No Parking : An altruistic, public-spirited symphony of paintings, photography, and installations

“Is ‘No Parking’ a metaphor? Is this how Sharmila Aravind, PeeVee and Hamsavardhan visualise the title of their latest exhibition?” asks Hari Doss.

No Parking. Two words city folks dread to hear, especially when uttered in tandem. Bengaluru has a parking problem. A truism. But is ‘No Parking’ also a metaphor? And is that how Sharmila Aravind, PeeVee and Hamsavardhan visualise the title of their latest exhibition? We visited Chitrakala Parishad to find the answer.

What it did, though, was raise more questions. The first of which was one of semantics. Should this excellent effort by the three artists be called ‘selfish’ or ‘selfless’? Selfish it was not because highlighting harsh realities of a rather unplanned metropolis does not tend to find generous buyers. Sympathisers, yes. But not buyers. But ‘selfless’ didn’t seem to fit either. It surely was not the work of artists who have ‘removed themselves’ from their subject. They and their families are living the issues on a daily basis. So I now have settled on ‘altruistic’, defined as ‘the belief that the well-being of others is equally, if not more, important than the well-being or survival of the self’, as perhaps the closest word to what is. I throw in’ public-spirited’ for good measure. So the Altruistic, Public-spirited No Parking – an exhibition involving paintings (Sharmila Aravind), photography (Pee Vee) and installations (Hamsavardhan). 

The second question was one of classification and root cause. That we have big problem with our cities is a no brainier. But is it with the city planning (or lack there of) or jettisoning of its unique culture or consumption and lifestyle? Should we look at it from the prism of psychology or sociology or engineering? And speaking of prism, has glass come to mean all that is seen and yet all that is fragile? The work from these artists dip into all this and more. What I also liked is the immersive experience of building a dream city although it was interesting that the ‘Lego’ like blocks were also geometric and boxy and grey, perhaps a key reason for our problems in the first place!

Sharmila’s paintings always carry layers characteristic of a poet. We particularly liked the sparrow with a straw with nowhere to go. Poignant. And nostalgic for old Bangaloreans who were used to sparrows casually flying into their homes to build nests in ventilators (another feature whose obitury has since been written). There were others that were both interesting and personal – a painting about nature coexisting with development had the facade of our grandparents’ home in Tumkur. And a large canvas around the theme of ‘bela dingala oota’ (moonlight dinner on the terrace), again something we did a lot of as children but sadly not much anymore.

PeeVee has a keen eye and camera skills that are highly evolved. His captures of cityscapes are always interesting and tell a story. The ‘Tangle of Wires’ is a novel by itself and conveys everything that is wrong with our city planning. Only a die hard optimist would say – look, but there is electricity!  Also interesting was a collage of trees first chopped to a stump and then offered prayers, decorated with flower garlands and incense. Gave me an idea of opening a ‘Mara Devasthana’ for those who want to rid of their ‘Mara Dosha’ (along the lines of Sarpa Dosha). I think I am on to something big here.

Hamsavardhan’s installations underline the reality of the world around us. Tall monstrosities that we call home and mirror facades that somehow reflect our emptiness.

While it is unclear what, if anything, can be done to change all this at this stage, one of Sharmila’s pen on paper sketch perhaps provides a way for the future. The sketch is of a seed and inside the seed is a whole tree, already developed, but just in miniature. Let us hope that our minds similarly imagine new cities and roll them out rather than the grafted monstrosities we have been able to create now.

The exhibition was held between 20-26 September, 2018; at the Chitrakala Parishad, Bengaluru.

Hari Doss has had the privilege of a ‘Bengaluru of the 70s’ childhood and hence feels qualified to comment on the changes this beautiful city has seen during these past five decades. A technocrat and engineer by day, he enjoys writing about the outdoors, travel, lifestyle and the arts.

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