Journeys in Collage
A few months ago, I was the keynote speaker at an intriguing art exhibition- Known to the Unknown by the versatile Artist K. Pundalik Shenoy, hosted by Preediv Art Gallery of Mangalore.
K.P. Shenoy has a large corpus of work, in the conventional medium that has already been exhibited in the past, with the acclaim of prestigious awards. “Paintings without Paint” open up new artistic horizons in collage. Unlocking the creative potential of discards, whether the paper that forms his collages or the metal scrap of his relief works is a challenge he enjoys grappling with. Beauty out of waste is his artistic mission for our eco-sensitive times.
While inviting me to this event, he attempted to explain his collage works in words. I had heard of collages by famous artists like Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso, but I still did not enjoy perfect clarity about the final product.. When the artist described to me the use of magazine paper, cut or torn to precise individual shapes and fused into a composite with just a few black strokes for definition, I expected by and large a sophisticated craft. I was quite astounded by my visual encounter of unique artworks-a profound vision executed in an intricate medium. Their breadth and complexity would be commendable even with conventional brush and canvas. That paper scraps can be the vehicle for difficult ideas and concepts represents a true innovation in artistic achievement.
The very title of the exhibition- Known to the Unknown would imply an expansion of awareness. It is the power of artistic vision that imparts new significance to the commonplace, that a lesser eye may well overlook. The “Known” takes a fresh look at familiar realities, such as a peep into life through a city’s windows, innumerable clusters of structures to conjure up urban realities, indigenous tribes, flora and fauna of a forest. Some works appear to narrate open ended stories, capable of multiple meanings- gossiping women, guilty lovers, the barrier between a young woman and an old man, a tantra performer and the object of his desires beneath a brilliant moon. The influence of the Painter Paul Gauguin is discerned in Unspoken.
The Artist, on the conclusion of his career as a Banker was an honorary lecturer in Theosophy. This has left its own philosophical impress on his artistic output. The realistic form is apparent in his works, but the viewer is simultaneously intrigued by hints of higher abstractions and greater realities. For example, the Mother Goddess in different parts of the Indian tradition is juxtaposed with icons and symbols of other religions, Indian temples with world monuments to symbolize the essential harmony of faiths or the unifying principles of art. He offers us involved depictions- such as statues within statues in Utsava Murthy, perhaps to represent the greater and lesser deities of the Hindu pantheon. Intricately formed birds signify peaceful spirits in White Souls. The agony of Jesus Christ is depicted in The Burden, The Light of the World and Mocked. The Sufi saint Rumi is shown in ecstatic repose. Unfettered by his own location in place and time, he delves into world history and culture to render the timeless and universal. The resultant collages- Door to the Ancient , Relics of the Past, The Flow of Time, Higher Horizon, At the feet of a Pagoda subtly enrich the consciousness.
The psycho- analyst Carl Jung gave us the concept of the Collective Unconscious- a reservoir of images from mankind’s primitive history. This is illustrated in such works as Depth of Unconscious, Frozen Unconscious, Third Eye, Hidden Layer and Forgotten Mystery. Life in Depth depicts fish within fish- a likely parallel of our struggles for survival. Kundalini and Libido conjure up the many facets of passion. These works are exciting, charged with a startling sense of super-conscious states, giving effect to the hidden dramas of the universe.
The collages depict common realities and cosmic mysteries, often combining them in a dramatic way. The use of color, the formation and placement of images is striking and novel. Some collages have the appearance of stained glass and batik prints. A few have unusual textures. A difficult three dimensional effect is often achieved. There’s a deeper meaning even to the simplest of them, that stimulates the viewer’s thinking process. The exhibits exert a powerful force, both in their stunning visual impact and bold underlying vision. A viewer is left with a sense of coherence amidst chaos, a fusion of the fragmented.
K.P. Shenoy has been truly prolific- the 150 or so works on display are the output of just a few months’ productivity. A deft hand and ageless vision are manifest in these depictions of the creatively complex It is indeed inspiring to find a Senior Citizen eager to cross new frontiers in artistic exploration.
– Giselle D. Mehta