Riyas Komu’s ‘Mark Him’

Painter-sculptor Riyas Komu's new series espouses the cause of beleaguered Indian football. The exhibition in Mumbai titled 'Mark Him' is part of a longer journey with similar thematic shows in Kolkata (Title: Second Half), New Delhi (Title: Extra Time), and finally Dubai (Title: Shootout).

The series features videos of players' personal lives apart from intriguing photo-images and displays. The artist has traveled all over the country visiting stadiums, playgrounds and players' hostels' in Goa, Kolkata and Mumbai's over last several months.

Explaining the purpose of the artistic exercise, he has been quoted as saying: 'My art revolves around socio-political issues. For this series I have tried to understand the players' issues from an artist's point of view. I decided to work on the footballers because they are not treated well despite being national players. As an artist, I want to speak for these players through my work. It's not just a subject for me. I see it as my responsibility."

Riyas Komu understands how difficult it is to be a football fan or player in a cricket-crazy nation since he has played and keenly followed the game during his formative years in his home state of Kerala. He has mixed his passion for the sport with his disappointment about its utter social neglect in a creative way to create a striking and unique body of work.

Putting into perspective Riyas Komus'e efforts, the curatorial note makes mention of a football legend Sailendra Nath (Sailen) Manna living a life of recluse. He was the former Indian captain who fetched the country the first Asian Games gold in 1951.

It adds: 'India's football legacy does not just come from such individual glories. The Durand Cup, the oldest football tournament in India, is also the 3rd oldest football tournament in the world. But how many people watch it? The people featured are not their favorite sporting heroes. In fact, they would hardly recognize any one of them. Why have things come to such a pass?' it questions.

The artist wants us to Mark each of them with respect in our mindscape. As he explains, 'I have not known a greater joy than that of watching guys in shorts kicking a ball around. But there has always been a gnawing feeling in the back of my head that kept on saying: the best of goals are not always the best of goals.'

So the artist set one for himself - to use art to redeem the place of our footballers in the society, in our history. Therefore, the title 'Mark Him', for he (the footballer) is poised, yet not preferred. Mark Him, for he is persistent, yet preordained to relegation; for he deserves a better destiny, a more attractive destination.

In his artistic journey Riyas Komu has included sculpture, photography and video-installations to the wide spectrum of his works. His major recent participations in 2007 include Venice Biennale curated by Robert Storr; 'Continuity and Transformation' Museum Show, Exhibition promoted by Provincia di Milano, Italy; Amsterdam Art Fair and Paris Photo Show amongst others.

By taking up the cause of football players, Riyas Komu wants to emphasis the fact that each of them definitely deserves more attention and greater glory.

Originally conceived as a photographic-installation project, Riyas Komu now wants to evolve it into a concerted campaign as a true tribute to the spirit of the Indian footballers who have not given up the game despite adversities, and have played with the spirit of a sportsperson fighting against all odds.

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