Decoding the contours and colours of Anukul's retro-figuration
Anukul's figuration precludes the social from the visual. His personalized figures are constructed in a manner as if they are drawn from some forgotten glyphs which still hold some potentials to complement human physique – the site from where all things are launched, for it is a force that also resists and obstructs. The glyphic reality helps to define his vision as an accretion of fragmentary takes on life but with a decisive link to the representational techniques of the bygone era in the history of the subcontinent. Anukul's diction apparently seeks to define art as a neutral scheme evidencing some traces of cultural memory as the present social relations and its concomitant political more have little role to play in his esoteric world.
Built through the application of a twinned method – a personalized take on linearity and colour – the artist seems comfortably perched in between the worlds of allegory and formalism; in fact the latter seems to enjoy a greater command over Anukul's imagery.
If the paintings from the entire series entitled 'Heart's Song', or some of the works to which he strives to assign poetic denotation by naming them 'Tale of the Sky', frame his art as a doorway to a dreamlike realm privileging a mystic glimpse into a splintered story, the works that come under the label 'Face' appear to have a strong inclination to a formalist ethos.
To define this 30-plus artist's recent work from a technical perspective, one may strive to cobble together the fragments he proposes on the platter. Figuration for him is a way to reorganize the picture plain by combining elements from the modern abstract tradition as well as from the Buddhist representational lore remembered through disciplined application of sharp and defused lines. But, Anukul also achieves the much-needed energy and vitality in his work through this personalized process. The configuration of space intervened by sinew of lines that at times go to creating a shadowy face or a figure – which are also mannered and as such read like a cryptic script, or a faint trace of a long-forgotten memoir of sorts – is a way for the artist to achieve timelessness.
However, the attempt at defeating social time is not reinforced by any philosophical or spiritual discoursing. 'There is always a mystic core in his thinking, something he acquired from his village roots, and [which helps him] creates a strange and mystic world of his own,' As is observed by the pre-eminent architect Shamsul Wares, who penned a smallish piece for the catalogue, a slim production where the reproductions of his paintings are too small for us to enjoy. The 'rural', though always emphasized as the Other in the presence of what is defined as 'urban', actually has little hold on the present show of Anukul.
The artist is temperamentally urban as is evident in his technical handling of the media (which is a mixture of acrylic and charcoal or conte on paper) as well as his compositions of various physical and non-physical elements. By the same token, as the vitality achieved also reinforces the melancholy he invokes, Anukul can be seen as a conventional romantic, whose home, undoubtedly, is located in the urban heartland.
As for his colour, it too adheres to some set rules that are urban in origin. The blue in his work typically alludes to the melancholic existence of the urban male, simultaneously signifying the womanly woman constructed by a masculine-coloured society.
In his world, red refers to power/energy in reference to the male of the species. As a result, Anukul's energy or vitality at last appears as a psychodynamics that accentuates the melancholi mood revealing a particular psychic texture excavated from underneath the surface. This melancholia – articulated as it is through the male gaze cultivating a distancing of the self – has an element of a less explored element – the sense of void. Anukul's skepticism about the derivation of direct meaning from the artistic activity has a strong presence in his vocabulary as he lets his quietism vis-à-vis the present-day realities get expressed in the creative outbursts of his mood.
Thus, one may conclude that, though the artist's figuration stands in contrast to the society's configuration, it manages to uphold some elemental mediation centering on the aesthetic understanding of life – namely the sensuous fervour around the body and its existential conditions. Without this the rhythm, the unity in the informal agglomeration of elements as well as the energy would not have been achieved.
Therefore, though un-figured figures inhabit his world, a certain subterranean current of empathy is brought to the surface against what is socially-defined space of the exhibition hall or gallery. This allows for the artist to favour non-communication – which is undervalued in this era of mass communication – and which provides the ground for Anukul to attempt further excavation.
Anukul's 4th solo exhibition at Gallery Shilpangan lasted from March 19 to April 3, 2010.