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Layers, not smokescreens

  • Published at 01:14 am December 10th, 2017
  • Last updated at 05:06 pm January 3rd, 2018
Anthropocene has become a byword or rather a useful handmaiden for every critic or artist who wishes to examine contemporary art, setting it against a referential framework. Fahad Hasan Kazmee’s narrative display of works that made up the exhibition, Layers, more akin to installation in both flavour and intent, seemed to weave a symbolic quilt-work of known signifiers of the Anthropocene. When man turns self-destructive: An era of human evolution or its lack thereof. But his ecosystem is somewhat inverted and it reads like a map of the interior, a psychic cartography of an urban landscape. The young artist from Chittagong, whom I had run into during JOG Art Space’s Cheragee Art Show, came across as an artist who was intuitive and sensitive to his environment. His presentation at that particular street art show stood out in its clarity of understanding of the relationship between art and the space it inhabits. Also striking was his choice of palette, intense fauvist colours sending powerful signals down the neuro-optical pathways, jarring the senses. We saw the same colours popping up in this exhibition with Prussian blue dominating most of the scenography. Could it be a metaphor representing the neurosis that eats away at the urban psyche? That aside, the entire exhibition had a strong retinal quality that demanded close reading as the eyes juggled with multi-toned textures, the architectural marriage of materials and images. The “gaze” traversed a rugged terrain or tiptoed around a minefield, inscribed with hieroglyphics from the Culture Industry layered upon each other to mimic a landscape of dystopia, of foreboding. He seemed haunted by nightmarish visions of high rises, towers, jumble of cars, skulls and bones and the nihilistic symbolism of guns, held together with “spider-nets,” as if the fragile crust of the plundered Earth would hardly survive another spin on its axis! Herald of an end-game, geo-biological clock ticking away to a distant drumbeat of doom! He built his hyper-reality which every man/woman of this time shares with one another. His self-portraits or photographs stared out of the flat-screen of the canvases amid collages of eyes staring or covered, to hang like a listless clue dispelling the divide between the viewer and the viewed. Gaze meeting gaze in an eternal repeat of the seen. Or, in replication of the existential pathos that lies deep in the question, to be or not to be. How else would it be if it were not this way? Something that eluded the wit but remained a constant niggle through a desire to fathom. In one work, the cycle of commodity that encompassed both natural and man-made objects hovered over the precipice of a daanbaksho, a donation box, in an obvious reference to consumerist capitalism’s centre-periphery nexus. But, one must acknowledge the poetic sensibility with which he dealt with his contents or texts presented in a symbiosis of materials, contrasting and varied. The talented young breed of artists from Chittagong, namely Sharad, Shimul, Ripon and to some extent, even the veteran Dhali came to mind, especially while considering how the trajectory they covered seemed to have found a legacy in Kazmee’s works, though his play with materials, techniques, and imagery left a distinct mark on his creations that captured a quiet sensorium of a world gone wrong. Layers ran its course through October 27- November 21 at Kalakendra.