Saturday, March 31, 2007

Kriti Arora's "Inroads - Bloodlines"

Kriti Arora's maiden solo show, "Inroads -- Bloodlines", (at Palette 14 Golf Links, New Delhi which opened on March 29) is strikingly stark, and even a little grim in its theme and presentation. But this is one time that one would not complain because there have been no serious, theme-based art shows which can connect with the common viewer of art in the last few years.

In this series, Arora presents oil paintings of road builders, and in each of the canvases she plays up the innards -- the stomach, the lungs, the kidney, the spine, and finally the skeletal bones of the workers. The imagery conveys itself directly -- the harsh life -- inner and outer -- of those men who are for ever tarred in life. The faces of the road builders, without too much of variation, show tortured and, at times, vacant expressions, something like the self-portraits of Vincent van Gogh.

What is impressive about Arora's effort is the fact that at a time when artists are too sentimental about the pre-economic reforms era of a failed socialist society of India, she takes up the image of a worker at his damnedest best -- doing the hardest job of all in the harshest of conditions, and she presents it with great clarity.

The installation of the road builders standing in different stances against the videobackground of a raging furnace fire is startling. The life-size figures are made of fibreglass and tar.

The work carries an echo of the German artist, Kathe Kollwitz, who had done some moving drawings of Depression Era Germany and of the working class.

Arora seems to have other, more personal, reasons for doing this series. It has to do with the death of her father, Anil Saari. He was a fiercely sincere socialist and a first rate film and social critic. In this show, the personal and the social roots of Arora combine to produce an impressive series of images and sculptures.

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