Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Wondrous Woods - Manisha Parekh, Bodhi Art

In the preview of her recent works [opening in New York in February], we see Manisha Parekh using an austere colour palette of maroon, black, beiges and browns. She plays with diverse media, ranging from light-hearted drawings with Chinese ink, water-colour and gouache on paper; carefully worked layers of overlapping paper-cut patterns; to intense wrappings of jute. Her preoccupation with seeds, eggs, fecundity; of form arising from within form; multiplying forms, pattern within pattern, is engaging in its obsessive-ness. The visual language is minimal, largely abstract and not easy to define. It has however, evolved through years of exploration, developing a certain conviction which compels one to look.

My earlier viewing of Manisha’s work has been fragmented, occasional works here and there and its intensely self-absorbed, abstracted pre-occupation did not hold much appeal. However, quiet solemnity envelopes as you enter the realm of ‘Wondrous Woods’ at Bodhi Art, Gurgaon. Emanating from calm of deep contemplation, her expression is understated and reassuring in an environment, where everything is designed to grab your attention with bright neon lights and larger than life signage.

The composite body of work makes a statement that no single work can express. In a sense, a quibble I do have is that each work does not quite stand up on its own, but there is cohesiveness to the whole show, each piece complementing the other, together expressing her endless meandering. Lost in the woods of ‘creativity’, Manisha experiments with one seed of thought and then another, letting little ideas build-up. They germinate together, where the identity of one seems unimaginable without a reflection of the other. Like mother and child; or akin to words in a sentence, taking them apart and then expecting the same profundity to emerge as expressed in the statement together made. The context of each piece, like a word, is the basis of the conversation they have with each other. In carefully following this thread of thought, we find access to an intimate dialogue the artist conducts with herself. Working in a series Manisha does not define but lets ideas grow, each thought adding its own point of view, allowing the viewer to draw their own conclusions – if any.

Her world seems insular, speaking of a very personal space, precluding the larger, cognitive physical environment we exist in. She appears unconcerned with issues of communal violence, terrorism, or haphazard development of our nation and other such issues of Indian identity in art etc., yet the conviction with which she speaks, in its quiet assertion makes one almost envious of her disciplined self-absorbedness. Her attitude of self-containment renders superfluous, many of these issues, in its more expansive dimension of being. We see not the absence of our chaotic world, but sense the presence of another realm, which acts like a balm for the cacophonic frenzy of everyday living. In expressing a gradual evolution of thought, resolving ideas, as opposed to regurgitating the whole, she tackles issues, without bringing their trauma into being. Delving into experiences, painstakingly sifting through the emotion, Manisha inspires contemplation. This, in essence, says more about issues she does not touch upon, for is there need to reflect what is, when reflecting upon; she shows us a way to transcend?

Working with Chinese ink and watercolour on paper, in ‘Beads of Silk’, she is tentative, even playful, with multiple postcards recording each uncertain step in the woods. In ‘Beans’, one is disappointed, for the pattern is deliberate but gauche and un-innovative in a world where design has taken huge strides. However, she takes a quantum leap in ‘The Secret Within’, using tactile and ‘raw’ jute threads. Textiles with their everyday familiarity present a powerful metaphor for expression, evolution and change. Wrapping thread upon thread closely, tightly embracing each turn, pulling and binding, a series of sculptural-like forms emerge, that speak of a yearning for the possibilities of plurality in thought and being, without needing or severing the umbilical cord. Manisha expresses a certain solace in the process of making, material and form, conveying a wringing angst that couldn’t be expressed another way.

In ‘Uncertain Eggs’, She is perhaps the most candid and definitive in expression and this triptych is the also the most resolved piece of work - complete in itself. But, it is in the palimpsest-like multi-layered paper-cut series of twenty pieces ‘The Sound Lingers’, that I found so much of what Manisha had been saying earlier, find adequate voice. The material, the shapes, colour, use of space and the placement of twenty, in three rows, ending unevenly, gripped my interest, for I saw an envious maturity in resolution. Through her myriad explorations of layering and cutting, she had found conviction without an intimidating intensity, but through a considered evolution of thought.

Gopika Nath
25th January 2008

1 comment:

gopika nath said...

Published Art India Mag Feb 2008
Volume XII Issue IV Quarter IV 2007