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Baiju Parthan's digital images

Baiju Parthan's new series of digital images titled 'Vapour' is being showcased at the Guild Art Gallery. The artist also gave an audio visual presentation on the works of his new media print show.

Baiju Parthan's art practice revolves around information technology and its impact on perception of the new generation. It explores how information streams alter our perception of reality and how new categories of experience clubbed under the generic term 'virtual' reshape our cherished ideas about the world.

He has been studying modern machines and their impact on human beings. Two years ago, his futuristic creation, Diary of the Inner Cyborg, was hosted at the Japan Foundation Gallery. Technology in his work is primarily used as an 'interactive space', where each node is a choice that branches out into an exploration of fluid boundaries of meaning, that suggests the ever present local within the global, and the human cogency within the computer network.

Keen to be a part of the cyber-age, he has studied computers, learned hardware engineering, and even built his own machines and created computer programs. 'The machine has become the 'Other' for humans, and it raises philosophical issues that we have to grapple with,' he feels, and adds, the real challenge for him as a painter is not how to delineate his location by referring to cultural roots, but to assimilate the global cultural values and yet be able to defining his identity on his own terms.

He quips: 'In my paintings I am actually trying to encode density rather than attempting to express ideas and emotions or messages directly. A painting with density is like an abyss that would suck you in and then turn itself into a worm-hole to spew you out into a vast landscape of ideas and possibilities.' One of his painting series expresses the numinous world of the primitive man, where the artist is the shaman, who through his 'ceremonial art' communes with the world of magic - perhaps black magic.

The artist enters new territory with his show 'Vapour', with trans-lit boxes and aluminum panels. Known for his web-based projects and canvases, Parthan has been contemplating this new medium for a while. He takes the viewer on a futuristic journey of digital images, that have been deconstructed, pixilated and morphed.

Though a student of science and engineering, he took to art in 1974, when he stumbled onto a book detailing the history of Western art. He holds a Bachelors Degree in Painting (B.F.A) and a Bachelors Degree in Botany apart from a Post Graduation in Comparative Mythology. He has studied philosophy, and so also, computer programming, 3D graphics and animation. No surprise, the artist incorporates technological paradigms into art.

He has created a unique vocabulary based on the intriguing use of symbols and archaic imagery. He has been once quoted as saying: "Though I came to study art enamoured by art history and criticism, the whole experience made me terribly skeptical about the role played by art history and criticism in actual art making. For me art history and criticism became an oppressive presence always breathing down my neck whenever I picked up a brush or looked at a work of art. His works like 'Brahma's Homepage' and 'Necessary Illusions with 24 Cups of Coffee' are a comment on the current Internet culture where an artistic experience can be extended by the number of choices given to the viewer.

A viewer/participant builds a narrative through the text, interwoven with images, and sounds customized through the choices he or she makes. The choice of the hyper-linked virtual space of the computer as the medium makes the work break away from the convention of passive viewing. By manipulating the viewers' sense of anticipation, he amplifies and makes visible the common thread that runs through all socially constructed world pictures, which are necessary to make sense of the world through generating coherent narratives and the intense desire for emancipation from the 'given'.

For his new series, he has done mainly digital installations. The artist is especially interested in the influence of technology on religious beliefs, the implications of genetic engineering, and the possibilities of post-humanism (i.e. the development of symbiotic relations between men and machines). Here, he works on an idea that will usually form the core of a thick thesis on genetics.

Parthan takes off from a theory which propagates that the transfer of ideas is actually a chemical process, carried out by a gene called the meme. Even the theory may be incomprehensible, the resultant images are worth a watch! Baiju Parthan's new set of works is on view at Guild Art Gallery till March 19, 2005.


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