Artists

In her new works (1998), Jaya Ganguly charts out a dynamic space of bodies opening out from a turbulence within that sends the inner sap bursting forth in several directions through sundry channels, the channels more often than not assuming deviate, mechanical forms defying the disposition of the organism that hold and impels them. The clash of the organic and the mechanical is played out not only in terms of the erupting body torn open to reveal the machine in operation, but also through the presence of the fish and the fish eyes, signs of an organic history that continues unaffected by the machinations of the machine. The violent dislocations of the bodies themselves, particularly in their interactions with other bodies, register a process of the organs turning into pipes and sprouts, while the sap still flows in a frenzy.

In a text a couple of days ago, Jaya had spoken of the ‘issues’ in her paintings: ‘The issues are all related to the behaviour and situation of man in society and his reactions to the various forces acting upon him-from his society and environment. The historic endeavours of man’s balancing acts with nature, which is disturbed continuously from man’s efforts to acquire and command greater achievements utilizing his intellect and aspirations,’ serve for her as the ‘backdrop’ to every ‘subjective thing or event’ that comes her way. ‘Thus the landscape remains the same…’

Figures, forms, objects, masks, landscapes in violent dislocation, all in the whirl of a movement, constitute Jaya's universe, with blots and blocks of colour often underscoring the disruptive violence of the composition. In In and Out of Ecstasy, for example, a black vertical patch on right underscores the light grey base on which the figures face and confront each other, with stump-like arms approaching from left with flowers sprouting from one of the stumps; with fish eyes, in groups of three for each, and six overlapping feet offering a magical release from the density of the composition. Sharing Old Memories, a sort of a companion piece to it, offers more violence in the accumulation / proliferation of elements emerging / erupting from the bodies, all caught in the fluidity of the flowing sap lines. A Joint Venture could be part of the same series, with the ominous breasts on the right offering resistance in a battle of the sexes, with the woman's gaping mouth-red enclosed in a blackish brown. Preying for a Prey, offering greater disembodiment spread through arms, feet, buttocks, breasts, the stump-bone, inbuilds perspective in the form of gaping faces on the right watching, one over the other, with a red arrow rising from the feet to point to the single / singular eye.

Jaya's eyes-human and fish-carry a position from perception to perspective to perspicacity. They are the still centres from which one observes and even tries to come to terms with the tumultuous disturbance in the order caused by man in his challenge to nature and the natural, in his 'endeavours' to rechannelize the natural sap / flow of the life forces to serve other ends than those for which they were ordained. The fish eyes in particular draw a magic energy from their locus in water. Born in water, trained to operate / function in water, elementally belonging to water, and invariably bound to the movement of multitudes through water, making their way through water-in shoals-the eyes bear the experience of seasons, winds and water in their natural continuity triumphant over human intervention. The fish eyes above, often supported / sustained by the multiple feet at the base, give Jaya's overwhelmingly riotous scenarios a framing in permanence / eternity, which in more contemporary terms may even be interpreted as ecological certitude. The faces as grotesque masks, in Three Musketeers, are extended to grotesquerie in the bodily forms, with the figure at right in white, revealing a body channel, exposed and thrust open, moving downwards to a heart-like organ, and a leg opening out into a shower; and the figure at left with its neck and body burst open, framed and sustained by the overlapping feet as base, and the middle figure with its three parallel fish eyes, one under the other. In Apprehension with Expectation, a snake wraps up the body, and the face is torn up into eruptive muscular violence, with currents piercing them and developing pincers to confront the snakes, the overlapping feet at base still sustaining the violence. A companion piece, Guarded Joy of Expectation, has the same rightward lean-back, suggesting volition, the same tearing-up of the face, the same tendency of organic forms turning to mechanical forms and the same force of sustenance in the base made of overlapping feet-in this case, of three feet, two with four fingers each.

In her disposition of the fish eyes and the feet, Jaya seems to create a deliberate ambivalence and magicality by her violation of the natural arithmetic and correspondences of bodies and feet and eyes, allowing the feet and eyes an independent life, liberated from the bodies and forming a visionary space. The sheer profusion of fish eyes for both figures, in His and Her Majesty, suggests a fecundity that could have the potency to tear down the dead weight of authority.

The feet at the base are more elementally drawn into the composition in Past, Present and Future, where the sap flows from the back of the head of the figure on left, with the spout rising to face the feet, opening like a trap on the left, and scurrying at right, wrapped together in the act of withdrawal, the action caught in circling bonds.

Animal forms and landscapes, not so common and frequent in Jaya's present suite, offer points of reference as well as points of conflict in some of her works, as in Scared Existence, where the horsehead with dislocated eyes at left provokes a more than usual violent, confrontationist resistance from the woman at right, torn up from within, with an arm torn off in the middle, the right end turned into a spout, a hole in the centre of the arm spurting sap, crossing over to the horse's face, the spout virtually charging at the horse's mouth.

In A Gaze upon the Starry Night, the woman figure at right, set against a blue window with a starscape beyond, seems to draw energy from the landscape that breaks up her face into an abundance of small eyes, behind her puffed up eyes and blue veil, with free flowing pipes opening up across her body, one emerging from the navel.

Centring on the body, almost divested of gender, as the field of action, Jaya conjures up a battle where invisible forces-too sinisterly subjective to be obvious-seek to destabilize and de-animate the organism, which asserts itself in the flow and play of sap, under the watchful surveillance of the fish eyes and the assurance of the feet as base.

Published in the catalogue, Jaya Ganguly Paintings by Art heritage 9, 1998-99
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