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GIGI SCARIA explains why he employs houses and Mahatma Gandhi in his artworks

Gigi Scaria, born 1973, in this quick conversation, attempts at summarising cultural heterogeneity. He has graduated from College of Fine Art, Thiruvananthpuram and completed Masters of Art from Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi. Scaria not only concerns with habitat in comparison to human civilization but also shares his views on how the perspective will be replaced as the post-corona phase restores the existing equation.


I got to know about his recurring representations of homes, buildings and Gandhij.


“For me, Art is not just about beauty, imagination and aesthetics rather it reflects the societal function and routine. I don’t focus on the beauty of space but stress on the present and significant structure of the society.”


AA: You re-create images, stills, historical and hierarchy events, that concerns society. What inspires you to work in and with the same?


GS: I observe a tremendous disparity, social, political and structural, in our country. I began to learn this more when I moved from my hometown, Kerala to north. For me, Art is not just about beauty, imagination and aesthetics rather it reflects the societal function and routine. I don’t focus on the beauty of space but stress on the present and significant structure of the society.


Ecce Home, behold the Man or how one become what one is, 2018. Scaria through the biblical motifs brings forth the present situation of mankind

Sculptural installation, 2016, Wood, glass, concrete, iron and paint. Scaria realised this work at his Norway residency in 2016, where he recreates the form of house and mountain in a miniature version as an extension of his ongoing process

AA: Mahatma Gandhi is a recurring political figure in your artworks. Could you elaborate on why Gandhi and why not Ambedkar (or anyone else)?


GS: From the beginning, in our school days, we are taught about Mahatma Gandhi more than Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar. Our syllabus covers very little about Ambedkar. However, the subject is indeed debatable as his theory discussed increasingly with the changing political scenario of Delhi.


My focus on Gandhiji is because of his ideas and personality. In 2011, I was invited to participate in a curated show in England. They asked for a proposal on the topic of ‘What is the relevance of art in conflict?’. And I, who believes in non-violence, had proposed a concept concerning Gandhi. For the same, I tried finding people who directly or indirectly were connected to Gandhi in some way or maybe met him. Subsequently, I had interviewed them. On the basis of these, I made the video work for this show.


From then on Gandhi has been a recurring figure in my work. In Bapu, an exhibition curated by Gayatri Sinha, I had presented photographs, which I had clicked at Porbandar. While for another show in China I had tried comparing Gandhi with Mao. So, this went on and also the figure attracts multiple interpretations and controversies.


“From the beginning, in our school days, we are taught about Gandhi more than Ambedkar. Our syllabus covers very little about Ambedkar. However, the topic is indeed debatable as his theory is so much discussed with the changing political scenario of Delhi.”


AA: I see in your works there are houses or fragments of building or apartments or it is homes. Does it create synecdoche, a part is whole and whole is part, sort of essence, apart fro the economic socio-political effect?


GS: I feel, cities like Mumbai and Delhi are microcosms. They are miniature versions of whole India. The migration of the population of India within the states has caused this change in the identities of these metros. I have witnessed this happening since the time of my travel and shift. Besides, the disparities have also caused the development in the structural patterns of the houses. According to what I have realised, the identity of individuals is directly related to the appearance of the house or home. One can manipulate this idea in different ways. Similarly, during my Norway’s residence, I reflected upon the natural surroundings of my location.


AA: In a recent article of Indian express, you said the Balcony, a painting by Sudhir Patwardhan reflects an idea of loneliness. Although the external appearance of your works differ the underlying theme of urbane is common.


GS: That is the reason I like Sudhir’s works. Most importantly, he addresses rudimentary facets like labour, social stratum, and congestion in urban space. And, I kind of deliberately exempt human figures from my landscapes. I am more concerned about space and region. For me, it is a story of human existence through built construction. I am interested in architectural elements and feel the way one constructs is also the way one perceives the world around. Psychologically, we not only understand the personality of the makers but also a cultural region—where we directly associate the history and emotions of people who live there.


AA: How do you perceive the present situation of the urgency of our globe?


GS: Corona is one of the dimensions we perceive in regards to what is already happening in the world. Everyone appears to be discussing ‘now and post’ of the phenomenon. At the same time, for our benefits, we are also orienting to the same for our convenience. This sense of ambiguity persists because the vaccine is not yet invented. The moment it happens, newer perspectives will replace the old. Besides, we are already observing many impending issues around us, like climate change, etc. So, it is just not corona, but also social as well as political equations that are immediately transforming their faces. Plus, our duration of generation is shrinking because technology has accelerated this drif.


“So, it is just not corona, but also social as well as political equations that are immediately transforming their faces.”


In this attempt of re-creating a new language of representation through established infrastructural elements, Gigi Scaria draws our attention to the symbolic constructs of humanism, which are everywhere and speaking loud in order to gain our attention. Although we are partially aware, they are compulsively remnants of the societal conditioning.

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