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Decoding ‘Kama Sutra’

‘Kama, Interrupted – Reinterpreting The Sutra of Desire’, an exhibition art works currently showing at Gallery Gitanjali, curated by artist and independent curator Apurva Kulkarni, brings back the text in a stimulating and enticing visual oeuvre.The concept had its genesis in the translation of Kama Sutra by Wendy Doniger and Sudhir Kakar

BY NAGUESH RAO SARDESSAI

“The extent of the love of women is not known, even to those who are the objects of their affection, on account of its subtlety.” This quotation is from Sir Richard Francis Burton’s translation of Vatsyayana’s Kama Sutra.

Deliberately employed here, with the intention of drawing the attention of the readers to the fact that lust and sexually perverted behaviour is on the rise leading to unimaginable crime against women on a global scale. Carnal desire zeros down to women as the object of play rather than subject for participatory act.

‘Kama Sutra’, an ancient Indian Hindu treatise considered to be the standard text on human sexual behaviour, requires an urgent comeback for disseminating appropriate information as against confabulated and unsavoury material.

‘Kama, Interrupted – Reinterpreting The Sutra of Desire’, an exhibition art works currently showing at Gallery Gitanjali, curated by artist and independent curator Apurva Kulkarni, brings back the text in a stimulating and enticing visual oeuvre. The concept of ‘Kama Interrupted’ had its genesis in the translation of Kama Sutra by Wendy Doniger and Sudhir Kakar. These interpretations by an indologist and a psychoanalyst collectively moved Apurva, the inspiring curator, to work on this project with a fresh perspective.

With the able support of city-based businessman an avid art collector, Gautam Suresh Amonkar, Apurva began his meticulous work. Identifying eighteen artists of varied background, style, genre etc. he presented relevant materials to them with an intention of bouncing ideas and discussing concepts that would aid in eliciting independent and individualistic visual response.

Vamona Ganesh Navelkar, Nirupa Naik, Francis Desousa, Verodina Ferrao, Rajeshree Thakker, Katherina Kaker, Mohan Naik, Viraj Naik, Vitesh Naik, Pradeep Naik, Praveen Naik, Vasudev Shetye, Osborne Carvalho, Shripad Gurav, Aadhi Vishal, Manjunaath Naik, Kedar Dhondu and Ramdas Gadekar have presented their take on ‘Kama Sutra’.

The artists have raised questions that interrupt, interpose and disrupt the preconceived notion and open an altogether fresh vista of this noted text. If Katharina and Praveen raise questions that interrupt the sexuality of women, then Rajeshree her idea about the nature of desire and Viraj and Vitesh disrupt the general expectation of what constitutes the normal – according to the brochure.

Vamona’s watercolour and ink work titled ‘Homage to Vatsyayana’ is seemingly non-representational yet a shimmer of forms dance the performance of desire. Subtle multi-headed figure, washed with riot of hues, embellished with sprinkle of glistening lines drum up the tempo. He expects the viewers to strike a deeper dialogue beyond the optical.

Nirupa, on the contrary, delights in capturing the corporeal truth by employing traditional imagery intertwined in blobs of pigment, sinewy lines, and flashes of incoherent forms. Her works, obliquely though, speak of the need to hold this act of desire in the private. Deeply traditional, Nirupa’s paintings reflect her personality.

Francis works, displayed here, seem to draw from the Jain paintings of western India. The typical broader division and sub-division into columns and rows is reminiscent of that. The images that are arranged classically and accompanied by the hieroglyphic squiggles, abstract, semiabstract and figurative forms and motifs together prod the viewers to dismantle the usual notion of sexuality and replace it with alternate view.

Verodina’s sculptural pieces, moulded out of clay, evoke enthusing response. Gentle, tender and lyrical figures speak softly. ‘It’s All In The Head’ and ‘Digital Degeneration’ employs symbolism. The former has dark pigment staining the unblemished heads of an estranged couple whilst the latter piece displays multiple nails embedded in the posterior of a single head made from clay. Her work seems to scream the serious disconnect our society has with the idea of pure love. Rajeshree’s multimedia art works are always a visual treat. ‘The Idea of Waiting for Something Makes It More Exciting’ is a work that has this quote by Andy Warhol running across in multiple fonts and sizes, fuelling desired meaning. Images from erotic Japanese art striking out against a singular human form about to be washed with a flood of embedded, relief stickers representing human eye, sprinkling from a nondescript balcony. This writer feels that the prying act, so natural to our society, seems to have got mention here.

Katharina’s amazingly matured pieces of art are neat in presentation and visually fluent in communication. Reinterpreting Kama Sutra for Katharina is to reflect on women as subject and not object for consumption. ‘Desire – Am I Cooked Rice For You’ stands out for its sheer boldness and expansive symbolism. Copper breast form encircled by red chillies set against ash coloured plywood can be an assemblage calling for multiple interpretations. Chillies can be the aura of a woman exuding passionate vibes or perverted elements in the society closing in on the victim whilst the world is enveloped by the indifferent response to such issues.

Viraj, Vitesh, Praveen, Pradeep, Vasudev and Kedar have their works displayed with the former two employing strong imagery. Aadhi has seen the subject from a spiritual angle giving it an interesting twist. Employing Tantric symbolism, he has married images from the Indian Miniature with his individualistic style.

Shripad, known for his etching, presented neat and apt works that are reminiscent of old pre independence posters. Osborne uses pop art imagery with his work titled ‘The Playboys’ standing out for its illustrative quality.

Manjunaath’s installation titled ‘Magic Box’ hold suspense. A participatory work, viewers are expected to blindly shove their hands into a closed box to encounter a surprise experience.

With such a huge show of over seventy works of art created by eighteen artists, Apurva and Gautam expects no surprises but show definitely will stimulate the aesthetic sensibilities of the viewers.

(The show will be on till February 17.)

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