After Dark when the world is awake

The notion of darkness, in literal and thematic terms, has inspired artists such as Anita Dube, Vivan Sundaram, Nalini Malani, Jogen Chowdhury and Anju Dodiya for a joint show. They relate to the darkness from a purely personal angle and how it can reveal the hidden side of one's individuality and zoom it up to project instances when history is often marred by darkness that brings out the uncivilized face of any civilized society. Darkness can have different shades and connotations for different people.

Delhi-based curator-writer Gayatri Sinha in an exhibit titled 'After Dark' has provided a perspective to the concept by making an effort to reconnect with the artists' minds. The disturbing images such as flaming arches of a miniature city, women with gaping wombs and tiny overturned buildings serve them to explore the leitmotif 'After Dark.' The artists have dealt with and reacted to the theme with a hue of wide-ranging emotions - desires, fears, and even memories. The curator tries to peg the show on the theme of darkness shedding some light on it in context of the Vedic ages as well as in the contemporary milieu.

A miniature replication (70x20 feet and 20x20 feet) of an anonymous city in mixed media forms core of artist Vivan Sundaram's work. A large black and white projection of a film (Avjit Mukul Kishore has filmed it) reveals fairy-lights representative of a buzzing highway, models of houses and figures. A searchlight pans across the 'city', making an open reference to bombers looking for a target - a reminder of a pre-attack scenario. Meanwhile, a smaller monitor plays a different sequence. A lonely man reacts to a rattling door. Finally, he discovers it's no intruder but his lover and the two embrace relieved. Separate monitors have been used to have two versions of the dark side.

Anju Dodiya's mixed media work comes in the shape of paintings done on patterned velvet mattresses used as a metaphor. She has painted a self-portrait, in an insomniac state, rattled by things that go ''bump'' at night. The other version celebrates a painter's moment of inspiration. The third is of a couple, painted in Japanese wood cut style, glowing with post-coital bliss. Senior artist Jogen Chowdhury has produced his first, single edition digital works. The artist informed that earlier he had done a series of smaller drawings, based on his reaction to the communal riots in Gujarat, which he had worked on further.

Made out of glass slabs that hang precariously from the ceiling in a room flooded with red light, Anita Dube's installation is conceptual in nature. Stuck on the glass pieces are thermocol chunks of discarded packing material that have been manipulated to give them an urban architectural form. Bits of rejected thermacol allude to collapsed, bombed structures. Placing the buildings on large sheets of clear glass, she underlines the fragility of the installation and refers to large glass front malls replacing many older structures. A siren filling the room and revolving emergency lights attached to the bottom of the glass portends to the impending danger.

Nalini Malani's paintings on glass have elaborate narratives behind them. Her 'After Coetzee' is inspired by the South African novelist's tale of a man who survives a war on pumpkin seeds. Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky's 'The Stalker' has inspired another work. Nailing Malani's painting s inspired by panthers attacking locals at dusk. The artist depicts a recent and unique urban fear - the fear of being eaten by a panther.

It is interesting to see how the artists accustom themselves to darkness. Anit Dube prefers to do her reading 'After Dark'. She chooses to relax and not to work at the nighttime. The notion of darkness fascinates Vivan Sundaram who burns the midnight oil and often skips the sunshine. Nalini Malani too savors the serene silence of a dreamy night when she is at peace and at ease with herself, her thoughts and her fantasies Anju Dodiya, though, doesn't like to work after 10 in the night. Jogen Chowdhury relishes the idea of working at nighttime after the life around him has come to a standstill, albeit frequent power cuts at Santiniketan often prevent him that luxury.

'After Dark' continues at Sakshi Art Gallery, Mumbai, till May 31.

View Nalini Malani's catalogue View Jogen Chowdhury's catalogue View Anju Dodiya's works View Vivan Sundaram's works

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