In the selectively lit Art Houz gallery, whole spaces seem to be engulfed in shadows. But these dark voids rightly enhance the works on display, effortlessly lending them a sense of mystery. All have traces of wood in them; some are installations while others are mountings. As one enters, an installation hung from above titled Fusion — a body made of wood, lying face down on a host of wooden protrusions — catches one unawares. “I see the body to be mine. That sense of protection that one receives, when you are grounded to something physical… I wanted to portray that feeling. It can even be the Earth, taking our weight,” says Vijay Pichumani, the artist behind this interestingly curated body of work, titled (Im)possibilities. Though this work stands as an exception, a common thread runs through his rest — all of them are derived from the sights, sounds and emotions from Vijay’s travels in the past year.
The shape of water
Vijay, who is essentially a print maker currently experimenting with other genres, is quite a bit of a traveller — he would often take his bike and go on road trips, mostly impromptu. It was one such journey that ultimately became his muse for this collection. “In the past year, I had travelled from Thiruvarur to Tirunelveli via Madurai, Nagercoil to Marthandam. It was a 42-day-long journey and it was raining all the way. This was when cyclone Ockhi had hit,” recalls the artist, adding that through the trip, the idea of water and the excess of it left him wondering. Besides, a lot of trees were uprooted during the time, which he found left abandoned on the sides of the road. “And so, throughout the journey, I used to think about how I can redefine the concept of water by using the wasted wood” — which ultimately led to his body of work titled Drop. “If you look at the shape of the drop, the base is similar to that of an uprooted tree — rounded. This made me connect the two,” Vijay explains, pointing to the drop-like structures he made from 11 kinds of wood including jackfruit tree, teak, mahogany, rubber and palm, in his hometown Marthandam. The shades vary with the wood, giving the work as a whole, a sense of gradation in colours.
When travelling back to Chennai recently, the 32-year-old artist realised that there is another side to this coin. If excess water plagued people at one point, the shortage of it is the problem now. On seeing the deplorable conditions in the city firsthand, he set to create a few pieces following this line of thought. One such work is titled Waiting for Nila Water — a large format work covering an entire wall, that portrays women queuing up with their pots, as a water tanker approaches from the background. It is a realistic work, a sight that has plagued the city for months. On similar lines is an installation of water pots — based on the vibrantly colourful ones that we spot very often — in wood. Lines run along the surface of these pots, and each of these lines is in a different shade of brown. “These lines that cover the surface are the layers of earth we dig into in an effort to find water,” says Vijay, explaining the varying shades.
Vignettes from the streets
Simple thoughts and sights from the roadside have also crept into this collection of Vijay’s. One such beautiful work is titled Survival Instinct — a moth, with various patterns on its wings, etched on an uneven wooden surface. The rawness and simplicity of this piece is unavoidable. “I was taking a break from riding and was sitting on the side of the road, when I spotted a leaf with an interesting pattern. On moving closer, I realised that it was not a leaf. At that instant it flew away. I was fascinated by how it merged with the environment around it,” recalls Vijay.
Animal and bird motifs are often visible in Vijay’s works. A dog feeding its litter and a tiger lurking in the dark form his subjects. Patterns depicting air flow and wind, cut through these works.
Speaking of his varying techniques and styles — sometimes abstract, sometimes realistic and at others fragmented — he smiles, “The technique or style is not what matters to me. It is the end product. I have to be able to manifest what is in my mind, and that’s all that matters.”
(Im)possibilities will be on display till October 31 at Art Houz gallery, Sterling Road.