First published by Chatterjee and Lal, Mumbai, 2008, catalogue essay
At the heart of any art making practice the artist grapples with the twin factors of chance encounters and deliberated actions. Most often it is not possible to discern the moment at which one gives way to the other. The point that is important here is the recognition of this tension in order to arrive at a resolved work of art. We have to turn to the process involved in art production to be able to fully appreciate the richness of work presented to us in a gallery or museum.
Computer aided graphic design allows endless erasure, re-organisation and re-sizing without this ever having any bearing on the work that is finally printed out or posted up. In this brave new world it requires a great deal of honesty on the part of the artist working with these technologies to retain a commitment to process, when it is all so easy to fall back on the slick cover of the perfect graphic representation of an idea.
In the work of Aditya Pande we are thrown into a world of amorphous characters that whirl around his frame of vision prodding, sucking and entering each other. These franticly active works are created using layers of vector drawing and photography which are then overlaid with materials as diverse as ink, tinsel and acrylic paint. For all their visual impact, of which we will say more later, there is never any losing focus on the fact that we are led very deliberately into considering the processes involved in the works’ creation.
The generic drawing software used by the artist is capable of describing lines between points by attributing specific mathematical functions to define their resolution. As a kind of an anti-drawing drawing process the artist sculpts these vector line drawings by continuously stretching, blending and distorting them instead of plotting or generating the lines along specific paths. The artist creates a bank of these vector drawings that he calls upon over multiple works; in each case the stock drawing takes on a different shape depending on the compositional needs of the work. By opting to recall imagery that may have been present in a previous work, albeit in each case bending and twisting the base image into an entirely new avatar, Aditya invites the viewer to regard his process in the most precise and honest way possible for an artist using digital medium as a tool.
By calling upon imagery that recurs often through works and series, Aditya can be located in a tradition that has a strong lineage in the Subcontinent. The ateliers that sprang up around the Mughal courts from the mid part of the 16th Century used stencils as a routine part of their process in order to provide a faithful account of particular people, especially the emperors themselves, as well as animals and places. There was no hiding the fact that they were being used, rather it was precisely the point that an archetype was being formed that became important in the work.
At the same moment what is more important in terms of appreciating miniatures as works of art is what happened once the stencils had been removed. The true skill of the artist was then shown in the colouring, shading and composition of the work in order to create a unity of intent. So with the work of the greatest street artists working today, it is the juxtaposition of stencils and stock images with the surrounding environment that effectively prompts us to treat the work as art rather than mere design. At every stage of Aditya’s process there are elements that are left to chance, to the ineffable moment of artistic creation where he draws from deep within and allows the work to take shape in harmony with his own deliberate interventions.
The photographic imagery that is evident throughout this series are also constructed through the coalescing of deliberate moves and chance encounters. They include moments such as one where we find Aditya in a bathroom pulling a bizarre pose or a truck that has been lying abandoned in a compound close to his residence in Delhi that bears a painting of a cow’s eye. There is one work in which a vector drawing of a head is positioned over a photographic image of a section of wall that has a portion of plaster scraped off. Though the image was arrived at by Aditya’s response to the composition of the worn wall, once embedded in the work as the flesh of the head then we immediately make entirely new sense of the loss of paint as a facial wound.
Chance again presents itself in the actual printing process. At the moment that Aditya sends through artwork from computer to printer, a vast amount of data has to be processed by the machines in order for it to be intelligible at the output stage. Because of the sheer level of detail in Aditya’s work this sometimes means that information is incorrectly processed and unintentional lines occur in the final printed form. The artist uses these chance occurrences as opportunities rather than treating them as mistakes incorporating them into the work once he starts working over the print.
Aditya is a remarkably skilled draughtsman and the ink drawings that are used over the prints are subject to what might best be described as automatic drawings. Usually totally abstract, these vignettes evolve in an entirely organic way, the artist allowing his pen to follow a path that is free form. In the innumerable sketchbooks he possesses, complex designs heap themselves page by page into dazzling, curious worlds that have clear references to tribal designs. When he brings his talent to the prints they once again reinforce his commitment to a practice where process leads all else and where graphic design is made subservient to an artistic intent that follows, and is informed by, a number of art movements and traditions.
Thematically the works in this exhibition follow on from those that have provided Aditya with rich material over the last two years. Despite this, the narratives embedded in the works are open to multiple readings and this is made true by the fact that the artist, though wedded to the use of familiar motifs and symbols throughout his works, is not attempting to tell stories. As in the case of his ink drawings the representational forms, either in terms of the vector drawings or else the photographic imagery, are composed out a process that derives from automatic drawing. Dense scribbles that might snatch at the residues of a dream; a form culled from a fantasy; ultimately it is by an accretion of these symbols and motifs that the works come to be informed. Once the completed work is arrived at, Aditya will start a process of interpretation that is at once cathartic and personal to his experience but is not made public as he is determined to let them remain open ended.
One can align this journey to a Jungian exploration of depth psychology wherein the artist subjects himself to a explosion of creativity wherein he mayormay not be in total control of his sensesinorderto be left with a work of art that can then be interpreted both in personal terms but also, then, in terms of an individual consciousness that has tapped into some kind of universal, collective, bank of imagery and reference material. Out of this then any viewer, it is hoped, might be able to connect with the imagery and, therefore, experiences that are personal to them.