EXHIBITION - Assemblages of Evidence (Jan 28-Feb 28, 2021) :

Himmat Shah, N. N. Rimzon, T. V. Santhosh & Valsan Koorma Kolleri

Art making has historically stood as a means of articulating the uniquely human desire to transform ordinary materials into works of art. The intangible thoughts, ideas and feelings that are corporeal, emotional, and spiritual are captured in the nexus between imagination and reality and are manifested through materials and techniques. Materiality is particularly relevant in that contemporary art as it is assumed to be a remnant of the artist’s process of investigation into the nature of things while reframing the meanings through visual and aesthetic juxtapositions. Art’s material qualities are experienced, interpreted and understood through allegories of understanding based on the relationship with objects in our environment. The material traces in these creations evoke connections to particular aesthetic values, beliefs, and practices. From a specific locus, the artwork’s materiality is defined and fixed. From another position, that of the spectator, materiality will continue to shift, changing how the work is perceived. The questions such as, what the objects are, whose memory they reconstruct, and what is the nature of the relationship between material and memory can throw light on artist’s own process of how the material enter into their practices and the ‘post-creation’ part of the circulation of the artwork and newer meanings they gain in this process.

Assemblages of Evidence: between Object, Memory and Material aims to articulate object, memory and material within the formal aspects of sculpture-making to examine some of the personal, social and aesthetic investigations by the artists: Himmat Shah, N. N. Rimzon, T. V. Santhosh, and Valsan Koorma Kolleri through a select set of sculptural works and drawings/ paintings. 

Looking Back into Time

The monolith head, a constantly recurring theme in Himmat Shah’s creations, both in clay and bronze, as seen here – brings together geometric abstraction and a sense of primitivism referencing the totemic representation across several cultures. The head stands as an evidence of human existence and enigma, a memoir from an unknown or lost civilization. Himmat Shah employs techniques with natural materials like clay and metal with equal ease.

Extending towards the material evidence of the human world, Valsan Koorma Kolleri’s sculptural installation of an inverted copper pot suspended by the web of copper mesh references the most common element seen across civilizations such as the pot. While pot holds symbolic values specific to the cultural contexts, the artist ascribes universal healing and meditative values to it in his rendition. The copper wire forms a cosmic egg while the pot sinks into it instilling a motion in the viewer's experience.

Himmat Shah’s pen drawings recreate the undecipherable narratives of activities much on the lines of depictions seen in ancient caves which help us complete the circle of the timeless time we look back into.

Valsan Koorma Kolleri’s drawings in an unusual organic medium henna (dye prepared from the plant Lawsonia inermis), also used for decorating the body, create mystic forms and scripts. Even the Latin alphabets in English he uses in the drawing come across as a mimic of the undecipherable scripts.

N. N. Rimzon recreates what comes across as the historic sites of violence and surrender. The large sculptural installation Rock Temple with the cosmic egg surrounded by swords, and protected by the Stonehenge presents multiple narratives using elements like the form of an egg, sword and stone structure. Each of these objects has its historical and mythological connections. While it remains ambiguous whether weapons are kept as a sign of surrendering or for protecting it – nonetheless it recreates an archaeological site for meanings to be reconstructed.

On the other hand, the bronze sculpture depicting a devotee on the stone creates a mystic scenario of a figure in submission, almost becoming part of the rock – reflecting on the human-nature relationship and belief systems around it.

Extending the referencing of social systems and histories, Rimzon’s drawings codify the lived histories and memories from the recent past. The houses, trees, pond and the rural landscape specific to Kerala, from where Rimzon hails from, on one hand, recreate the sites of human civilization; at the same time directly referencing social memories. In the case of House of Asan, it depicts the house of Sree Narayana Guru, the social reformer, thereby the history of social oppression and resistance. 

Objects/ Words of War and Wound

Skeletal remains often evoke memories of unearthed/ excavated human presence. We often see such human remains in museums as evidence of civilizations. They also strongly come across as reminiscences of wounds of war. T. V. Santhosh references war and terrorism and their recurrences in becoming normalised in our lives. The sculptural installation Living with the Wound becomes a memoir of terrorist attacks in Mumbai in 2008 becomes a citation of contemporary times though objects like skeletons. The installation, with three pristinely arranged stacks of skeletal remains on tables with LED panels mounted on top of the pieces; scroll a text recounting the story of an unknowing participant in medical testing.

How do we comprehend war and terror of our times and make a place for peace and empathy? The questions posed by Santhosh in his paintings through characters who pose holding a curious set of objects. These unknown persons with their faces covered offer us options: oozing blood or the healing herb, or, the skull or the bunch of flowers.

The inwardly gazing face of Mesquitas, against the backdrop of a row of houses, provides with hope and space for contemplation and introspection. 

Chithra K. S.