Anandajit Ray: For the Future XI

The focus is the souvenir cricket bat the artist adorns the plaque with. There are eleven such souvenir bats.

Anandajit Ray's show titled 'For the Future XI' at Sakshi Gallery consists of self-designed souvenir bats on wooden plaques. The artist has used the nostalgic wooden plaque, commonly seen at clubs, school principals' offices, army headquarters, and doorplates, as his canvas.

The plaque should not be mistaken as the focus of the exhibit. It merely provides a format. The focus is the souvenir cricket bat the artist adorns the plaque with. There are eleven such souvenir bats. These have been intricately personified with items he has picked on a random basis such as apparatus from school laboratories, artificial plants, electric switches and, catapults. In a way, it's a playful reference to the d'cor aesthetics of Indian households. The raw materials add texture or context to the bats in an interesting and detailed manner.

Ray works in controlled formats, which recall genres as diverse as the miniature and the comic strip. This creates a hybrid, which is laborious in rendering but irreverent in content, drawing as it does on areas of adolescence which create avenues of escape from a potentially dreary reality, and whose desires are projected and materialized through the popular media. The underlying narrative, continuous or splintered as the case may be, defies a literal readability in spite of the very specific images, which constitute it, relying instead on a visual logic where an image is what it is rather than what it could stand for. It represents a unity, which is connective rather than whole.

Anandajit Ray is known for his pictorial language, which is full of wit and irony. He begins by drawing an image - from his mind, or a book or a movie, anything that gets him started. It is a private space but he doesn't consider it like some wellspring of private emotions. His interest is in the form. One could call his approach clinical, but he is interested in making fantastic structures. And he believes that the form will convey everything.

He once stated: 'I would like to think of image as image, without trying to put it into any perspective. I try to look at my work at that level rather than at the artistic level. I consider myself very much a surface painter, but being in Baroda everything turns out to be very heavy by the end of it or it ends up with some weight on it, which is not the intention - which is where I fail most often.'

In his work there is the simultaneous exploration of the mundane and the phantasmal, the ridiculous and the horrific. The seduction and intimacy offered by these images, far from being repellent, actually invite acquisition by providing a perfect frame for private fantasy.

His latest work, at first glance, may seem fit to bear the tag of pop art or kitsch. But the artist won't appreciate the fact that his work is classified so, and won't add much significance to such tags. He elaborates to say, 'When you choose to seek raw material for any three-dimensional painting, you enter the terrain of kitsch by default and not by intention.'

Anandajit Ray completed his graduation from the Fine Arts University in Baroda and later worked out of its vibrant campus town. He calls himself a 'surface painter', subscribing to an enjoyment that does not presume to judge. Incidents of illogical violence scattered over the surface of a painting therefore metamorphose into decorative detailing. He is a painter with social consciousness. The society that takes shape in his story-crammed frames is reminiscent, in its eerie horror and endemic violence. In one of his earlier series the artist's protagonist is a victim to the new-age malaise of living on the edge, where an unrelenting war wages in a 'real' world of science-fiction.

Here too he depicts the societal aspirations with the cricket bat as a symbol that relates to the commercialized and over-glamorized sport of cricket. The game that brings out extreme passions is often weighed down by the hopes, expectations, celebrations and that elusive sense of triumph of the masses.

'For the Future XI' by Anandajit Ray at Sakshi Gallery. Till April 24, 2004

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