Who do you think you are?

Ambika Shaligram
Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Chatting up Raju Sutar, Madhavi Kolte and Rajesh Kulkarni about their art works in an exhibition titled ‘Self/Real/Virtual/Cloud’

How would you define yourself? Cute, chubby, adventurous, introvert? Is this your ‘real’ profile or the one for ‘virtual media’? And, in case you don’t have a social media profile, don’t you exist at all?

“We are obsessed with ‘self’; from the very beginning. The terminologies are changing. Self/real/virtual/cloud — these concepts are discussed interchangeably, without any real understanding of our identity. That’s what we are trying to depict through this exhibition,” says Raju Sutar, who has curated the exhibition, titled ‘Self/Real/Virtual/Cloud’, currently on at Art2Day gallery, Bhandarkar Road.

The participating artists include Sutar himself, Vaishali Oak, Arti Kirloskar, Bharati Pitre, Sandeep Sonawane and Rajendra Kirloskar.
“Except for Sandesh Bhandare, this is the same group that I worked with in Kochi Biennale last year. Then we worked on the concept of ‘Roots and Routes’. This time, we are working on ‘Self’. I discussed this concept with the artists three months ago and then we deliberated and brain-stormed over various aspects,” adds Sutar.

Abstract and scientific
His exhibit is titled, ‘Neither this nor that’, based on Tao philosophy. Zhuangzi, the philosopher dreams that he is a butterfly. When he wakes up, he is confused, whether he dreamt of the butterfly, or if the creature dreamt of him. He relates the incident to his  students in a monastery. He asks, ‘Who am I?’ One student replies, ‘You are neither this, nor that’. The student becomes his successor at the monastery.
“I also have a science experiment going alongwith my abstract painting. It’s called ‘Double Slit’ experiment, which is a part of Quantum Physics. It’s about a light passing through double slit, projecting it as a wave, while the light can also be a particle.

“So in the philosophical realm, ‘I am neither this, nor that.’ Scientifically, there can be two different characters — a particle and also a wave,” explains Sutar.

Wearing a mask
Rajendra Kulkarni has been working on terracota masks for one and a half year. So far terracotta has mainly been used for utility ware like pots. “The mud as a medium is malleable; you can mould it into whatever shape you like. When I started working on the concept of ‘Self’, I realised that people don various masks, which are inevitable and sometimes even necessary. If they are transparent, they can see their ‘real self’. But that is not usually the case. Having said that, I am not working on bringing out the negative side of masks. My focus is to ‘go beyond’ the concept of ‘self’. While ‘going beyond’ we might come face to face with the various realities of ourselves — ugly, threatening, shocking, unpleasant. There is beauty and then there is ugly side too,” he says.

This process is all encompassing and hence it falls under ‘cloud’ segment. This defines our approach towards various issues, and there is lots to be explored between the lines. “Raju has always said that the artefact, the art work, the visual element has to be strong; but what’s also important is the changes it brings about within you — there has to be an evolution of self. That’s what I have tried to do in my work. You shouldn’t rely on my statement and vision as an artist. You should dip into your experiences to understand the art work,” he adds.

Affinity with nature
Artist Madhavi Kolte has been working on environmental issues for a long time, and that is what she depicts through her art works. “I am associated with Jeevit Nadi NGO and trying to understand its various aspects. So the river is what I identify with myself now. I am also doing a course in natural conservation. It’s opened my mind as to how important these natural resources are to us. And, how we are going away from nature,” says Kolte.  

Since this is the beginning of her thinking process, Kolte has done 14 pen and ink sketches.

“These drawings indicate my progress as to how I and my work will be, a year from now. Towards the end, the images might get a 3D effect. But that’s all in the future. I am with the nature, now,” she adds.

Other definitions of Self
Vaishali Oak
Fabric is her usual medium. What she has tried to show is that the process of self is unending. The whole story is about body as a food. Your body is food to someone else and vice versa.
Oak also did a self-portrait in the style of still life. Seated on a plate, covered by glass, with a fork and knife, Oak tries to depict that there is always a barrier between us and our real self. She attempts to break it open.

Bharati Pitre
Pitre has done 15 versions of herself in various mediums like decoupage, dry pastel, glazed stoneware and papier mache etc. She says, the nature of self is a curious thing. “One might consider it as a union of all our facets, characteristics. A totality of everything, we stand for. My idea of self comes from many people that live inside me, sometimes quarreling, sometimes quiet, and sometimes in harmony. I am all of them sometimes and some of them all the time...”

Arti Kirloskar
Kirloskar has done self portraits along with a tiger and also a video installation, which has her in the frame again. In her concept note, she says, “Time is a river which sweeps me along. But I am the river; it is the tiger which destroys me, but I am the tiger; it is fire which consumes me, but I am the fire. So much of life gets unrecorded, if we don’t put it on social media, does it mean, that it did not exist?”

Sandeep Sonawane
He has done three abstracts. Dive deep into them and you will find yourself.

ST Reader Service
The exhibition ‘Self/Real/Virtual/Cloud’ is currently on at Art2day Gallery at Bhandarkar Road, above Skoda showroom. The gallery is closed for Diwali. It reopens from October 23.

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