Editing the Transformation
  Sisir Sahana
  13th to 19th December 2005
  at, Jehangir Art Gallery


Editing the Transformation

Sisir Sahana’s new work marks an important transition for the sculptor and painter. Most people know him as a sculptor working with glass, but few have seen his works on canvas. This is an opportunity to view at one and the same time two remarkable transformations: the frozen image in the glass breaking out to find its sense of agency and the canvas finding new ways of narrative dexterity.

In his recent set of paintings, Sisir has experimented with a new palette. The old blues and greens are still there, but now there is a profusion of red, brown, burgundy and saffron used in a masterly fashion. This departure offers the artist a novel vocabulary to express his abiding concern with the tension between the urban and the rural, and the predicament of the rural space being invaded by the urban space, not merely in a spatial sense, but in the larger sense of a cultural invasion.

A common motif that appears in all these paintings is a strategically framed grasshopper, not necessarily in its traditionally known colours. Is this the influence of cinema in Sisir’s work? Recently, Sisir directed a feature film on the life of an artist and the frozen frame from cinema’s technique seems to have invaded the canvas. But the grasshopper acts as a witness or sakshi, an independent viewer within the canvas, at once an integral part of the painting, and yet, not necessarily participating in the active life of the canvas. The grasshopper serves the same function, perhaps, as Kafka intended the vermin to serve in Metamorphosis.

The male form in Sisir’s earlier paintings had a certain stiff elegance, but usually had the still gaze of a mummified corpse. This has changed too. The eyes now reflect manifold emotions. The female form is also prominent in these canvases, and also divested now not only of their clothes, but of their former `formal rigidity’. All this fluidity has to do with Sisir’s glass sculpture also going through a change in form and perspective. There is no longer a quest to freeze glass within glass, nor is there an attempt to stall Time in its tracks. Elements within the glass sculpture are now breaking free of their confinement and attempting to find a new voice and sense of the `self’.

In the paintings and in the sculpture, there is, then, a sense of release from something that was hitherto confining and stultifying. This is reflected in the ambiguity of use of space that the paintings reflect. There are neat boxes within a canvas, with prominent areas cordoned off. This also affords the viewer the opportunity to look for multiplicity of meanings and perspectives. The triumph of Sisir’s new work lies in a greater sense of contingency and admission of irony, and most importantly, a celebration of freedom.

Jyotirmaya Sharma


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