Man is made of his desires

Man is made of his desires

Jasmine Shah Varma

Desire is central to human nature. And things are central to desires.
Chinmoy Pramanik encapsulates human tendencies and pattern of life by portraying sundry objects like bullets, capsules, wine glasses, hammers, scissors, pliers, stools, pants, bottles and coffins in his sculptural works. In Germs, his first solo show at Bangalore’s GallerySke Pramanik summarises his observation of the cycle of life and man’s dependence on material things.

Critics of free markets and capitalism have been pointing their guns at ‘excessive consumerism’ which is common source of inspiration for artists. In such a scenario Pramanik says he wants to throw light on the human condition as a neutral observer and that he does not condemn the tendency to want more. He accepts this condition saying that it’s not always greed.

The most poignant work in this compact solo collection is a huge seven-foot figure of a man cast in bronze standing smugly behind a rolling shutter. The figure with a large belly evokes contempt. But he bears an ambiguous expression. The flesh seems to be disintegrating into little cut-out pieces of assorted objects that the figure is composed of. It is a metaphor for a man made of his desires and possessions that Pramanik expresses differently in other works too. A bit of physical labour is involved in seeing this work closely. A shutter, which has metal film with images of objects, has to be rolled up with a lever before one can get close to this imposing figure.

Pramanik usually does not portray the human figure in his works. He follows a narrative, story telling format but prefers to do so in a language of metaphors usually employing objects as motifs. He has been working in various mediums whether its sculpture in a variety of material or paintings on paper and canvas. In recent paintings like ‘Vitamin Capsules’, done prior to the Germs collection, had sea of everyday objects on a large canvas each painted no bigger than an inch. These objects were shown floating in air like dust particles to symbolise the human’s unending desires. In Germs he takes this imagery and concept furthers in a series of five etched zinc plates. Unlike the randomness of objects in previous works, here Pramanik has presented them in a linear order. The first plate has objects in circles indicating the starting of the cycle of life, followed by a plate with objects within heart shapes indicating passion for objects, followed by metallic capsules symbolic of the dependence on material possessions, then a plate with the central image of a bullet amidst a sea of objects and finally the result of destruction is seen in the last plate where he shows a coffin filled with human desires.

In both these works the medium and the message go well together in a successful execution. However that cannot be said about the large steel capsule which has objects coming out of sockets in it. Another work in the collection, a table with a spread of steel capsules, works only in the context of the other works in the show. Visually it holds little for the viewer. It’s like an auxiliary sentence in a piece of writing that emphasises the central point but can be done away with.

But that does not take away the punch out of the overall show. Pramanik is an innovative artist who is consciously experimenting with his visual language. Already in this short span as a professional artist he has surprised his regular viewer with markedly varying execution. His concern remains consistent but there’s unrest within him to speak a different language each time he makes a presentation. What works for him is that these transitions are not jerky and put-on. They come naturally to him. His work is made distinct by the emphasis on their neat and finished final appearance. From the idea, the process to the final appearance, Pramanik pays attention to detail. Through his years at the Baroda school of art to now he has created a body of work that questions, remarks and sets the viewer thinking. It is no wonder then that he has been awarded promising artist by two separate organisations. In 2006 he won the Kashi Award for Visual Art -2 and the Art India Magazine –IHC Award for Promising Artists in 2007. Pramanik gets us desiring to see more of his art.

Jasmine Shah Varma is an independent curator and art writer based in Mumbai
This article was published in ‘Art & Deal’ magazine in 2007