Seems to me that this artist’s ‘negative’ capability is not that usual. Witness how he is fascinated both by the vertical dimension as the horizontal plane, denying neither. One says this since in his present showing even as he evinces high seriousness in his marbles and unpainted woods (a note on these works follows below) he also poses another profile, as if, of neo Lok Kala. At any rate in his former foray the viewer experiences a passion for the aloof, unique, the detached aspects of reality in all its dispassionateness. No humour, nor no human all too human sentiment can inform such elevated orders of work by very logic. These moments are precious, and at the best of time may even verge on the numinous.
But then he returns to earth from an Eden, so to speak, and on to the in proximity of the human scene. This vicinity keeps us at once amused, irritated, involved, related and so on. If we are not made snooty or exclusive by our instinct for ‘high art’ we shall equally appreciate, indeed be warmed and stimulated by this so-called Lok Kala’s human comedy though behind which is much pathos as well. This people’s art, so to say, entertains us by fair artistic means, and it finally binds us to fellow earthlings. By turning the quotidian actualities into art craft, the act visually tickles our taste buds with earth’s sumptuous colours, as well as ties us to the common lot, and thus we escape the threat of any looming ivory tower. The arts of the earth are just that. By working in their steps an urbanite artist teases out the soul fissures from out of our own being. Walt Whiteman was a genius of that order for while in some poems he reached the pinnacle, touched the supreme, the next moment he embraced the form, the face of the ongoing life on the very ground. May we not also allow a democratic vista in our aspirings? For our health of spirits, the ostensible antipodes of the human soul, ought to be in speaking terms.
Neeraj Gupta’s, honed-to-a-razor sharp profiles, and other works in the genre of painted over brightly coloured vibrant hues resurrect and revive our languishing fellow feelings.
The flatness of some of these works is in fact charged with strong, sharp features and robust figures, the bright colours jostling in bold outlines. And so this way, to repeat, the genre revives our city- stiffened bodies.
I will add that India cannot be understood or felt without its tribal, as its popular arts and crafts and which relate to its religious beliefs, customs and folkways. A life that is largely not dogmatic, but rather based on creativity and the arts. The ‘classical’ tradition, because of patronage, is one thing while the little rural traditions emerged from the soil, stirred by common needs, strengthened by the vitality of the people whose lifestyle still largely revolves around the seasons, agriculture, small trades, birth-death, and rejuvenation. The essence of this civilization has hitherto lain in ordinary objects which even though they perished are important because of their patterns, textures, shapes and craftsmanship.
Gupta, aware that the stream of a perennial continuity is in danger of snapping because of the assault of electronic media and technology, has sought to draw the attention of the metropolitan public to an ignored but yet immense life-restoring reality. This exhibition then follows the path of both the elevated as the little traditions to make a moot point.
The refusal to reject, as the capacity to transform the archaic into the living present is a characteristic peculiar to the Indian ethos. May so it remain, in a world rapidly homogenizing to monotony. In sum, being involved in both the ultimate and immediate realities as a constituent of life are two terms of the unit and the total, the individual and the others. These terms are constants in being ever present even though they undergo perpetual modification and, as such, are liable to those paradoxes as are found in the stuff of life lodged as they are between the temporal and the timeless dimensions.
Neeraj Gupta denies neither reality: has one foot firmly placed on ‘earth’, the other in the Eden of intense imaginative aspirings. His politics is for life, the protean.
Marbles, uncolored woods? Works which often become pure forms, with no helpful commonsensical references lurking behind them. Such works are not for the eye become a mere photographic lens. Nor for the eye that treasures digitals and documents, that is, rinds of memories, mental cadavers; eye which hoards death (not life masks). The gadget system of the day, good as it goes, provides contemporaries with the via media of embalming the trifles of existence. By and by everything is documented. The contemporary becomes rich, but unselective. He loses the power to shed the ballast, to go light, when souls have become like this, the deeper art will be experienced with some difficulty - - such may well seem Neeraj Gupta’s abstract marble (and wood) forms. A man of much knowledge, but otherwise untended imagination, reacts only to that which activates obsessive memories, tangibles, raw actualities in all their ponderous heaviness. The ‘too-dressed up’ in references art alone will be understood and reacted to. But art which forms suggestive spirals, lines, undulations, whirls, concentric circles, the curve of the letter will appear too slight, giving one no bearings, seeming too unrelated and rather puzzling. It will also most likely lead to abstruse mystical interpretations by those seeking overt meanings. But actually it all is simple, too simple for words. Needing only a receptive heart. The pleasures of unconscious existence, are brought to a keener point with artlessness and simplicity as those conveyed through the artist’s flowing marble forms. Delight in the surfaces that shine, luxury in those white marbles, tenderness in those grains in wood, the gentleness of the modulations. All these come close to the innocence of self-creating nature - -as in the self’s silence, its un-spelt out associations reverberating with the ocean, and moving to some deep affective center within us; charm, which releases us however temporarily, from the burdens of a too intellectually armoured, defensive self hood. Not whatever is termed the psychedelic, mind you, not the gregarious but an area of strict privacy with no place for visible excitement - -but one that still brings about no peace to our faculties.
No, in those reclining forms, or those chiseled shapes - - be they in marble, or wood - - we reach the destined peak of this form of art; a genre universal in its nature - - sensuous and ascetic at the same time; the ore purified to become unicorn - - alert, sensing awareness; shapes of spirit moving in their timeless stillness, the still-flame steady in itself and thereby conveying spiritual sensations though by indirection; some not to be easily spelt out truth at the heart of things. Shapes - - modeled, perforated, carved or beaten by a variety of tools - - lifted to grace. The sculpture sucks these out of the core of dumb materials and does not create them; he discovers the perennial forms and to discover such quality induces in us a moment of gravity. The choice of these sculptures is, then, like all successful work becomes air-borne, free even when solid - - not airy-fairy. Mass, volume, shape, texture are not the enemy of movement but, instead, have the power to induce a deep concentration in us till we are lifted out of ourselves and experience a respect for the surfaces as well as the invisible depths of reality. Moreover we return from such an elevation not to disenchantment with the chaos or pandemonium of life’s outer environs but with the certainty that it teems with treasure. In truth, unless there is movement in the beholder’s eye even the most acclaimed work will not stir him out of torpor. Good art does not allow you any via media to escape into the inane.