About My Work - Premjish Achari

Premjish Achari - In Pursuit of Mists, Clouds and Waves

‘Spiritual’ and ‘Sensuous’ are the two apt words to describe Shridhar Iyer’s works in the exhibition Spiritual Sojourncurated by Uma Nair. These two terms were used by the seminal art historian Vidya Dehejia for her exhibition on medieval Chola Bronzes from Tamil Nadu. After watching his exhibition at the Art Bull gallery I immediately felt that Shridhar is the legitimate inheritor of such an art historical legacy. His works are an extravagant tribute to his spiritual journey and also display a surplus of visual delight. Here, I would differ from a rather reluctant Uma Nair who has compared the canvases with a Pollockian style which are ‘not spectacularly beautiful’. There is a plentitude of beauty to relish on those bold strokes and narrow black forms and lines. There is unadulterated sensuousness in these works. Neither aggressive nor passive; but an optimal aesthetic experience. The tranquilising nature of beauty is what Shridhar has to offer. These works are the sum total of the ‘spiritual sojourns’ undertaken by him.

In the Indian-Hindu tradition one gets acquainted with various ascetic traditions: militant, esoteric, performative, etc. Shridhar’s persona is that of an ascetic. I will call him an artist-ascetic. He has all the physical attributes to appear as a saint especially his long beard. His interactions too are saint like. He is humble, soft-spoken, reticent, and always maintain a calm composure. Moreover, he is a fine tuned artist with refined aesthetic sensibilities and exceptional skills in his craft. He is an ascetic of appearance, an artist by interest and a humanitarian by choice. His spiritualism is not of an aggressive religious nature. It is of tolerance and inclusiveness.

Let me start with his painting. It is a major component of the show, other being installations by him. These exuberant paintings in palettes of yellow, red, grey, black and blue with bold and narrow strokes represent I believe of a certain vitality of the spiritual in our lives. The abstraction in his works is curious. I believe that a move away from realism is a deliberate act. As a loyal spiritual, Shridhar also in his conviction must be reluctant about a realist representation of the world he lives in. Therefore abstraction becomes an ideal style for him to engage with the world. Or maybe these are the imaginative world envisioned by Shridhar’s inner eye. It springs from ‘irrational’ roots – from dreams, meditations, journeys and a reluctant existence. The most spectacular ones in the canvas are the Jatra series. These works are the result of artist’s own loyalty towards his inner world. The colours are splashed across in the canvas which renders a certain aquatic movement to it. It also resembles Chinese landscape paintings filled with clouds. They evoke a vertical expansion of the space. In some paintings it is horizontal, very similar to sea waves. Not, a turbulent one disturbed by the tempest, but an ocean of peaceful waves moving towards the viewer. Other group of paintings titled Written Journey brings in a literary quality to paintings. They feature the interior monologues or expressions of the artist. These paintings represent Shridhar’s soliloquy; calm and serene. These are nostalgic memories with a sensuous charge of past and present, real and imagined. He is in the pursuit of mists, clouds and waves.

Shridhar’s installations which include a mat placed on a chair, two jackets, and many other works of sculptural quality foregrounds the aspect of tangibility. One is immediately attracted to the materiality of the fibres and the khus. He is unapologetic about creating something which is appealing to the eye. Shridhar has allowed the viewers to contemplate profoundly about the material aspect of his works as well as the aesthetic side of it. His affinity with spiritualism runs deeper than this. The perfume of love and peace is attached to it. It unleashes an Aristotelian catharsis which aims for purification; where they identify with the inherent meaning in these works and ultimately results in the liberation of the spectator. He gives forms and shapes to his inner meanings to stir his audience and situate the spectator in his state of mind and experience. Prolific and imaginative, Shridhar has many surprises for us. It is also not unexpected, since he has taken five years to meditate on these works. He has been patient about these creations. The subtle message here is that only through art one could fill the voids in our heart. As said by Marcel Proust, “The true life, life at last discovered and illuminated, the only life really lived, is that of the artist.” His Jatra series, Confession, Madhuram series, Triguna etc. would be known for his boldness and uniqueness.

His paintings and installations exhibit a sense of uninhibited pleasure and an appreciation for beauty. It is this aura of these works which makes them testimonies of sensuousness and spirituality. They display the affectionate aspects of our interiors. They are the most powerful depictions of the varied mixtures of human emotions. Sensuousness emanates from his work. So do spirituality. Very similar to the verses of the female Tamil Bhakti poet Aandal which displayed an uninhibited desire for Vishnu combined with devotion. The attempt here was not to say that since he has ventured into abstraction his subject matter is not close to reality. Shridhar’s works have gestured towards a reality, but one which is revealed at the end of a pilgrimage undertaken similar to what appears in Inferno by Dante or in Pilgrim’s Progress by Bunyan. That’s why the title Spiritual Sojourn is so apt for this exhibition. Like Kandinsky, Shreedhar’s works also attempts to re-enchant the contemporary world, which has lost its soul, through art. Through his sojourns.

Premjish Achari