RECREATION OF REFLECTIONS

M. RAMACHANDRAN

Signification does not obey any rules of language. It only provides options to choose and agree upon. The notion of meaning1always depends on the discipline to which the signifiers belong.  Contrary to other structures of signification art celebrates anarchy of meaning . In other words, creative expressions are exercises in freeing the signs from the shackles of determinism. Even a realistic work of art cannot restrict its significatory potential to the primary or iconic value. Every idea or the content or the concept that a work of art wants to enforce upon the viewer transforms and transcends itself while it is exposed to the myriad significatory structures that make a society.

A viewer is not someone who simply acknowledges the artistic genius and tries to understand artists’ imaginations but external to the arena of creativity. On the other hand, a viewer re-creates a work of art according to her or his imaginative potential and keeps it alive. All works of art are stimulants to the imagination of viewers. This re-creative aspect of the work of art is what generates multiple interpretations of the work of art that are authentic as well as beyond the boundaries of the culture in which the work of art is originated.

In the process of re-creation all the images in a work of art transcend the social values and cultural concepts from which they have emerged. That means, in a work of art the conventional notions of the signs submerge under the current of floating associations. The world of art is of mental images2 . For instance, the recent paintings of Abhimanue specifically refer to Basholi and Kangra paintings and in general to various Indian miniature traditions and that of Tibetan Tankha. But, in his creative act, more than referring to them, the artist evolves a reflective imagery from the earlier visual texts. A reflective imagery is a metatext formulated consciously mediating through a set of existing texts.

The reflective imagery that Abhimanue formulates visually is that of love: love in its pure or conceptual form. Like any viewer Abhimanue re-recreates his readings and mental projections of images from whatever things he is attracted to including some of the existing paintings. In his case those readings and mental projections are transferred to the society in the format of paintings. At the primary level these works denote the passionate romantic love. Metaphorically they stand for a serene, uninhibited human love that harmonises with nature. But the symbolic configuration of the images and structure of the works, on the other hand, enable the viewer to muse upon the pre-rational elements that formulate the reflective imagery that substantiate the paintings.

Structurally, the works of Abhimanue explore multiple angles of view to map the images and planes that code the projected values and reflections. It is a literal translation of the coexistence of disparate views in any human proposition. The empirical perspective in the works emphasises the contemporary orientation to a pre-industrial or pre-modernist or anti-modernist vision. This is closer to the postmodern antimodernist standpoint3 . Unlike the Indian Narrative painters such as Gulammohammed Sheikh and Bhupen Khakar, Abhimanue does not contemporaise the temporal aspect in the paintings. Through the connotative value of the structure and imagery the past becomes active on the pictorial surface of the artist.

At the same time, the significations of the binary oppositions such as fire/water, hill/valley, man/woman, earth/sky etc., depicted in the works and the incongruity emerged from the decorative images placed against the monochromatic planes oppose conforming to the past as well as to the pleasing features that make the painting conventional.  Abhimanue uses strong and dynamic juxtaposition of bright colours also in order to outrage the soft and sober sensibility. However, the lyrical and idyllic feeling coheres the disparate aspects in the paintings and function as the sign of freedom. One can easily take note of that the established symbols such as pigeon, snake and fish in these works try to escape from their conventional significations for they submerge within the visual structure of the paintings that undermine the indices.

Enhanced spatial feeling in the recent set of paintings with large areas of colour planes interspersed with flora and fauna suggests a movement of air that pacifies the emotional intensity of the personae delineated. The diverse angles of views in the paintings and the definite contours that divide the visual planes deny the Cartesian manner of viewing things4 . But, Abhimanue does not follow many of the strategies of postmodernists to translate the idea of plurality into art. Rather he brings together the conventional and the fantastic through a number of images to return an aesthetic of emotions in contemporary art.



1Keith Moxey states “The focus of the ‘intention’ of the work of art assigns it a ‘terminal’ role in the life of culture, a location representing a synthesis of ideas current in the culture of the patron of patrons who commissioned it. It ignores the life of the work of art after it has entered a social context. Quoted by Norman Bryson in his essay Semiology and Visual Interpretation in Visual Theory, Norman Bryson, Michael Ann Holly, Keith Moxey (eds.), Polity Press, Cambridge, 1991. p. 72.

 2Prof. H.S. Gill compares the constitution of mental images with the pre-vision of the artist. He states “The creative process or the prevision of the artist involves the establishment of metaphoric relations, the relations which bypass the sequential relations of time and space in a metonymic, sequential or syntactic realisation within a given enunciative field. H.S. Gill, Structures of Narrative in East and West, Bahri Publications, New Delhi, 1989, p. 177. As Gill describes elsewhere “our intellection apprehends forms and substance in their purest and simplest representation…. It is this purest and simplest state of the concept that is the object of every philosophical, literary or artistic discourse. See his essay Mental Images and Pure Forms in the Journal of the School of Languages, Structures of Signification, Volume III (1993) Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, pp. 720-769.

 3According to Frederic Jameson ‘Postmodernism certainly means a return of all the old antimodernist prejudices’, for ‘the  Utopian ambitions of high modernism were unrealisable and its formal innovations exhausted’. Jameson in his Foreword to Jean-Francois Lyotard’s The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge Tr. Geoff Bennington and Brian Massumi, Manchester University Press, Manchester, 1986 p. xvii. Of course, Jameson also notes that even a ‘reasoned and contemporary theoretical repudiation of the modern can be handily reappropriated and pressed into the service of an explicitly reactionary cultural politics’. Frederic Jameson, Postmodernism or The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, Duke University Press, Durham, 1991, p. 56-57.

 4As William V. Dunning notes “the unified, monolithic system of Renaissance perspective implies or constructs Cartesian concept of self may have little relevance to today’s, perhaps more mature, pluralist society, which we now perceive to be influenced more by culture than by nature”. The Concept of Self and Postmodern Painting: Constructing a Post-Cartesian Viewer, The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Vol. 9, No. 4, Fall 1991, pp. 331-336.
 
 


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