Friday, June 3, 2011

digital reflections

On the digital art of the Trivandrum based digital artist Priyaranjanlal.

The shift to the digital is also a move away from the hitherto corporeal viscerality of graphic and plastic art. It is a shift from the feel of the surface of the canvas, wood, mud or stone, the smell of paints, the leaves of the sketch books, the pencil stubs, the swish of the brushes, the stains of charcoal, the wood shavings, and the dirt and dust of mud and stone… The digital domain is one of immateriality, where nothing is tactile, and one that exists (?) in a virtual space where touch, smell and taste are alien – where sight (and sometimes sound) alone reigns supreme. It is this virtuality that gives it an ethereal and oneiric quality, which makes the very process of imaging and also reception a very baffling and intriguing experience.

Having been liberated from the obligations of fidelity to the object-world, the digital domain is made of stuff that dreams and thoughts are made of, occupying a limitless and enchanting, yet elusive virtual space.. So, it has something in it that is alien to what is around, the concrete, the tangible.. How does one capture the aesthetics of sensation through something incorporeal? How does one tell one’s own story, convey one’s own experience and fears through such an elusive medium?

Interestingly, the chaotic expanse of the past is also akin to a virtual space, strewn with images, memories, spaces and experiences that are malleable in an infinite number of ways. One conjures up images from both to make sense of the present, and to ‘fix’ their elusiveness and immateriality into something visible and ‘concrete’.

Drawing Book Series

  • 01 ClassIV  Photoshop, Inkjetprint On Paper
  • 02 ClassIV  Photoshop, Inkjetprint On Paper
  • 03 ClassIV  Photoshop, Inkjetprint On Paper
  • 04 ClassIV  Photoshop, Inkjetprint On Paper
01 ClassIV  Photoshop, Inkjetprint On Paper

01 ClassIV Photoshop, Inkjetprint On Paper

This series consists of a series of images reworked from the ‘unfinished’ sketches – of primal forms and shapes – from the school drawing book. In a way it is an attempt to go back to the past, to establish vital connections with it, to capture it and bring it into the present. It is also an exercise in linking the digital present with the analogic past, a dialogue between two periods in art history as well as the artist’s life. But instead of being the ‘childhood’ of the digital, the sketchbook here is a presence that captures the ever-youthful yet deeply frustrating yearning to capture/recreate the object-world and its basic shapes and colours into the two-dimensionality of an art form, painting.

So here the circles, trying to take shape within the grids, dream of being a rounded pot, the semicircle is a future umbrella, the straight line is a future leaf-nerve, the oval an owl, and the model stork waits for the other grid to create its replica. What is and was past suddenly becomes pliable and plastic yielding themselves in the digital present for re-formation and encounters with new planes. They find new lives in the digital planes added to them; they ‘re-draw’ and draw upon the drawing book figures creating a tension between the irredeemable past and a present that is in constant flux. Thus the digitally overlaid spaces play with and rework these images, bringing into their ‘grid-bound’ and limited domain the ‘visions’ of the sky and the freedom of colours and shapes. The ‘lessons’ and regimen of ‘learning’ art are also ‘re-worked’ and recaptured to the digital present, which seems to defy all rules and lessons, fighting yet larger grids and ‘rules’ as it were.

The fact that the drawing book, inert and stubborn, has stayed behind and remained, further underline its materiality. It is this very materiality that comes back to haunt the digital domain which in turn tries to ‘capture’ it and re-draw it and draw it into the digitized world.

Hide and Seek

This series works with an old childhood album containing photographs of the artist and his family. These yellowing and moth-eaten fragments of frozen moments from the past, enter into a dialogue with the digital, bringing alive the dubious connections between the analogic ‘real’ and the digital. These specular images of the artist’s childhood are digitally ‘mastered’ here – erased, cut up, duplicated, scribbled over, superimposed.. In a way, they extend themselves, like from the past into the present, from the analog into the digital plane. New digital objects in the form of miniature animals finds their habitat in this world; they nuzzle themselves into the empty hands of kids, peep into the old tin boxes that contain photographs, while a cockroach (yet another superimposed image) nibbles at them.. New skies take over as backdrops, the scars and bruises on the body, magnified digitally, re-live both pain and memory. The uncle in uniform dominates the foreground, like in the artist’s childhood, who is relegated to the background, or is taking refuge behind the bars of the digital. The artist, playing hide and seek with different media, constantly shies away from the brutal frontality of the photograph. He uses the digital planes to hide his face; he doodles on them, or soften them. It is a ploy that works both ways, for it is both a hiding as well as a revealing, a way to ‘bring one’s self in’ to the image. What is also brought into the foreground is the materiality and hence the transience/fragility of the photographic medium itself. We find visible signs of wear and tear, of time eating its way upon/through it. In one of the images we find the moth-eaten parts of the photographs digitally magnified, and in another, an all too real cockroach is working at a photo.

Surfaces collide, analog and digital, past and present, one and two-dimensional, personal and public, memory and forgetting, real and virtual.

Webcam Series

This series takes further the celebration of the inter-play with surfaces and various media. Images of the artist and his room captured through the web camera is interlaced with drawn images, and everyday symbols. The enclosed nature of the room is constantly under attack by these images of freedom and flight. The image of an aeroplane seeks its way from inside the room to the window to and outside; kids zigzag in joy; a dog, watching the rain outside, thinks up an umbrella; the walls imagine light bulbs, the man walking upside down thinks of his obverse, the shadow of a cat watches over the shadow of a fan; couples, hand-in-hand, meander through the digital image of the window; the artist’s hand tries to capture the imaged butterfly; the plastic chair dream of a wheel chair; people tug a plane across the enclosed space of the room; a cat leaps into the one-dimensional plane of colour from the image of the room..

In this series, there is a constant interplay and collision between spaces and images, imaged and recorded, made and dreamt. Flat, one-dimensional spaces of colours, trisect the other planes that populate the room - the image of the artist, his reflection upon the mirror, the little animal-images, and thought-balloons. What is ‘picturised’ is the room of the artist as well as his ‘interiors’, the stuff with which he works, and the planes he has to juggle with constantly to make sense of the real, and also memory. Like spaces and images from the past and present, memory and imagination, real and imagined, all seem to gather life to swarm around, at the same time underlining and erasing, affirming and negating, constantly yearning to make sense of the ‘stuff’ experience and reality is made of.

Straddling the Analog and the Digital

Like the past and memory, the problem with the digital is not only its infinite vastness and immateriality, but also the poignant impossibility of ‘mastering’ or taming it to our own essentially limited parameters of cognition and expression. For instance, how do you make sense of your own biography, or how do you place yourself (or find a place for yourself) in this realm of the diffuse, the incorporeal and the virtual?

The series of digital images by Priyaranjanlal addresses this question head on, by taking the digital horse to the pond. He uses the digital to confront both his personal past and the very process of his growing up as an artist. For this, he turns back to the ‘basics’ as it were, to the remnants of his own past: the drawing book which brought him face to face, not very pleasantly though, with the task of representing the world in its own image, and the family album, those fragments from the past, that captured images as moments of past for future consumption. In his digital studio, these ‘found’ objects of memory turn into tools of reflection upon one’s own past and the art. And by exhibiting them, they take corporeal forms to straddle the worlds of the analog and the digital.

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