Arguably The Cube Gallery’s most audacious exhibition yet, the concept behind “Artable” is simplicity itself, eleven Goa-based artists, drawn from diverse backgrounds, have collaborated to transform a series of white console tables into living, breathing works of art.
The tables serve as impromptu canvasses, the artists painting in styles ranging from cubism to fauxmosaic, from tribal fetishism to Escher’s “impossible physics”, but these are no ordinary paintings, composed in three-dimensions they waterfall over hard angles, spilling down legs, sometimes flowing right over the edge of the table top and continuing across the under surface, it is impossible to tell whether you are viewing multiple paintings or a single painting occupying multiple planes.
The project was conceived by architect Sonny Singh as part of a long-cherished desire to bring artists together under the same roof, working within the same space, creating a communal dynamic that encourages them to share insights and exchange individual techniques. As one of the featured artists of the show, Sonny, who holds a Masters in Fine Arts from Cal Arts, California, has produced works that revel in non-Euclidian geometry, fabulous four-dimensional constructions projected onto flat, two dimensional tables – space is as important as colour here, colour is indispensable to form, his tables appear almost austere when compared to others in the collection, but their beauty lies in their extraordinary symmetry, and it is Sonny’s ability to visualize the world beyond our senses, the quantum substrate from which all form sprang, that lends the exhibition its vital sense of cohesion.
Aadhi Vishal is from Arpora. With reference to his own work, he says, “I do not see a table, I see an art form. The process took me back to school when I used to scribble on my desk.” Aadhi’s days of scribbling are far behind him, his images are a latticework of elaborate symbolism, touching on themes both philosophical and spiritual, colours pulse off his tables in plasma bursts of vibrant, psychedelic hues, figures swim just beneath the surface glaze, invoking a sense of time and space being gently tugvged apart at the seams, Aadhi’s tables are hallucinations, daydreams that accidently wandered into this reality, fleeting, ephemeral, vanishing again the moment our backs are turned.
From Porvorim in North Goa, Alok Johri has dressed his tables in the colours of nostalgia, his images formed from magazine cuttings, old photos, even discarded newsprint from printmakers: “Ï am like a rag-picker,’ he says, ‘picking bits and pieces from different environments to create images.” His work is richly textured, built up like successive layers of rock sediment to create a sense of history, of moments fading and events misremembered, one table speaks of finding balance in amongst the turmoil, another indulges the artist’s flair for design and colour. He calls this table, “my moment of pure childlike fun.”
A graphic designer by profession, Chandan Crasta, comes from Moira in North Goa and in his skilled hands everyday letters become works of art in their own right, ampersands are transformed into musical notes, a magnified Z becomes the personification of feminine sensuousness, while logograms and dingbats, uncoupled from meaning, become little miracles of design and spatial awareness.
A graduate of the Moscow Pedagogical University and a long-term resident of Goa, Elena Fedosenko’s imagery embraces the unorthodox nature of her canvass, making novel use of both horizontal and vertical planes. In one instance Elena has composed a stunning allegory to the triumph of spirit over matter, the latter represented by compressed geometric lines enfolding one leg, suggesting weight, restriction, but as our eyes are drawn to the surface of the table the geometry gives way to more protean forms, the colours become warmer, like evening light seen through stained glass windows, the effect is captivating, the entire table seeming to gravitate towards a single burning core, spirit returning to source, art merging with medium.
Kailash Parab hails from Moira in North Goa and is one of The Cube’s fast rising stars. He shows his impeccable credentials with his first table, a piece that would not look out of place in a Moghul emperor’s stately home; it is a flawless example of Indian Miniature Painting, gorgeously rendered, with every minute brushstroke visible to the naked eye. A second table is rendered in a vastly different style, with its antecedents in Cubism and El Greco’s sense of elongated proportions, the subject this time is equestrian, the colours, cool and composed, serve as a bridge between
the strange, otherworldly dimensions of the horse and the serene expanse of space that surrounds it, the illusion is one of marble, the table appearing paradoxically both weightier and more ethereal.
From Mapusa in North Goa, Rajender Usapkar views his tables as feminine, representative of home and hearth, there are no hard colours embellishing his images, even his choice of material, graphite, is soft and unobtrusive, he uses his fingers to further smudge the lines, his sweat sometimes mingling with his work to create supple and unusual contours. His images are stark and yet incredibly effective, our focus drawn again and again to the powerful female faces that adorn them, regal, maternal, sublimely feminine, their eyes have that elusive quality that only a handful of artists can properly convey, strength tempered by compassion, heightened by an imperfect symmetry that reveals the flaws in true beauty and the true beauty hidden in every flaw.
Rochelle Santimano is an architect from Colva. Reflecting her passion for geometry and her love of bright, bold colours, her tables are master studies in ratio and proportion. In one image a serpentine form has been constructed from hundreds of small adjoining triangles, the colours, hot and fertile, growing colder and more impersonal the further we move from the head. Rochelle calls this creature a geometric microorganism, “it is somewhat reminiscent of origami,” she modestly notes, “with a gentle nod in the direction of cubism.”
Saffron Wiehl, a native of Arpora in North Goa, has drawn much of the inspiration for her table from the natural world, her paintings infused with wild flowers that blaze like candles against a dark backdrop, vine wrapping its thorny tentacles around a muscular table leg, leaves threatening any moment to bust free of the plane upon which they’ve been painted. Saffron’s images are compulsive and organic and you have the distinct impression that if left long enough they will spread their growth to neighbouring tables, infecting the whole gallery with their viral genius.
Srijan Jha’s tables are older than time, brooding and primordial they suggest that infinite moment before history began; his images, drawn directly from the unconscious, are populated with archetypes and sinuous tribal forms, his colours soft, almost dreamlike, lending the tables their aura of immeasurable antiquity. We are moving away from form and function and into the realms of myth and sacred beginnings; here there are no footprints to follow and only our senses to serve as guide.
Ujjvala Nilamani lives amongst the hills of Vashisht and spends his winters in Goa. He originally came from Padolé in the Ukraine and attended the Lviv Art Academy where he studied Fine Arts, but in 1987 Ujjvala made the lifechanging decision to travel to India on a spiritual quest. He has since become an accomplished yogi, a practitioner of Ayurvedic colour therapy, and is well versed in the Vedic scriptures; his name means “bright jewel” and his art can be found in temples and private collections across India. Ujjvala’s tables seem to take on the impenetrable nature of the void, white without beginning, black without end, and out of these cardinal absolutes, strange, self-illuminated forms burst into sudden, brilliant relief, hermaphrodite deities, male and female personas separated by the angles of the table, a tapestry of intimately woven vine, delicate enough to pass as calligraphy, a woman reclining on a crescent of light, all around her ripples and currents of energy that seem on the verge of generating spontaneous new forms. Ujjvala calls his unique style New Spiritual Romanticism and cites the artist, Oleg Hubskyy, as one of his primary influences.