Jagannath Panda’s works swivel between realism and fantasy

Artist Jagannath Panda's ubiquitous works contain visual imagery that is deceptively simple. It's the complex themes of the artist belying the apparent simplicity that is admirable to the discerning viewer.

Figurative, but not narrative, seemingly direct yet laden with symbolism, such contrasting forces define his paintings. These features of artist Jagannath Panda's creations are evident in his exhibit at Chemould Gallery, Mumbai. The show titled 'Nothing is Solid' comprises his recent works, on view till the second week of May.

In his creations, the commonplace object is given symbolic stature ' prompted to represent communities, aspirations or even dogmas. His drawings, realistic in nature and content, express the artist's concerns, which are associated with his immediate surroundings. Yet, the artist does not offer the viewer a reference to the subject's existence. Instead, imagery of animals recurs in his work, and is a vital element of his vocabulary. Birds and beasts as a motif stand for the human plight and also a continuum of life.

Concerned about the broad issues of urbanization and politics, he brings them to the fore in his work. Jagannath Panda's paintings and sculptures underscore the dichotomies of nature and culture, the urban and rural, the traditional and contemporary ' the push and pull that tugs along the cycle of life.

Curiously, but not oddly enough, the artist manages to incorporate these diametrically opposite forces into a single unified whole, juxtaposing them to bring out the oddities and disparity in their coexistence.

Figuration and abstraction find both expression and resolve within the artist's visual palette. Akin to his style, the themes that form the core of his art reconcile many of our most fundamental contradictions. The artist employs linear drawing and a rendered form or two that seem to float on the surface. The deft handling of colors and compositions is a hallmark of his work, though colors play a rather limited role in his paintings. The artist uses them to their optimum level for highlighting and projecting the form.

At times he employs external material like silver foil, thread and tracing sheets to emphasis the 'reality' of his subject. The idea behind usage of diverse materials on the part of the artist is to speak with multiple voices. Assemblage and collage store preconceived meanings and reflect a contradictory reality, functioning as both memory and mirror.

Panda's work is marked by the subtle fusion of these opposing elements engaged in a dexterous dual. An introductory note to the show, bringing out this aspect of his work, mentions: 'A personal aesthetic sensibility functions as both balancing device and interrogating agent. His Realism believes in the existence of Fantasy.'

The artist enshrines stylized gods derived from the ancient palm leaf manuscripts alongside the high-rises dotting the skyline of the burgeoning, urban India. He does not like to romanticize issues, but makes a sincere attempt to depict them objectively, leaving the viewer to draw his or her conclusion independently.

View Jagannath Panda's work in the Saffronat catalogue

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