REVIEW

BY

ELLA DATTA

     
 

If he had not been a filmmaker and photographer, Ashok Ahuja could well have been a philosopher. He is deeply absorbed with the nature of appearance. There is ample evidence of this in Ahuja’s first exhibition Prints and imprints at Art Inc. The show includes digital images and a video installation of Hamlet reduced to one page.

Ahuja shows how an image can be transformed when seen from a different angle. He manipulates digital images in such a way that they take on new meanings. The drain hole of a toilet bowl, which has unclean associations, can be replicated from other viewpoints and arranged to look like a collection of pebbles or serial images of eclipsed moon. A series of lamps with their twisted flexes cast calligraphic shadows looking like a Japanese tokonama.

When asked if it is the magical transformation of images that interests him most, Ahuja says, “More than the transformation of images, it is the difference of perspectives that occupy me.” Besides experimentation with different perspectives, Ahuja is also engrossed with abstractions. The series of images depicting the four elements – fire, water, earth and air – attempts to evoke visually the lightness of air, the lively rhythm of fire and so on.

Does he tend to work on a series of images because of his experience as a filmmaker? (Ahuja wrote, produced and directed the award-winning film, Aadharshila and Vasundhara). No, he says. “There are images treated serially as well as those that are single.”

 

In all the works on view, however, the authorial signature is very much in evidence. Even if it is the computer mouse that helps to steep a part of an image in colour or create complex, calligraphic pictograms, one is always aware of the seeing eye and the contemplative mind. In his aesthetic approach, there is always a Zen-like austerity in what he chooses to show and what he wishes to obliterate.

Ahuja’s imagination is excited by many visual or textural stimuli. They could be architectural elements, they could be patterns created by light and shadows, graphic elements or just scenes found in nature. While most of the images have a meditative calm from which all turbulent emotions have been leached out and a sense of order and harmony instilled, once in a way, one gets a sweet, secret glimpse of nature. There are grass and moss, flowers and trees refreshed by some hidden spring of life.

Asked whether he has given up making films altogether, Ahuja says, “Nothing is final. For the moment I am not making any films but it not permanent withdrawal.” He has been working on the computer images for the last five years or so. In between periods of creative activity, Ahuja likes long reflective phases when ideas ferment under the surface like bubbling yeast. Such contemplation comes from other predilections. Ahuja has been fellow-in-residence at the Harvard University Centre for the Study of World Religions.

The exhibition remains open at Art Inc till February 8.

 
 

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