18 Mar, 2018 - 16 Apr, 2018
ETHNICITY AND LIGHT AS A NARRATIVE
“Art is the lie that reveals the truth”. Pablo Picasso
The celebrated and nationally acknowledged Ahmedabad based artist Vrindavan Solanki is well known for his signature style black and white creative expressions. Primarily an artist with figurative visual language his central premise is the beautiful human form that perennially has occupied a central space in art and aesthetics serving as the focal point of artistic expression and philosophical thought. Solanki in his artistic creations has engaged with the human form foregrounding an anthropological interest veering towards ethnicity and local culture. That is, his extensive engagement in rendering the local tribe of Gujarat namely the Rabaris, particularly the studied observations, insightful and intuitively captured nomadic life apparent in their performance of daily rituals, chores and leisurely hours of gossip and warm friendly conversations. In making them his protagonist, Solanki offers insight of their culture and behavioral patterns. As a matter of fact he has an obsessive interest in capturing their various movements, postures, gestures, actions made manifest as a silent spectator whose scrutiny and sensitive keen eyes missed nothing. This has resulted in a body of works that documents their life style particularly in their leisure hours. Very few artists have shown this dedication and passionate commitment and concern in delineating the narrative of the tribals as Solanki, giving an impression of being an insider. He moved to foregrounding them in his artistic expressions after going through a gamut of subjects as lanes and vernacular homes of Gujarat, the Gir Mountains, mother and child, stones, machines etc.
In critiquing his works, the two elements that are at the heart of his compositions are light and line contouring his saliency of representation. Both line and light define his forms and serve complementary functions. That is to say, his versatile and dynamic line establishes the narrative of ethnicity while his light creates an enchanting ambience that emphasizes the aura of the Rabaris. The magical mysterious light in a sense partakes of the protagonist to enhance their character, which Solanki has captured insightfully. The illustrious versatile line makes him a draftsman par excellence. The vivid images are poignantly and evocatively translated through the felicitous and capricious line that allows a correspondence of translation of forms according to his ideas and vision. The absolute control, dexterity of skill and above all choreographing the lines to create an effect of chiaroscuro bordering on tenebrism is as contemplative as it is spiritual.
The artistic facility in juxtaposing the extremes of light contrasts imparts an aura of enigma, a ploy cleverly used by the artist to draw the viewer into the heart of his composition. Light does not describe his forms. Rather light manifests as a binding element, gliding and flowing over figures in a languid manner yet when deployed for the background it takes on a spiritual glow that is magical. The suffused inner light, integral to his composition is magical rather than dramatic. Solanki a master craftsman in modulating colours with subtle nuances created light that is unearthly, mysterious and hence enigmatic. Such an approach to light effects makes his space essentially two dimensional. The colours predominantly are yellow, red purple and green. In visually describing the sartorial attire, his eye has taken in the details of mirror embroidery that create rich textures. At a glance his works create a post-impressionist feel with almost flat patches of colour, until a close scrutiny reveals another dimension of subtle modulation. The subtle modulation of nuances and shades is through the process of layering that the artist has mastered over the years, resulting in a depth that is as masterful as its verity. It is this play of hide and seek that makes Solanki’s works interesting and absorbing. It is not possible to turn away from his work after a glance; rather it beckons for a closer scrutiny, thus establishing a dialogue between his painting and the viewer.
Further enhancing the aura of ambiguity and mystery are the featureless faces of men, women and children. Though he has a stereotyped representation in terms of either profile, three quarter and exclusive representation with the backs to the viewer, it is the facelessness that creates a greater mystery. In decoding this aspect of his style, Solanki has adopted a philosophical approach in deconstructing human nature. The facelessness is also a poignant reflection of the artist’s humility, subconsciously declaring to remain away from the glare of the limelight and continue with his art making like a passionate prayer. Yet psychologically he explains, “We live with two faces – inner and outer. What we see does not express what is felt… what you choose not to do is as important as what you choose to do. It itself becomes the story.” The narrative of absence of the presence is not only poetic but alluringly beautiful marking the silence as artistic pause. His figures do not make the viewer privy to their absorbed conversation. The seen and the unseen, heard and the unheard, quietitude and chatter are the inherent duality manifesting his compositions.
In addition to engaging with medium as drawings and paintings, Solanki in his search of restless quest with a desire for experimentation, has ventured into printmaking, showcasing his etchings in this show for the first time. The picturesque renderings of village streets with dilapidated houses add a romantic streak to his works. The lines in the etchings have lost their choreographed precision to assume a character of restless energy, manifesting the artists desire to mark a posture of difference as he transits to another level of creative expression in his works. The play of light and dark has been given another dimension, with each work emphasizing either the dark areas or the lighted ones. The element of light has been invested with a new virtuosity in its representation.
The varied dimensions of choreographing light, line, colours, textures and space, which lie at the heart of his works, undeniably inscribes the perceptions of the artist, interpreting his reality and experiences to create the personal narrative of his vision which is as dynamic as it is contemplative.
MS. ASHRAFI S. BHAGAT PH.D.
ART HISTORIAN AND ART CRITIC