Monday 30 September 2019

Between Hope and Fear - PARA, by Georgina Maddox

Rajendra Patil Para’s Concrete Abstraction Georgina Maddox  The material dimension of daily life and its potential to be transmuted into aesthetic practice has been an integral part of Rajendra Patil’s (Para) artistic vision and repertoire. Patil’s formative encounter with the working-class Chawls of Bombay (Mumbai) along with the rural and agrarian landscapes of his childhood in Chopda, have had a distinctive influence on his sensibility. His canvases and installations expand over a period of almost three decades. His oeuvre comprises such diverse mediums as oil, acrylic, metal casting, terracotta, mirror glass installation and digital interface, represent through the language of abstraction, concrete concerns that are grounded in lived reality.  Patil’s art over the years reflects the complex, heterogeneous texture of post industrial urban geographies. It revels in the pleasures and travails of the labouring body encoded in the physicality of tools. It participates in the preservation of ephemeral historical and personal memory through the tangible and quotidian archive of objects.   Tools are an important presence in Patil’s paintings and sculptures. They occupy the canvas and the spatio-temporal coordinates of the environment in diverse ways, and providing an archaeological optic with which to interrogate certain primordial and fundamental questions about the nature of human existence. The tool, be it farm equipment, mechanical instruments, or artisans’ implements, serves as a threshold for mankind’s emergence as a cultural being capable of augmenting his powers and turning nature into a resource for knowledge, cultivation, and consumption.  As Bernard Stiegler observes, writing and art are not only expressive forms, but primarily technologies (‘techne’) emerging out of our prehistoric engagement with the sphere of inanimate matter to transform it into discrete and usable cultural objects.  In his recent Untitled series, tools are integrated into the canvas as notations of an abstract score interrupting the colour field as individuated figures. 

These while retaining the contours of recognisable objects are also simultaneously de-familiarised by being dislocated from conventional contexts of cultural reference.  The ghostly appearance of sickles, chisels, knives, stones, axe heads, and spades, emphasises the artworks’ perceived continuity with a primordial scene of origin, while also alluding to a common space of aesthetic cohabitation and dialogue that painting shares with artisan and crafts-making practices. The depiction of the often crude outlines of these objects that seem to be hollowed out of the canvas against an uneven backdrop that is heavily textured with ridges, grooves, superimpositions, layering, and hacking, makes the work itself into an extended self-reflexive dramatisation of the corporeal, material, and sensuous encounter between object and idea, instrument and skill, matter and vision that constitutes the artistic process.  Patil’s palette in most of his paintings evokes the terrestrial shades of brown, earth reds, skies bleached of blue and inky black of space. Moving from a harmonious space of his earlier shamanic forms, Patil invests his canvases and sculptures with a subtle hint of violence that gets further magnified in his recent installation and digital artworks. Where once his paintings celebrated the purely organic, it now addresses the pervasive infiltration of technology into the rhythms and experiences of everyday life.   

Tools in Patil’s paintings and sculpture, is not an object of mimesis, or just a figurative component in the artwork’s larger representational message. Rather the tool occupies the artwork performatively as a set of haptic effects: torsions, hollowing, fragmentations, and high-relief mark-making that the painting then registers into the materiality. It leads to a conversion of its own medium, from a purely visual space into a tactile one. Elevated and disaggregated from its utilitarian framework the tool is transformed into what Martin Heidegger refers to as its propensity for withdrawal from access and objectification in situations of breakdown, or even creative re-appropriation. This then compels the user to rethink the very dichotomy between subject and object, active and passive, spirit and matter, lifeless and animate, upon which the supposed notion of anthropocentric supremacy is built.  In this mode the tools in Patil’s paintings also address alternative, subaltern, and local micro-histories of labour, exploitation, violence, and resistance that are often unrepresented in dominant historical narratives. The working class are lionized through his engagement and foregrounding of the tool as an object of sleight. 

  The powerful and insurrectionary force of the material object recurs in Patil’s sculptural works. The solid, abstraction of the machine, which is at the centre of a post-industrial topography, is realized in a three-dimensional format of his metal (?) sculptures. The nature of the works emphasizes a scrap-metal assemblage aesthetic, which is not highly polished or finished. It challenges the tenets of the Objet d'art or precious ‘collectible’ that is decorative or ‘pleasing’ in a conventional manner. Rather it celebrates a robustness and mundane value of working implements. However it does transform these implements into aesthetic and abstracted forms. They are evocative, yet not illustrative.   

Patil has also ventured into the territory of installation art, by creating a 30x30 inch globe surrounded by small tool-like forms made of terracotta and suspended from the ceiling so that it dangles or orbits the globe. The installation, titled Hope and Fear, depicts the contemporary dangers surrounding the planet, in the form of environmental, bio-political and military threat. It addresses the phenomenon of weaponization of space and the transformation of the tool from a benevolent implement of cultivation and creation into an instrument of mass destruction and planetary annihilation.    

Rajendra Patil, was born in Mumbai and educated at Ruia College where he studied history, and later at J.J School of Art and Raheja School of Art. 

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Thanks for comment JK