An Exhibition of Recent Works by Anitta Sethi
As an artist Anitta Sethi’s quest for experiment and challenge stands unbound. Intent upon discovering the artistic possibilities of form, without ability, Anitta’s conquest of visible realities would have been much more limited compared to what she is willing to undertake now. Informed by human presences and vast urban spaces, Anitta Sethi places vigorous, muscular forms centre stage on her works, making ample use of reds and yellow ochre; and enchanting blues when depicting nights of the moon.
Working mostly on relatively large formats, Anitta fills her picture plane with multiple figures and forms, anonymous locales and people absorbed in their own world. While the individual forms are not starkly tangible, the pattern here pans from the worldly engrossed men and women to the spiritually oriented monks and ascetics, who dot her canvas intermittently, motif fashion. A cross section of her work therefore reveals stark contrasts of large and small, adult and infant, the mundane and the spiritual, the innocent and the informed, and most of all, distance wise the far and the near.
In Anita’s works the ancillary scenario in the distance is usually more eventful and mysterious than what is centre stage causing the eye to deep into a painting.
This optical phenomenon which the artist uses dexterously, is known as “atmospheric perspective” since it results from the fact that the atmosphere is never wholly transparent. Even on the clearest day, the air between us, and the things we are looking at, acts as a hazy screen that interferes with our ability to see distant shapes clearly; as we approach the limit of visibility it swallows them altogether.
To this end the full range of effects by way of texturing are explored by using transfers from newspapers and miscellaneous devices. This creates a gradual decrease in the intensity of colours with tactfully applied top coats of paint, achieving a contrast of light & dark, foregrounds thereby merging imperceptibly with what goes on beyond. More than the eye it is the mind that gets hitched to discovering what lies behind.
Viewed as a whole these canvasses are singularly replete with quiet drama, as if each of her frames were firmly calmed by a magic hand. Co-existence is the underlying force that governs each composition, regardless of how many surfaces one must look into to travel from the one end of a frame to another. The sweeping sense of space and the minute detailing on virtually every inch of the canvas are dramatic and mystifying. It is only when we concentrate on the details that we realise the subtleties encompassed within each of the devices, be it in the texture or the living forces that are made to dwell on each surface.
While the majority of the figures in Anitta’s works are static, yet by the small ancillary figures, that appear and reappear in most of the works, the artist proves decisively her ability to display the human body in motion. As such the softly modelled human forms are exemplars of the power and beauty of the human form.
Layering and juxtapositions, as indeed the dedicated quality of texturing, invest these works with two of the artist’s major concerns, in addition to her principal concerns with form—i.e. the elements of mystery and the play of light.
Weaning one’s way through the hazy news paper imprints, architectural geometry, little men in conference, deep in thought or rope hanging between high-rises, frolicking in mid air in a moment of playfulness or striving, one stops short where the three monks rope-walk towards the light that beckons them from a distance. This blue work is a highly nuanced composition, where the worldly and the celestial seamlessly share the same grid of existence, wherein transiting from the one to the other is a mere matter of time, one’s deeds determining the destination.
While the human figures stand somewhat akin to the classic, academic style of portrayal, approach and content wise they are contemporary on the one hand and classic on the other, in that she seems to endow the commonplace with the solemnity of the epics and scriptures.
In one of the works we see a man lying down within a circle, the artist giving us an oblique, severe view; geometric of design: the man and his surroundings both vigorously outlined, form a circle within a square, the rest of the square format held forth by an architectural grid, put in perspective by the images within the circle. The two do not poach on each other’s allocated spaces, in that while the lying man in the circle has had to be foreshortened, the architectural features in the rest of the painting stand as an altogether independent factor. Perspective used to show distance, is a common trait running in most of her works, and continues through this one.
In the sum total of assessment what emerges are the three major concerns of the artist as purposes for her art, not necessarily mandated by herself, but discernible to the theorist and the viewer, are first, an awareness of contemporary life as it is; second, a parallel engagement with a personal understanding of spirituality and its pursuit; and third, the existence and approaches adopted by mankind in the ambit of the given climate.
As it appears it is towards explaining these that she deploys the human anatomy, the urban conundrum, fragmented spaces split into small segregated sites of close private activity, contrasting scales, some lyric and plenty of geometry. Proficient with drawing, with good command over anatomy, attentive to form and frame, she seems to enjoy all the vital ingredients for art practice. Add to this an innate sense of design, and one can anticipate a bright future in art for Anitta Sethi.