Long on Logic - Haren Vakil

Long on Logic - Haren Vakil

Long on Logic
About Haren Vakil’s 2010 solo show

There is an order in chaos and what seems to lack reason contains logic of its own. This describes Haren Vakil’s paintings and drawings. One is so used to conventional reflexes when it comes to seeing, hearing and reasoning that everyday absurdities seem reasonable. For instance, how would one explain the actions of some Mumbaikars who regularly cross the railway tracks at a risk to their life instead of using the footbridge? There’s an absurd need to save time rather than one’s life.

Vakil does set out to hold a mirror to any particular instances of incongruity or life itself. He’s an artist-artist. Unlike his young contemporaries, for him the act of painting is not a political action. He makes art for the pleasure of its process and the unplanned result. This passion started in childhood when his extensive doodling was encouraged by his parents and a good artist-teacher. It would be appropriate to say that he paints, and life spontaneously seeps into his imagery. The compositions encompass concrete structures, birds and animals of his whimsical imagination and hybrid people with oval faces and animal legs. While the scenes are not realistic they are inspired by his everyday activities, East and West cultures, his favourite music Jazz and much more.

The elements from various strands of life come together in an orderly fashion in his noticeably structured compositions. The lines, the colours, the balance of elements suggest how Vakil manages with ease the madness of events and a crowd of things. His visual language has been shaped by his years in architectural planning and draftsmanship that have binding rules and restrictions unlike art practices. Also, one is reminded of surrealists Rene Magritte’s handling of objects and human figures, and Giorgio de Chirico’s treatment of city structures. The Surrealist influences are just one of the aspects informing Vakil’s works. He employs wit and humour in the treatment of his subject. One sees an affiliation between Vakil’s imagery and American Native Art especially in the way he makes facial features and postures. Much of his surreal imagery obliquely owes to Indian pop culture, calendar art and street life even though he has been living in Canada for more than 35 years. One sees a balance of restraint and freedom. And for these reasons it is inappropriate to categorise his work to any genre or region.

Vakil’s works have a buzzing presence. The diverse details in his works are akin to our lives which come together cohesively with their own absurd logic.

Jasmine Shah Varma
November 2010