Jagannath Panda’s solo show gives food for thought

by Shilpa Raina
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On the first floor of the Vadehra Art Gallery is a 10.5” x 27.5” x 14” sea drone sitting motionlessly on a slab. It is easy to miss this harmless white-coloured object when there are overwhelming paintings in myriad hues adorned on the walls, and, of course, the majestic-looking installation, The Custodian of Untold Truth’ that literally owns this space. The latter is a replica of Brahminy Kite, a mid-sized bird of prey, but artist Jagannath Panda has successfully given it a powerful gaze and powerful status. This, in Jagannath’s words, “represents a strong dominating figure who has kind of taken over a city’s psyche”. To represent this thought, he has placed the bird on a circular object underneath which he has rearranged toys, found objects and toys in such a way that it looks like a map of a congested city. But, this city isn’t visible if you view this 2017 work from a distance. Come closer and it is through the rear view —a circular mirror that is placed on the ground, attached to the stand’s toes that the hidden city comes alive.
_mg_0559Deconstructing reality and playing with viewer’s perception is what the Gurgaon-based artist’s solo show, “Crystal Cities” offers to discerning viewers. The elements of mystery, metaphors and unexpected references dot the canvases that reflect reality of urban cities. Then there are drones, planes and animal figures appearing in the works, along with blocks of crystals, which surprisingly, are black in colour. These rigid geological forms, Jagannath points out, are inspired from his hometown, Orissa where mining is a booming business.
“The texture of these blocks represents iron ore mines from Orissa and when you look at them closely, you will see how magically fabric has transformed itself into something raw and rich,” he says. Pointing at one work, he says, if you look at it closely, the blue sky surrounded by the sharp, pointed blocks can be seen as skyscrapers and the scene can be imagined as somewhere in New York. However, if you move away, the same work will look like a floating space ship. “I am not here to guide viewers; they can look for answers and find their own meanings in these works. They are abstract, yet universal in nature,” he adds.
_mg_0600Also, these works are replete of imagery that has been borrowed from popular culture, for instance the sign boards on roads and many such symbols. In paintings, unfinished or raw drawing merges seamlessly. Elaborating on this technique, he says, “It is a mixture of things because when I paint or draw, I try to look at things in literally, cultural and philosophical prospective.”
“I also play with the idea of painting, drawing or putting together a collage and creating this whole composition and those drawings seem like as if they exist or don’t exist. The use of symbols like a toilet sign add to the conversation to these works,” he adds.
Then there is another set of paintings that resemble house plans with optical diagrams crisscrossing the interiors, and images of collectible items and souvenirs that lie scattered and disconnected. Through this, he seeks to address the private-public, inside-outside relationship that the society tries to establish in a chaotic, aspirational lifestyle.  The wooden panels are an extension of this idea, where each shelf has an architectural reference with objects and old photographs placed inside.
“When I meet people I see that they are talking about materialistic things and profit and to fulfill these aspirations they come to urban cities from rural towns. This innate sense of migration and desire to live a good life is doing harm to our ecological balance,” he says.
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Most of Panda’s materials are sourced from things used in home décor and interior design. On display are also sculptures- made of diverse materials such as wood, found objects, toys and fabrics. This is his first solo show in the city after seven years and his preoccupation with dangers of mindless urbanization continues to unfold seamlessly.
The exhibition is on until September until September 12.

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