Riyas Komu’s Mark Him (Second Half)

Riyas Komu’s work is a tribute to the spirit of those ordinary folks with an extraordinary spirit to survive against all odds. “My work reflects the contemporary society’s concerns – localized and globalized. These may be distinct from each other or may overlap simultaneously; such is the complex maze of today’s blurred boundaries that bind and separate people at the same time,” says the artist.

The painter-sculptor turned his attention to the plight of Indian footballers. He launched an artistic project to bring out the agony of being a soccer player in this country. The exhibition titled ‘Mark Him’ hosted at the Guild Art Gallery a year ago highlighted how even the players of our national team continued to live and struggle in their lower-middle class situations. The artist had traveled from Goa’s playgrounds to the football-crazy Kolkata’s stadiums and Mumbai’s hostels for the project.

He set his sights on the mission: invite attention and empathy to the miseries of our footballers and their lives full of uncertainty, deprivation and neglect. Starting as a photographic project, the series of shows has evolved into a campaign, incorporating video clips and installations. As promised, the artist has come up with the second part of the exhibition at Kolkata’s Gallery 88 on view till July 19, 2008.

Underlining the theme, the artist mentions: “I have not known a greater joy than that of watching guys in shorts kicking a ball around. I have done the feetie myself a number of times. 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 I set one for myself — to use art to redeem the place of our footballers in the society, in our history, hence the project!

“Mark Him, for he is poised, yet not preferred. Mark Him, for he is persistent, yet preordained to relegation. Mark Him, for he deserves a better destiny, a more attractive destination. But why have things come to such a pass?” he asks.

According to the artist, the reasons are obvious. There is hardly any money involved. It is the game of the poor where players don't enjoy five-star facilities or have the possibility of turning into a national celebrity overnight. His oeuvre refers to the paradoxes of the situation that he paints with cynicism and compassion; with dejection albeit tinged with hope and sympathy.

As he explains: “When even the sports press is hard pressed to find space for Indian football, there's no hope they're going to make any sense of the coming apocalypse. And that naiveté is reflected in the innocence with which these young players have posed for the camera; an innocence underneath that lies the unrecognized layers of grit, determination and resolve to continue playing and not give up the game despite its inherent vagaries and uncertainties. Despite their forlorn existence denied of a comfort zone that sportsperson elsewhere enjoy they have stuck to it, or the football has stuck their feet.”

The idea behind the artistic project is to give every single of these players the deserved attention and a piece of glory. If he gets that he might be unstoppable. So Mark Him with respect in your mindscape. Let's celebrate their difficult choices and mourn our majestic ignorance. It's time for the chorus: Bol futbol.

Mark Him (Second Half), a Project on Indian football by Riyas Komu, continues at Galerie 88, Kolkata, till July 19, 2008.

View Riyas Komu’s works in the Saffronart catalogue, Riyas&artistid=811

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