Art News & Views

Eyes on Life: Reviewing Satish Gujral’s Recent Drawings


by Sritama Halder

Kolkata. Eyes on Life: Drawings of Satish Gujral, an exhibition of Satish Gujral’s drawings dating from 2005 to 2011, was exhibited at Aakriti Art Gallery, from 9th December to 31st December, 2011.

The drawings, done on rice paper, show men, women and machines engaged in various activities. There were some drawings depicting zebras as well. Gujral uses the black and white stripes of the zebra as a decorative motif. He divides the body of the animal into different sections and distributes them over the pictorial space. The sinuous lines of the black and white stripes are then juxtaposed with a floral floor decoration, a stylized cactus or the contour of the sand dunes to emphasise the decorative quality and the splendour of natural forms.

Most of the drawings shown in the exhibition were of men and women preoccupied with some machine. In all the drawings the male protagonist has bald head, a robust body, large eyes and chiselled nose and the female protagonist has plaited hair hanging over one shoulder. Looking at the human figures one wonders whether these are different people belonging to different time and space or the same man and woman engaged in different complexities of everyday life. The machines are such that do not exist in the real world. One of the works (all the drawings are untitled) from the drawings done in 2009 showed a jumble of objects such as bulbs, amplifiers, sticks and some kind of an absurd and distorted vehicle. Two arches balance on the cross attached to this vehicle. A man holds the end of one arch and a figure of nataraja hangs from the end of the other arch.  Figures of various gods and amplifiers were the two motifs that often recurred in these drawings. In some drawings the man and the woman are shown to be sitting on the machines and singing, playing instruments, fanning with a pankha. Most of these machines have a small image of god attached to it. With the presence of this image the seemingly meaningless acts of placing a lamp on the seat of a contraption and playing the tambourine, tabla and a small temple bell are given sacred undertones. Performing the private act of personal devotion on the machines with wheels instead of the privacy of a domestic space probably indicates the perennial migration of family units/individuals to other places. The amplifiers usually used to loudly publicize an event, also locate the unit within the public space. By merging the private and the public, the outside and home Gujral, in these drawings, reveals the urban anxiety regarding space and boundaries, the public and the private.

The title of the exhibition Eyes on Life suggested a harsh take on the realities of life. Yet in this series of drawings, Gujral created a world of a different reality. In his drawings from 2011 known figures take up a new identity. In some drawings heads of horses and goats are attached to belts which people walk or ride on. In one work coiling ropes form the body of a horse and its mouth is made with belts attached to small rings. In a few drawings Gujral uses swirling lines to signify the fast movement. This way the artist visually translates the movements of a bowler’s arms, legs and body by placing these lines.

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