The intensely- revealing early works of promising younger artists most often get lost in the Art-world's mad rush for fame, visibility and image-building. At the Retrospectives of some of the world's great painters and visionaries I am usually struck by their introspective, intricately cross-hatched, and intense preliminary sketches and experimental artworks. The early, half-finished and tentative visual expressions invoke the brilliance and intensity of their unfolding genius.
In this context, Volcanic Effects --- a current Exhibition of young artists at the Galaxy Hotel, in collaboration with Gurgaon's 'Gallery Splash', deserves a viewing. Revealing the first oeuvres of a selection of promising Indian artists in their 20s and 30s, this Show presents a body of unconventional, often disturbing, fledgling artworks that convey considerable potential. These expressions cannot be easily pigeon-holed into the clichetic mannerisms of more 'famous' and 'popular' art-stylistics. While examining such 'initial' artworks can be a difficult process, their value lies in the uninhibited truths that they bravely express. And inward Truth, most often, is not a pretty picture --- as the darkness, isolation, angst and turmoil of these artworks reveal.
This Collection features the art of eight young men—Ranak Mann, Jayottam Dutta Roy, Kiran Jacob, Jayanto Roy, Sabin M., Sumesh V., Arun Dev and Padmakar Santape—from various parts of India—Assam, Kerala, Nagpur, Bengal, Delhi and Hyderabad—striving to create their own aesthetic language. Most of these artists were born in the 1980s. The youngest, a Gurgaonite, Ranak Mann, born in 1992, merits the description of being the 'special artist' amidst this group.
What is positive about this Show is its careful selection of Figurative and Representational artworks, where linear draughtsmanship, and attention to textural detail, are given importance. The works of Jayottam, born in 1980 in Assam, and of Kiran, born in 1988 in Kerala, bear a maturity of expression and technique. Jayottam has held solo shows at Triveni Kala Sangam and Sridharani Galleries. In his introspective paintings one observes a sense of deep stillness and alienation: documenting the solitary human soul, trapped alone in an urban concrete cage, as it were. A sense of geometrical perspective and minimalism lends a zen-like depth to his canvasses. The paintings of Arun Dev, born in 1981 in Kerala, denote a similar affinity to geometry, metaphysics, mystery and silence. Jayanto Roy, who has shown at Nature Morte and BosePacia New York, makes contemporary collage-like combinations with symbolic art-historical motifs – such as digitised classical portrayals of Christ interspersed with simple graphic elements.
The 24-year old Kiran Jacob's depictions of mechanical forms in dark monochromes bear commendable draughtsmanship. With a latent Surrealistic perspective, he sketches the skeletons of crumpled motorbikes taken-over by vultures, and haunting Titanic-like ships adrift on stormy seas. While he must learn to overcome his tendency towards il
lustrativeness, his penchant for drawing and detail can stand him in good stead. The young Keralite artists Sabin and Sumesh, both born in 1984, evidence similar linear and neo-Surrealist skills, with a serious attention to detail and a fine use of colour.
Coming to Ranak Mann, the youngest artist in this Exhibition --- this talented 20-year old, who lives in Gurgaon's Oakwood Estate, has battled with a severe hearing impediment ever since his youngest years. He is now studying Art at the University of Southampton in Winchester, UK, and has dreams of creating his own design-line relating to Fine Art. The aim of Art is always to transform and 're-invent' oneself -- thereby inspiring others. The development of a compassionate, sensitive and humanistic viewpoint is imperative to the pursuit of Fine Art. In the case of artists with bodily impairments, one tends to find a heightened visual intensity, a deeper introspection, and a capacity to delve into unknown spaces and mysterious psychological territories. Such difficult and rocky terrain is evidently the subject-matter of young Ranak's Gothic and dark psychological visualisations.
This is Ranak's first exhibition in India; he has previously done dramatic linear illustrations for a successful London theatre production, 'The Monk'. I asked this young Gurgaon painter how he accepted and managed his difficult situation in his formative years --- how he evolved the determination to emerge as an artist. With compelling candour, Ranak elaborated -- "I was diagnosed with a major hearing problem at the age of 5, and I started wearing hearing aids when I was 7 years old. It can be a very challenging situation. There have been moments when I honestly hated my hearing impairment, and the looks of 'sympathy' that I received.
Ranak blossomed into a star student at Dehradun's Indian Public School. He quietly pursued his artistic dreams alongside, creating a fine and diverse body of initial artworks. In a brooding, melancholic tenor that utilises many artistic media—from detailed pencil and ink drawings to large oils on canvas—Ranak portrays haunted hills, semi-humans, searching souls, apparitions, whirling dervishes, mesmeric dark gypsies, dreamers and strange dancers pirouetting precariously on life's tightrope. The inner torment of a sensitive soul comes across in his intense palette of nightmarish distortions --- but then the sun rises again, and apparitions are all dispelled, when he paints a tranquil sun-soaked mountain landscape called 'The Golden Path'.
Blessed with a sense of humour, the lanky young Ranak grins --- "To be honest, sometimes I am happy that I do not need to hear the loud traffic! My problem has also helped me grow; made me learn more about my own will power. My disability has helped me to become sensitive to other people's problems. I like to challenge myself as well as society. I've tried to put divine symbols into my paintings, as well as portray the delicacy of trees – that are strong yet graceful during a storm or a rough patch."
Ranak explains his artistic inspiration further, "My biggest inspiration has been the world that surrounds us; after all, the inner impression is the outer expression. I've always communicated my feelings and thoughts through visuals, which can be a strong medium. I love the fusion of colours, blending into something that you've personally created. Nobody can take that creativity away from you --- that sense of security gives you a powerful feeling. I try to make my passion work in the important areas of my life. My hopes and aspirations are ambitious. I would like to get valuable work-experience in the fields of publication and design internationally, and I plan on establishing a lifestyle brand which deals in interiors and fashion – with a heavy influence of Art."
Such positivism and determination from a young special artist should inspire all those who fear to express their true selves in an increasingly aggressive and competitive world.