The story of the silenced 

Solo Show in New Delhi 2018

Polymorphism has been a central axis for the works of Mumbai based artist Devidas Agase. His works address the numerous levels in which the concept of polymorphism and its layered nuances and appropriations have emerged in various discourses fathomable to human comprehension over time. In today’s multifaceted living, one finds this concept of ‘polymorphism’ surface in fields of information technology, genetics, psychology, history and culture. The human mind-body machine has over centuries, displayed its remarkable ability to coexist mentally and physically on varying planes simultaneously and even flourish while coping with onerous or contradicting situations and circumstances enforced by society on an individual. The reactions to it have often produced alternative layers of hierarchical existences visible in a society based on different rationale like social status, economic status, political or religious beliefs, education, familial status etc. We live in a world today which visibly displays a polymorphic world view, and at the same time unfathomable inner realms within the individuals which remain closeted for life.

 Devidas chooses to chart some of those hidden inner realms of an individual using his lexicon of a puppet motif. The artist reveals that the puppet is inspired by the ‘Tri-Moorthi’(three facets/ figures) concept of Hindu mythology or that of Holy Trinity, taken a few steps further into a human context. The avatars that an individual morphs into after being subjected to numerous external forces, is at once brought into a visual of the three faced entity by the artist.  Why only three, why not more, one could question. The answer probably lies in the perspective of viewing a situation - my view, your view and the third impartial ‘factual’ view. Hence there are three heads and eyes on his puppet figures with corresponding limbs, almost vying for synchronicity in their existence, but seldom finding it. This gives the figure a frantic insect like silhouette which could also be attributed to their existence being trivialised in society in general.

 These multi-limbed puppets also get deified or demonised by the artist in several compositions where he creates a war like scenario, like Kurukshetra. The work titled ‘Nature Toys’ has this post-apocalyptic essence to it as the artist depicts several puppet figures, moving incoherently towards something or away from something which is left to the interpretative devices of the viewer. Limbs and heads flayed in the process lie on the ground as a reminder of the battles waged for survival, be they ideological or actual. The background in the work creates the uncertainty of puppet strings hanging from the dark clouded skies holding up these fragmented puppets forms, to continue their fight.

 This one work in its simplicity becomes the archetype of an ideological premise of the entire suite of works on display, be they paintings or sculptural installations. Devidas is a sensitive artist and he mirrors the existential angst of today’s individuals vis-a-vis the society, in ways that few artists of his time choose to portray. The figures in the work ‘Facet Around’ created in a Ganjifa cards like format in paper pulp roundels illustrate the burden of a dichotomous existence, driven by the most trivial of expectations from oneself and from the world.

 Devidas creates an interesting binary when he employs the brain as a ‘muscle’ almost stripping it of its mental, anatomical, psychological social and biological burden and uses it as a dialect in the visual narratives of polymorphism. Here the brain is a puppet itself, it can be muscular and unaware of its own identity, being deployed and typecast as a worker in a social rung of hierarchies which it itself is blind to. It could be a sexual form, being used or abused for giving pleasure and still remaining a silenced voice. This exposes the vulnerability of the human brain in today’s times to dominating belief systems, corrupt sources of lobbying, rigidity of faiths devoid of logical reasoning and submitted into a slavish existence to the ‘current’ matter of outrage. This is a very poignant statement of a very important part of a human body, it self respect and dignity.

 Although visually vibrant in colour, and satirical in approach and visual presentation, the works of Devidas Agase address the silent plague of closeted and suppressed non/conformity rampant in today’s world. Be it due to the fear of being executed for their radical or opposing beliefs against any system or the careful ignorance of a bigger picture of intolerance and discriminations, today’s human is a socially, religio-politically, economically and culturally fragmented being. In such a turbulent scenario, the artist chooses to present this show as a critique of the collapsing world around him using polymorphism as a point of departure. In doing so he skilfully narrates a story, one chapter at a time as a puppet show of the forcibly muted.


 Writeen by Sushma Sabnis



September 2018