STEP IN LIGHT
Sohini Chattopadhyay’s photograph-based artworks are about the preface of objects. Preface varies from the ‘past’ of objects. Past of an object is something that exist(ed)s in space, while its (object’s) preface is a time-testing factor. The image of an omelet, in/as one of her imagery, appears as its own preface; based on the order in which her other photo-images are viewed, before and afterwards. Her works assure images, but not as the opposite of current, physical, logical, product or commodity.
Her choice of mundane, household objects and the way she acquires them through/for her artistic venture involves the erasure of: (i) its gravity, (ii) appropriate angle to perceptive it; and (iii) general acknowledgment about their existence and other such phenomenological aspects. Photography plus its digital articulation, for the sake of production of the visible defeats the monologist’s formulation of an image. It is a creative course on the melting of what is available for the sight: the world outside.
As a result, the way they are depicted is what they always ‘were’. The preface of objects defeats its own sensible view and in turn is cheated off an absolute envelop of its appearance!Hence each of her image shares a split identity: (a) of being an object within and (b) an image that contains the various pre and post avatars of what is just available to sight. This dual-nomenclature which is her photograph-based-imagery shoots back a set of queries to the onlooker’s sight: what was it that you were expecting while ‘watching’, that you could identify here? What is the power background that you desired out of such expectation?
Consider photo-reminiscent image (of/as) object, that contests the present: (a) The omelet, (b) the design of plant, (c) the multiple (not the ‘contour’ but) vision of a running human, (d) the resultant perceptual mobility of the butterfly , bird-like on the carpet, (e) the further resultant effect of the repetitive-ness of the running being, (f) tangentially touching the cloth sheet that withholds its mirror-image-as-act through the unstable nature of the butterfly, bird-like image—all in all, dissolve the hegemonic order of objects, wherein the appearance is at stake in its totality. The ‘preface’ or the self-sustaining states of these object claim for a democratically articulate existence wherein the identity, design, vision, mobility and simulacra and the like of the (not given) object are made to interact within, on equal terms.
Sohini’s works can be broadly classified as those (i) that disown the visible and (ii) that which treat theatricality as an existence-in-itself, despite the absence of characters (a la the destructed-vision); and (iii) those that evoke a ‘mixed sensory’ emotions, that too in the absence of an evocative agent/agency to do so! Her “Reflective Circles” set*2* makes visible that which confronts the ontology of objects. They look like glossy interior that has gone astray in the virtual-digital room. The cause-and-effect logistics relation between the appearance and what is felt-is deleted. As a continuation of this, in her Golden Thread series, there is a drama of speed and movement while the very agency (human figure) responsible for it slowly fades into a silhouette (and further abstraction), a surreal entity that delineates any phenomenal relation between the backgrounds that are necessary to such emotional link between the sign and syntax.
However, paradoxically, there is an order within this erasure of hierarchy. In what seems to be a culminating position of her sets of photo-digi-images, Sohini brings in a clear sensation and emotion whose responsible agency is not evacuated, but commixed. In “Time, the Dressmaker” she re-cycles the same object within two sets of permutations: their appearances/ visuality is variedly articulated. The image is presented as a process. The definition of an object is pushed from the premise of a noun to a verb. That which is frozen and repeated (like the recurring, painted face) becomes a residue.
Sohini’s images arrived at a certain point of visuality, after undergoing an orderly, articulated perceptive evolution. In the due process, the withholding and arrival meet at the preface that serves as her objects.
In retrospect, Sohini’s works are preface of a text. Objects, events and even certain intricacies within a found object lure her to ‘represent’ them. This is the exact moment of prefacing: Her representation involves photographing, painting, digitally articulating and repeating. Those who argue painting as a preface to photography and the latter as a prelude to digital-virtual devices of appearances, here is a set of works that do not refute but disagree with that ‘order of things’. So, the artist prefaces not only within the images but without, even with a historic continuity of the purity of media.
Her earlier preoccupation, for a while, was to construe, tear and re-assemble them. There would thus be three different orders. The visual would be regained: but the vision would be broken! Something close to making a collage was her preoccupation, which led her to her current mode of working. Her biographic details and her method of working—being similar—indicate what is obvious to today’s artist: Diaspora is inevitable even if one stays at his/her own place. The variety and various histories of objects made available to her was such that a simple act of direct representation and making a collage of available material, media, idea and frames of reference were, mutually, in differentiable. In the current Indian context, prefacing is an act of re-negotiating what is already the past. Sohini, through her works, want to re-visit the past, in her own terms. Preface, for her, is that which comes before, is different from, refuses to bleed into, and that which claims total independence from: the text or a given visual. Her works become the genetic predecessor to the readymade object/world available to us. But the final question is: how is it a presentable object when it is the culmination of various layers of self-completion. This is exactly what Sohini’s works were, always.//
*1* By now it is clear that each of her very photography-derived-imagery be addressed only multiply. More than that, they are anything but singular entities. The making of herself as an artist involved a pedagogic indulgence, wherein she was skeptical (of what exists as a system of visual learning) of the art educational discipline (which was a bundle of late effects of colonial devices to represent the unhindered, oriental). The constant shift in her linguistic, geographic and cultural identities admixed with her childhood and her belief in shifting theabsolutism of objects/images/sight mutually affect. This effect spreads to the level of refuting singularity even in the titling of her ‘sets’ of imageries. Thus her works share titles, subtitles and finally—together-end up as paragraphs, an oddity within the premise of titling visual productions in Indian context. Some of her works, for instance, are called as: “Golden Thread for the Freedom Run”, “Time, the Dressmaker”, and “My shadow in the evening has risen to meet me”.
*2* I call them as a set, instead of a series, for they demand a circularity that deletes a beginning, continuity and evocation of a narrative, with a beginning and an end, that, in the first place, give rise to the hierarchy within the identification and experience of an object, which is what her work specifically intend to contest. //
—H.A. Anil Kumar