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Narratives of encountering the ‘Human’ in ‘Bestial’ ways
KAVITHA BALAKRISHNAN comments on the works of Gopikrishna

In an exhibition of artists from Kerala, ‘Exile and Longing’ held at Lakeeren Gallery in the year 2000, almost all of the artists were those metro-settled professionals outside Kerala while Gopikrishna was the one who was working within the boundaries of this region and was then not yet integrated well into the successful folds of ‘Contemporary Art’ as he is now.

Leopard lock

He wrote thus in the gallery along with his artwork:
“The disturbing and heartrending visuals I see in my homeland are of an ancient society, fast loosening from all its gravity and the disintegrated mob being guided into fear and slavery ward by clever groups of manipulations. I do not wish myself to be part of this uprooting. My work is an attempt to keep touch with the primeval soil where my pride as an individual lie, and to resist this uprooting with all my might."
That time, one could easily have wondered what he means by ‘ancient society’ regarding a region referred as India’s ‘most literate corner’. Policy makers and scholars have written of the ‘Kerala Model of Development’ which is held to produce enhanced quality of life for its people without industrial, green or red revolutions’.

Shore of th

His treatment of swan-necked human bodies “journeying through the night rivers” evoked a surreal world of the fantasying artist-subject at a surface level. Since then the artist seems to have consistently sharpening the meaningful edges of his idea of the ‘primitive’.

Swami Vaidyar

His latest series on ‘Turtle hatchery’ ‘Gates to de-civilization’ and other works showed a gradual engagement with pictorial conventions instruments and histories of colonization, patriarchal dominance and evasion of specific cultures. In Gopikrishna’s recent works, fantasy is not an aesthetic devise that makes the picture ‘artistic’ ‘sensuous’ and ‘creative’. It is treated just as a flexible and familiar idiom to accommodate different pictorial and rhetorical conventions of beauty, progress, civilization etc - all effected on his picture through the trans-geographical ambitions of a knowledge-oriented ‘modernism’ that has been systematically uprooting the ‘human’ out of its complex harmonies with the plant and animal world in various bestial ways.

The last flood in Travancore

Gopikrishna engages in curiously bestial ways rephrasing his ideas in a significant language.
The rhetoric of nourishment and the various artificial means the ‘modern’ man adopts for it are both brought into a strenuous plane in ‘Turtle hatchery’. He sarcastically portrays the cruel ways we use for nourishing the animal world. The loss of traditional knowledge end up some specific ‘identity-bodies’ of ‘toy makers’ in a horrifyingly deserted landscape with legless animals and blankly beautiful plant world.

The Nightclass

The image of a book was much admired in the ‘modern’ pictorial narratives of periodical print media in this region in the 20th country as this is a culture deemed as ‘the most print-familiar’. And look, image of a book opens in a Magrittian manner to get an imaginary of a snake superimposed as swallowing a frog that further maliciously extends tongue towards an aero plane. The symbolic and pedagogic order of the ‘book’ is a concern in his work called ‘Night class’ too.

The secret book of mindwatch

‘A human figure with a halo is a pictorial convention evolved in ‘civilizations’ that started to order themselves in terms of Gods, Kings, prophets and leaders. In the pre-civilization human life of shamanistic and fetishistic practices, there was no ‘code of the divine’ existing outside the corporeality of the objects both animate and inanimate, to present their inherent supra-human capabilities. The burden of representation is a burden inherently ‘modern’, especially ‘Artistic’ concerns. In ‘Man with a lunar halo’ Gopikrishna expresses his discomfort in the modernist representational folds through a pictorial language that circumvents representation itself.

Toy makers

In the local fold of memories, flood used to be a common sense pointer of the frozen time and resurrected spaces that encompass the whole terrains of Kings and subjects alike. The Last flood in Travencore’ is an ironically warm picture wherein the dominant survivor is definitely the anthropomorphic image of the crowned King and his harbingers of beautiful orders pictured as pearls and parrots.

‘Swami vaidyar’ amusingly portrays a sort of ‘medicine man’ with no medicines but cosmetics. He is not medicating but grooming the beast hairs of some self engrossed and horned men.
This artist in all these works circumscribes the modern man’s allegorical imaginations of ‘the other’ barbarous man so that the picture is neither ‘modern’ nor ‘barbarian’. Picture is neither ‘realistic’ nor ‘fantastic’. Picture becomes an outright presentation of violence inherent in the very idea called civilization. Quite ‘un-artistic’ indeed! Gopikrishna projects a strangely critical anti-modern stance with an assumed ‘primitivism’.

See, there is no female role in this dramatic painting of counter-allegories. This is an all-male world of deep rooted negations existing in the still sustaining gendered conscience in a post-feminist era.
Gopikrishna’s artistic-subject positions itself in an assumed counter artificial world that maliciously lends itself with lively narratives and engaging corpses of ‘much maligned monstors’, the identity once inscribed on colonies by the colonizers.

In art world today, a sort of colonial imagery is hung over only to be critically accommodated in the works of major practicing artists like Atul Dodiya or Pushpamala. The social history of calendar markets and iconography of popular picture production is consistently worked out in the researches of scholars like Christopher Pinney, Kajri Jain and Anindita Ghosh.

Rephrasing the structures of allegorical narratives underlying in colonialism and modernity at large is a very significant concern for an artist today. Late Bhupen Khakkar had projected in his 90s watercolours (like ‘Sakhibhav’ and ‘Man from Vasad had five penises’ etc.) an explicit ‘other-sexual subject’ transgressing the amorphous and rhetorical borders of gendered sexuality. Gopikrishna also aligns with the ‘other male’ consciousness of the time.


Anonymous sweety mathew said...

to be frank i am an admirer of your sunday stroke. really fantastic and meaningful.
best wishes

3:44 AM  
Blogger manu said...

your paints are meaningful and beautiful.

3:57 AM  

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