Authenticity in the age of technology

Exhibit 320’s latest show focuses on the figurative language employed by artists to represent a person(a) or action that conjures and manipulates our understanding of past and current history. The gallery presents the works of Dhaka based Firoz Mahmud and Jaipur based Nandan Ghiya in twin solo shows titled “Images Attacked”. 

Mahmud’s solo Ninki: History runs over the Yamuna draws its name from the project, Urgency of Proximate Drawing or Ninki: UoPD. It begun anonymously in 2008 featuring photographs of popular iconic figures engaged in a typical activity associated with their respective professions. Mahmud’s choice of celebrity ranges from those in sport and entertainment to politics, highlighting a certain physicality that he then contrasts with drawn lines that tidily compose the performance of their frozen gestures. His work is inspired by both the fluid politics of his country, and the universality of propaganda and controversy. In the tangle of such worldliness, he redefines what it means to be ‘popular’ or Ninki as is referenced in Japanese.

The lines drawn on each photograph act as frames that superficially keep the celebrity from falling or failing, successfully mocking the mechanisms that perpetuate that sense of celebrity in an image. Mahmud’s employment of satire is especially admirable considering the ever-growing monster of imposed censorship. 

A series of woodcarvings and mixed media drawings debate the ethics of the factual and fictional in the makings of history and in collective memory. Both Drawing Bengal History and Distance of the Past are the artist’s current preoccupations that explore different cultures through technique and material of places he has lived and experienced, predominantly Bangladesh & Japan.

Nandan Ghiya’s work is rooted in familial bearings- of growing up in a traditional Rajasthan, where ancestral portraits and photographs from family albums adorned the walls of homes. Cosmetically restructured, pixelated or painted over, Ghiya reinterprets ethnographic readings of these images through the device of digital technologies.

In his solo, he presents The Blue Screen Series comprising portraits violated by screens of monochromatic blue. A spatial construct that in my mind echoes opens seas and skies, traversed yet not fully known and that can in an instant overwhelm us. Compared to virtual gangrene that mutates history and chronologies therein, Ghiya explores ways in which our minds are screened from reality. His randomly assembled collections of imperialistic portraits of royals stripped of their power- anonymous as any other in the virtual space, sometimes unrecognizable but for textual labels, conveys the inarticulateness of contemporary communication. Ghiya ultimately questions the number and degree of honest associations amidst technologies that keep us perpetually connected.

Both Firoz Mahmud and Nandan Ghiya work within the lineage of art and history, exploring the blurred lines between real and imagined, information and propaganda, strength and fragility.

Images Attacked seems a rather ironic title when we think of how much we are attacked by images today!