Well the show opened last night and ... only 15 people turned up!! This would normally have been an unmitigated disaster except for the very pleasant fact that they all apparently loved the work and by evening's end, 20 pieces had been bought (that includes the three that were red-dotted in Delhi thanx to our friend Amro). So the gallery and I are feeling pleased -- though disturbed about the lack of attendance. Apparently it was a busy night on the social circuit (weddings, mostly. Now you know why I detest weddings -- they get in the way of all worthwhile endeavours, such as gallery openings). Twenty paintings out of the fifty (well, 49) on show represents a little over a third, so ... I'm happy.
Anyhow, I thought the most appropriate thing to share at this moment is the "concept note" I prepared for the show. Here it is (the name of the show is "YES" -- have I mentioned this before somewhere? It's been one of my themes for a long while, and is the name of one of the squiggle-paintings too):
YES An Exhibition of Prints and Collages by Manjula Padmanabhan, December 2004, ARTWORLD
The prints were made at Atelier 2221 in New Delhi, from mid-1999 to early 2003. Most of them are zinc-plate etchings with a small handful of lithographs. The crucial difference between graphic art prints such as these and commercial reproductions such as art museum posters is that prints are processed by hand in limited editions of usually between 20 and a hundred impressions while museum reproductions are printed photo-mechanically in the thousands. It is for this reason that prints have sometimes been called “multiple originals”. Despite the effort taken to ensure that each print in an edition is the same as every other, small variations inevitably occur. In that sense, each one really IS unique and original.
These etchings and lithographs were made possible because of the excellent facilities at Delhi’s Atelier 2221, owned by artist and print-maker Pratibha Dakoji. The great pleasure of print-making is that it permits an artist to multiply the effect of one piece of art over several different buyers. Since the cost of a print is usually considerably less than a painting or drawing, it is also a medium through which younger buyers and collectors can buy genuine originals without going broke.
My subjects for the prints are those that have interested me over the years – animal and human figures, depicted in a whimsical manner. There is frequently, in my work, a suggestion of stories, fables and myths underlying the images. But I did not have any particular stories in mind when I created these combinations of heads and bodies. I prefer to leave the viewer free to make up stories to suit the drawings rather than the other way around. These pictures don’t belong to any specific tradition or culture – yet they are recognizable as peacocks or women, cats or carpets. In my view, there is a global language, which most city-dwellers understand, of familiar shapes and forms. These drawings are visual stories told in that language.
The collages, on the other hand, arise from a completely different source. A better name for them might be “hybrids” or “squiggle-paintings”. I began working in the medium maybe a year ago, initially using the paint (a type of acrylic) directly on coloured foam-boards. I think of these pieces as celebrations of form and colour, only loosely related to objects in the real world. There are two or three basic themes. One, for instance, is the idealized sunset: a line separating two colours with a single element representing the sun or any other celestial object (e.g. RED FIELD, LINEAR MOONRISE). Another theme is of an object such as a head or a rock or even two rocks, filling the frame (e.g. ROCK, FACE, PIGEON). A third theme might be called “refraction” – one element, such as a line or a squiggle, is shown passing through some other medium, such as glass or water, and is transformed by it (e.g. GOLD RAIN, RED SHIFT).
A final theme, common to all these squiggle-paintings, is nonconformity. Despite the many repeating patterns of dots, squiggles and lines, not a single element is identical to the others around it. Similar but not the same – to me, this principle reminds us that we are all distinct individuals and ALSO part of a pattern. We ourselves are built from patterns of common elements (atoms and organic chemicals), yet the sum of our millions of tiny similar parts is utterly unique. There are many different patterns represented in these collages. Some are more regular and others are less so. In some, being irregular is the pattern! Looking for patterns, finding them and also attempting to break away from them – this is what I have enjoyed while producing these pieces and what I have hoped to communicate through having this show.