Updated: Apr 5, 2020
Nithyan Unnikrishnan Painting
This painting reeks of consumption – THE WAY our eyes squint and narrow down to enter the tunnel of expansive information and instant knowledge (like 2-mins Maggi noodles), like everything laid down tantalizingly, symbolic of the grandeur of a red carpet. THE WAY we are unable to use our peripheral vision because we are so consumed by our unquenchable thirst to just guzzle down anything and everything scattered on the immediately visible path, and treat our senses like a bottomless pit. The old man’s closed eyes as he takes a drag, conjures up the same ol’ same ol’ mercantile life and the macabre existence that deters us from appreciating the wondrous vistas existing in this vast spatial arena. The eyes just keep narrowing and narrowing and narrowing, slipping further into a state of wakeful slumber, burying its being in a heap of garbage that the external world keeps pouring out mercilessly. No victory over the senses, no victory over the garbage…
“The mind is obese,
It chomps and chews all day,
It pats itself on its back, and tells itself that it’s no mean feat,
And then it wonders,
Where is the emptiness after all…”
But then Nityan Unnikrishnan’s creations almost always make you think of varied possibilities and multiple trajectories.
The other possibility that strikes is that the old man is a creative soul who’s simply looking for some inspiration. He’s taking a break from his mundane mess by seeking solace in the circus of bulletin world. The pictures in the background are perhaps paintings created by him – from the heart-wrenching famine to Baba Ramdev’s steely yogic resolve that makes even the femme fatale shudder under her bosom – hugging blouse. Maybe he’s a satirist who uses derision and his paint brush to capture the world. And in the process, he wanders the undulating roads of the ‘status-quo-ish landscape’.
An artist or a consumer, an exhausted old man spending the fag end of his life enmeshed in a world of vicarious adventure or an observer who likes to hang himself upside down in the physical realm, at the end of the day the artist’s perception is the artist’s perception. Neither you nor I can make absolute sense out of it, we can only interpret, project and tell ourselves lovely stories.
The vintage green window is reminiscent of a typical Kolkata window entrenched atop most Bengali households. The proverbial pillar of news – The Telegraph, an English daily published in Kolkata in 80s, the typical smoker’s countenance and the artistic shirt confirm my doubts that the painter has been highly inspired by the laid-back disposition of the ‘Bangla manush’.
Nevertheless a creation brimming with paradoxes, and a style so enigmatic, you will want to keep weaving different stories around it…
Art Location: Chatterjee & Lal
Also read: Complaining Man II by Abul Hisham