This month, the city’s famous live music venue will make place for an art and music experiment. Titled The Psychic Plumber and Other Lies, the show takes India of the ’70s and ’80s as its muse to depict works of two different professionals. “It’s a cross-pollination of sorts. We are trying to create a little island where music and art go together. It’s unlikely that two artistes from different mediums come together this way,” says graphic novelist Sarnath Banerjee.
In 2008, taking off from where pop art legend Andy Warhol and his iconic Campbell soup left, Banerjee had set out on an artistic ride mulling over products like Vimal suiting, Promise toothpaste, Boroline antiseptic cream, HMV watches and Zandu balm for inspiration. “For the opening of the Blue Frog studios, I was commissioned to do an exhibition on the world of advertising jingles and their influence on the Indian psyche. At this show, I’ll explore the India of the past. It recreates history through articles of that era,” he adds.
However, Banerjee admits that his work this time is more in sync with the Hogarthian view. “Cartoonists are like parallel historians. I’m a recorder and I record history from a very non-nostalgic point of view,” says the social critic and comic illustrator, who has just launched his latest novel, Harappa Diaries, a series of graphic commentaries on post-liberalised India.
“These artworks will later be exhibited at the Contemporary Art Museum of Leon,” adds Banerjee.
His amusing artworks, 14 of them, will be accompanied by music composed by Ashu Pathak, which will be played on loop. “The music is my interpretation of Sarnath’s work. It is very experimental and brings together sounds from genres as diverse as world to retro music,” says Pathak. Among his compositions is a song about a walking billboard. “It’s a song about a girl who is obsessed with brands,” he adds. While some of the songs are directly interpreted from Banerjee’s artworks, other see the graphic novelist indulging in a story-telling of sorts. “I asked Sarnath to comment on his work, so it works as a narrative with the art that viewers can plug into as they analyse,” he says.
Like the works on display, the title of the show too is open to interpretation. “It could be a plumber who plumbs into depth to cull out bits and pieces of history and put it together.
“Another take shows the plumber in a diving suit to be Salvador Dali, said to have delivered a lecture dressed in a deep-sea diving suit,” explains Banerjee. “I’m interested in how Ashu interprets my work.”
The Psychic Plumber and Other Lies opens on January 29 at Blue Frog Studios.