Javed Jalil's stirred-up world
One minute Javed Jalil's work seems to appeal to the unhappy state of our existence, and the next minute it assails us with its formal chaos to trigger an emotional outburst almost verging on the ecstatic. The ambivalence that stems from such conflicting emotional responses affects the evaluatory frame of mind, and one stands against the plethora of images – which seem more like torqued versions of a reality envisioned at the time of uncertainty and fear – burdened with the task of unravelling the mantra that makes possible the combinatory logic active behind such imagery.
One may sense the impact of the present-day social disorder in the array of work that are mostly oil and ink on canvas – those that Jalil brings together in his recent solo at La Galerie of Dhaka Allaiance Française to elicit response from the viewers. One may also read the same codes as raffish takes on segments of inner life which otherwise remain tucked away at the furthest corner of the unconscious.
Whichever way one may proceed to view his repertoire – one that consists of recently painted biggish canvases – before attempting a deconstruction of Javed's idiom, after surveying the works of the exhibition, which the artist ambitiously names 'Tear the Skin of Reality!', one realizes that the works help their creator attain a certain intentionally ill-devised bridging of form and content, and also emotion and intelligence. The title of the show may not leave much room for the intellectually-inclined to inch towards a definition in tandem with the psychological firmament that governs his domain, however, one realizes that it has a fair chance of going down well with the off-kilter, medicalized frame of mind of today's schizophrenia-prone new breed of 'outsiders.'
Meanwhile, in the midst of the effusion of mannered renditions of humans and mutants, one feels almost like cavorting with the absurd – a psychic experience apparently links us with our 'primordial self.' But here, through an urbanite's mediation, one feels as if the artist has cast a defused eye on life's primeval impulse. The absurdity that Jalil's work dotes on, for the most part, appeals to our plastic construction-saturated mind that favours the media-savvy imaginings over the 'real.'
Though the impassionedly put lines and nondescript shapes makes the canvases seem like they are bursting at the seams and ensures a clear psychological impact upon viewing – as they are employed to transport the viewers to a world where 'mystery of the unknown' reveals itself, as is declared by the artist in the preface to the catalog – the actual journey consists of jerks and jaunts which have their own inherent appeals. The imagery Jalil proposes might make one uneasy at the beginning, but later they might lead to a sense of euphoria, that too as a result of getting to enjoy these visual concoctions the artist puts together as a response to modern life.
If the prima-facie content of the political turmoil and violence is not to be found here, one may discover the reflection of the ruckus that results from them,
which rocks our present-day existence on a daily basis, makes us nervous and even schizophrenic.
All of Jalil's spectacles somehow echo such disturbed mental states, but their formal aspect makes one realize that the paintings are of similar intensities and temperament, which in the end enforces a second thought about the social function of such images. They all look similar, and of formalist type. Had the works from this show been brought under the same title, it would not have made much difference as the curlicues of lines, and the distortions of forms facilitated by artist's frenzied expression decontextualize them to an extent that the link to the subject matters the titles suggest is severed making his effort almost seem like a celebration of dementia and chaos.
Thus, one is assured of the fact that the artist is not an interrogator. The same is also evident in the well thought out titles: 'Innocence With the Hungry Tide', 'Emergence of Self', 'Bicycle of Thought' etc. The artist role may be defined as an 'anal' father who directly animates the fantasmatic support of our being, to borrow an expression of Slavoj Zizek.
As an intimatist, Jalil allows the viewer an entry into a location of 'trauma' turned into 'pleasurable sensation', a troubled space that has shredded all traces of causality – an intersection of sorts where things loses their context.
Though he ably gives an intemperate twist to every figure and form depicted, Jalil keeps a safe distance from the 'lowest depth' of the social stratum – where one may discover things of political implications, albeit embedded in crud.
In the end one realizes that he is no 'base materialist', one of those crud-explorers whose primary intention is to 'tip things over, or make them stumble, fall, lie in the mud' to ensure that what stands vertically to our own existence representing power and politics fall flat on their face to ensure continuity of resistance from the vast open flat-land and its inhabitants – the nonhierarchical people.
Therefore, Jalil's seemingly post-apocalyptic imagery, which could have been a way for him to privilege the ominous to all other categories of events and realities amidst which we all live, is a response to the violence of our time, but it does just that by avoiding the politico-ideological power struggle.
Yet, it is obvious that Jalil has woken up to the fact that in the face of the social inadequacies of past formulas he must turn a corner and propose something new. He has done exactly that through this exhibition.
'Tear the Skin of Reality!' was held at Alliance Française, Dhaka, January 21 to February 2, 2010.