Thursday, 29 July 2010

Elements: Exhibitition of artist Abhay Kumar at the Door Gallery, St. Petersburg

Elements: Exhibitition of artist Abhay Kumar at the Door Gallery, St. Petersburg
           - Andrey Khlobystyn-noted art historian, St. Petersburg Dec5, 2009-Jan17 ,2010

Elements’ is another exhibition by a St. Petersburg artist Abhay Kumar, who is playing an active part in the cultural life of our city. Mind you, it is not a misprint; the Indian Consul did say in one of his interviews that it was St. Petersburg that has turned him into an artist. But, first and foremost, his paintings have this strictly Petersburg feel.

Abhay Kumar fits well into St. Petersburg ‘titanism’ with denial of one-track specializations: if you feel yourself to be in an elevated and balanced state of mind, then you can easily express yourself through different types of art. Abhay Kumar is a diplomat by profession; he has already published several books of poetry and prose, participated in a number of exhibitions and festivals as an artist and started collecting art-pieces as well. Striving to understand Art on a larger scale, trying to combine the social service, philosophic poetry, symbolical painting and cosmic-scale of thought remind us of the Silver Age, Roerich, Ciurlionis, etc. If we put this into a more Indian perspective, we will get Rabindranatha Tagore, naturally.

In the small format of Abhay Kumar’s work, the St. Petersburg traditions can be easily spotted, through the images of the Russian ‘Avant-garde’ art of the early XX th century. The geometry of Malevich and the musical coloured vision of Matyushin gain typically Indian colour vibrancy and even somewhat folklore inflections in the abstract and half-abstract works of Abhay Kumar. These creations are truly minimalist and are aimed at the elementary components of our perception. Elements, or ‘natures’ as they are called in European tradition, are placed into five lower chakras of the human body, according to Indian tradition, and through them the projection of the world around us is created. Chakras hold the five basic elements – Earth, Fire, Water, Air and Ether.

But the main Petersburg trait, the one that we can all understand and sympathize is the spontaneous and direct approach to the material and the traditions in the works of this artist, who has bravely picked up a brush about three years ago and started painting on chocolate boxes at first. Such approach, it can be said, has been suggested to Abhay Kumar by the local artists of the 80’s generation among others, since from these people you can always pick up a positive charge of existential expression.

Nowadays, when the Consulates of the Western countries have grown weary of St. Petersburg art and started treating it formally, even though during the Cold War and Perestroika they have been actively participating in the artistic life of the city, Abhay Kumar, an Indian diplomat, has become a prominent figure in the cultural life of the Northern capital and is doing some real work, trying to lead the contacts of the two great cultures to the new frontiers.

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