Installations Beyond Assemblage

Written by Suneet Chopra | Updated: Oct 20 2002, 05:30am hrs
Sridhar Iyers exhibitions at the Sridharani gallery and the Lalit Kala Akademi at New Delhi, on till October 30, are both of the Installation genre. But they are a good lesson to remind one that not anything is an installation. Also, the installation is not just any assemblage or performance. It reflects something of the inner development of form of an artists work, and should, in some way, be indicate a progress in it.

This is why I was interested in his recent presentations. Born in 1961, Mr Iyer is one of the more fluent abstract artists of Bhopal. Also, he has won a number of awards, including the National Award for painting in 1998. He has a serious record as an artist. So, one could expect something more serious than the float or street performance.

His installations and the video films that accompanied them did not disappoint one. His abstracts made up of complex units of interconnected forms that form a grid was repeated in his installations, especially in the installation On The Way.... From this it was evident that he was using the aesthetic sensibility he has evolved over the years in his canvases and was now extending it to his environment as a three-dimensional presentation supported by both sound and a video-film.

Thematically, he was extending his sensitivity to the death of animals. But I wonder if one can do that effectively where the human race is not seen to exist The traditional Hindu perspective sees every caste as a different species with a distinct source of origin from the divine being. So where we cannot relate sensibly to other human beings, animals are a tall order.

This two video films are significant in this respect. The one explores the relation between Shiva and Nandi, the bull he sits on. The other gives a Brahminical funeral to a crow. I do not know whether the artist meant it, but the metaphor of the priest and the crow, both scavenging on the dead comes out ironically.

Indeed, Mr Iyers installations have both depth and continuity with his painting, for which he is justly known. As such, his installations are valid as part and parcel of his artistic development. As such, they are acceptable as art and not yet another gimmick so many artists are resorting today.