The Lost Article
Art India-Visual Arts IHC Award Winner P.J.George Martin recently presented his new sculptures at the Visual Arts Gallery, IHC, New Delhi. JohnyML takes a look at his works.
P.J.George Martin’s latest solo exhibition at the Visual Arts Gallery, IHC, New Delhi carries a loaded title, ‘Lost Article’. A set of sculptures and sixteen canvases make the show. The title of the show brings these works into space of dialectics where the lost and found articles are choreographed in a special way for engaging the viewer with the resultant intentions engendered by the works. Traversing through the past and present, it becomes the artistic responsibility to capture those moments of truth and passion in palpable terms and forms. Martin is a soul adventurer and capturer of moments.
In the present scenario of life, moments of truths are fleeting and any moment of artistic truth should be validated against similar situations from the collective memory. Painting and sculpture being the arenas of visuals, an artist needs to negotiate the innumerable visuals available for his use. No visual, as seen in a television advertisement, stays for long and the sporadic linkages between these visuals create a virtual simulation of reality, that we undoubtedly call reality. Contemporary artists, in fact do not look at the random visuals of life, instead, they look for the linkages that would eventually connect the artistic representation with the memories of the fleeting visuals.
What George Martin captures in his works are the subtle nuances of these linkages. They may not look real for an uninitiated eye, which is trained too much in seeing fleeting visuals that do not demand interpretational interventions from the viewer. The success of the world of spectacles lies in replacing the actual with the metaphorical. A dog, which has been understood so far as a ‘dog’ looses its dog-ness and simply turns into a metaphor for a mobile phone. The sign-signified relationship is completely broken in this act of disjointed signification. In Martin’s creative ensemble, he looks out for these lost linkages, hence he calls them ‘lost’ articles.
The show reminds the viewer of one thing; it is not the article that we have lost, but a sense of it. In his previous works too Martin has worked with the negative spaces that the articles/objects have left in the spaces of their previous dwelling (we could easily take it as our own mental space). These negative spaces with contours and surroundings of vinyl paint finish look alluring in the primary level and an engaged look reveals that what we see are not the negatives spaces but the linkages that connect those spaces with the actual objects. Could it be the artistic effort to regain the lost relationship between the sign and the signified?
It should be then an individual’s effort to go against the flow. Martin assumes the garb of a ‘traditionalist’ who demands the lost linkages to be found and put in place. This traditionalism, as far as my view goes, is not a retrogressive one. His aim is not to put the theory into practice. On the contrary, Martin looks at the truth value of the theories that have already proclaimed the breakage between the sign and the signified. He feels that, even at the heights of our spectacular life, there would some attempts from someone to reconnect the object with its lost meaning. One might call it nostalgia. Would you accuse an artist who cherishes nostalgia a sentimentalist?
Nostalgia and traditionalism always cannot be sentimental craving for the past. Employed with an elevated consciousness and aesthetic strategy, it could be an effective tool in the hands of an artist. Those artists who celebrate the broken linkages between past and present (past as something to be closeted and present as something to be celebrated) perhaps would get a chance to be called ‘deconstructionists’ for the time being. However, when the past is not beckoned back for finding the meaning, the world will be soon filled with hollow men and hollow women. Arundhati Roy, in her famous novel, God of Small Things, says that when a man dies he leaves a hole as similar as his contours in the space. Past is something spiritual and when the spirit is erased what remains would be hollowness.
Martin uses nostalgia as a weapon against oblivion; the last attempt of man to keep his spiritual anchor in place. His is a revisiting of places and things that he has once passed and experienced. The artist sees the beautiful linkages that still exist and rebel against the sense of collapse. Interestingly, in Martin’s works, whether it be ‘Uncertainty of Poet’, ‘Blind Leads Blinds’ or ‘Concave Breath’ the sign-signified relationship is not broken. The cats with flowery tales are simply cats with flowery tales. They do not make you to think about mobile phone or television. The bananas that you see are bananas in fibre glass. The man who squats under an umbrella is a man who squats under an umbrella. He does not ask you to think about Iraq war or 9/11. The Blind Leads Blinds does not ask you to think about a disjointed vision. If they take you to Peter Brueghel, the artist is successful in capturing his moment of vision.
Fibre Glass, silicon, automobile paint etc are the materials that Martin uses for producing his works. The qualities of these materials are preserved as they are so that they too resist themselves becoming a metaphor or a stand in. They stand in for themselves; simultaneously underlining their materialness and their ability to transform into different shapes. Here Martin stands closer to Takashi Murakami who emphasises the thing-ness of things in his sculptural renditions using fabricated and abstracted automobile forms and automobile spray paints. Meanwhile his paintings have deal with a world that is akin to a child.
Martin’s world in his paintings however differs from that of Murakami. He confronts a world of fleeting visuals and unlike in his sculptures, he tries to create visual codes that would stand in for the fleeting visuals of the day to day life. There is an explosion and implosion of colours in his works, which has become a signature style of his paintings. Apparently abstract in nature, they are manipulated visuals from an urban scenario.