If every third artist — mixed media or otherwise — with a show in Delhi is from Faculty of Fine Arts, MSU Baroda, it means a few things. That its art school continues the tradition of a self-conscious seeking of 'modern', Western, art practice. That, unlike Shantiniketan, whose influences remain indigenous and in touch with its surroundings, its crafts, its milieu, 'breakthroughs' at Baroda, are encouraged as part of its academics. Not surprisingly, Pushpmala (who is among the first artistes of India to make performance as part of her photography) and body-artist Abir Karmakar, are its pass-outs.
Siddhartha Kararwal, Deepjyoti Kalita, Nityanand Ojha and Kartik Sood, in their twenties, are from Pushpmala and Karmakar's old school. Their works, being exhibited in the capital, are interesting experimentations in painting, installations and video.
At the Latitude 28 gallery, a few days before the opening, Kartik, who has brought to Delhi an interesting collection of mounted visuals (Memory, Plucking at the Heart strings, Closer, Touch), carefully wipes off the dust. It's all part of the pre-preview mess.
Faces of children stare back from one of his series, Closer, a set of seven photographs.
Kartik's experimentation is with ways of seeing. "I was randomly shooting street children," he says. "I was watching them, but realised my life would remain very different from theirs. So I kept the glass frosted to imply that the closer you get to the picture, the greater the distance, the incomprehension. I have based Closer at that moment of fracture".
What Siddhartha, Kartik's fellow artist, has going for him, is sensibility — an attitude of irreverence through which he is trying to understand and, if need be, re-draw the universe. Don't baulk, but donkeys are his canvas. In Can't Please All and Whackass, cement, adhesive, old rugs are stuffed to make installations and photographs in which donkeys are piled or pulled. The background is always white.
"Cities change so fast these days. Markets go, houses are demolished. By the time you started relating to things they are gone. That's why I did away with background. As for the donkeys, it's a metaphor for continuing the same stupidity in life," he says. "I hope it is art," he adds cheekily.
Nityanand Ojha's bejewelled sculpture of a man hanging with a blue bone in hand, is a sensitive use of material. "No Other Way is a mediation on objects so as to meditate on human needs and drives, death, life, death…" he says.
The Incompetence of Being Complete is, to my mind, the most striking work of the exhibition. Made by Deepjyoti Kalita, his three-dimensional sculpture-cum-print-and-paper collage of two characters sitting on a bench will become almost like a 2-D work when mounted like a painting on the day of the opening. At present, you can walk around it. "One of the figures moves. It's as if he is trying to fix his place. It's the state of the modern, undecided individual," he says. The artist also raises an interesting point about his training. "There's no boundary at Baroda and all doors are open. Some-times, it can be a problem."