The exhibition was presented in two parts and we saw a diversity in visual expression with each artist presenting their concept of size. This was not necessarily done by tackling the basic premise of the size of their ‘canvas’ and how the content or intent differed, was inhibited or expanded upon, by virtue of size. However, it was interesting to see that for those who worked within the format they usually do, size was secondary to what they had to say.
Mithu Sen brought size into play with reference to sexual intercourse, where she ‘inflated’ the size of the photographed penis of a Classical European sculpture and played with its form. While appreciating Sen’s unreserved approach in tackling size matters, the debate was a non-starter for her visual presentation did not titillate nor repulse, nor make any statement on sexual satisfaction or lack of it, based of size.
Art today is valued according to square foot area; akin to how property is sold, but large works are also difficult to sell for lack of space to hang them in, especially in private homes. Should either be a criterion for the artist to create, is a question that emerges from between the lines of Bhavana Kakar’s concept note. G.R Iranna addresses this by painting a large and a miniscule canvas, bringing out nuances of size. In the larger canvas [‘Qawaali’, 52 x 198 inches] the imagery is roughly sketched while in the ‘paduka’ [6 x 6 inches] he focuses on a small part of the front of the slipper with greater attention to detail in the painting of its form, which along with the perspective of the ‘paduka’, made it all the more interesting. Both canvasses were treated as objects/pictures of an era gone by and it is the small one that commanded attention, while the ‘Qawaali’ scene was bland by comparison. God, it has been said lies in the details and here one was inclined to agree.
Manisha Parekh explored facets of a singular idea through myriad presentations. The humbler size is her forte which she chooses not to deviate from. Her use of watercolour and spontaneity of thought are handled adeptly in this scale and by contrast to Iranna’s ‘detailing’ that convinces, Parekh engages through multiple projections, expanding on the brief, by suggesting that scale could also be determined by the intensity of thought. Pooja Broota Iranna used the micro-sized staple-pin to build with, drawing on the urban-scape for inspiration. Her steely structures are ambitious for the material she erects them with, but they do not tower and intimidate as do the glass and steel constructions sprouting all over the country. She allows us to view the precision of the building process and hers is all the more attractive for the meditative qualities this embodies while real life sky-scrapers create chaos and cacophony adding to the stress of already frenetic lives. She thus makes a point in favour of a scale that is in harmony with the nature of one’s being.
Drawing from the story of
Alice in Wonderland, where size becomes problematic when shrinks too small
to reach the key or grows too large to get her head through the door, the
gallery concept note suggests that purpose determines size. Alice N
Pushpmala who uses photography, had technology at her disposal to
enrich the debate by shrinking and enlarging the same image[s] but she presented
two different works instead. While the smaller work engages the eye because the
artist-protagonist looks straight at you, I am left wondering if this could
have drawn the viewer equally, on a larger scale. Would I have been intimidated,
or would the moment have been lost? This comparison/debate is however lost, for
the larger work differs in content and unlike G.R. Iranna, does not shed any
light on the debate of size.
Does size matter? It depends on what the artist is trying to convey is the inference drawn. Jayshree Chakravorty supposedly looks at the earth as insects prowling beneath our feet might do. In the smaller works she merely examines insects in a semi-biological way, highlighting their jewel-like colours and curiously presenting them as integral to the paper they’ve been painted on but the larger work with its squiggles and scratches makes no sense. If she had contrived for insects to crawl on the paper, their real-time marks may have revealed more than her own banal approximation. The larger work is double-sided and must have posed a technical challenge, but here size is not relevant; the artist’s engagement with the idea appears to be a hindrance to its evolution and disappoints on either scale.