an old fiat car with velvet seat and neon lights, point to a willful narration about strife, about the seduction and control of mechanical-electronic paraphernalia and about wishing and dreaming.
Unsettling the gaze of the viewer is towards a purpose. It is to solicit an intellection to invite participation in the construction of history, and to jostle personal memories his and ours-so that the installation area becomes a speaking space.
Sundaram had put up a mammoth installation at the Durbar Hall, Victoria Memorial, (A British-built building in Calcutta, which houses one of the largest libraries in Asia) in 1999. This site specific, turn-of-the-millenium endeavour was an alternative look at history, seen through artifacts of the colonial period and after, put together as cinematic montage and illumined as fragments of a mis-en-scene. (A theatrical- cinematic term, literally, Â’to put into a scenea’)
In his latest venture, shelter the structure of the cube, the boat, the carcass-shell of the car, turned into a sofa or turned into an advertisement-object with blinking lights, an odoriferous bunk bed reeking with childhood memories, are things and forms which become a collection to be re-used and hauled from one exhibition into another.
The shows demonstrate the aspiration to the condition of architecture, theatre, and the cinema where, remembrance is the key motif and the solid objects are like images in a pop up picture book.In the manner of an itinerant bard, Sundaram rephrases, transforms, renews his artworks as he exposes the deeds and words he has witnessed, heard or conjured himself. In the role of narrator, or a cine-theatrical director, he eliminates himself as author/individual artist. He collaborates with workmen as carpenters, masons, stone-cutters and photographers and video film makers so that the collective effort of many persons is dramatised as though he were unraveling hero-lauds.
The actors, in the scenario are expectedly, the visitors to his exhibition. Sundaram has made space for that : To view and walk through the gallery or location in a way so as to be able to re-construct time and saga, individually, and by means of his contrary, often ragged artwork-documents .
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