• manoj aggarwal

    Manoj Aggarwal is a chronicler of society, his studies emerging from within the city he was born and lived in, experiencing its life and people through child and adulthood, even as he continues to live and work here as an artist. Labourers, sex workers, lonely women, gay couples, cyclists, the barber, and their ilk are all people who keep the artist company as the Silent Observer.

    He simply reproduces the body from the life, never really trying to cast it as a machine for survival, nor indeed making an instrument of any exhilaration or harangue via the particulars of their existence. His subjects station as human emblems of bare realities rather than any idealist’s imagination, doggedly enmeshed in their quagmire of mental and material textures. Illustrative rendition of surfaces, they are quiet expressions of acceptance without negotiations between the self and the world. For example, the bottle-collector mutely accepts his life, fated as an ongoing game of nine pins, ridden with the constant fear of stumbling into defeat.

    Aggarwal does not brood over ethical questions surrounding either the existence or indeed its representation, dwelling purely on the acceptance of reality and circumstances, stretching it almost to the extent of being a fatalist. Instead, he finds it fit to linger on the palpables of particular types of individuals and identities. As such, although his themes remain the same, they assume different forms as his attention wanders in search of a subject till he sites one to freeze on. For his current series he seems to have dwelt recurrently on relationships between two individuals, casting them as a couple, the realities of economy, habituated pangs of loneliness, as well as gender nuances, in what to all appearances comes through as a somewhat uncomplaining manner.

    As an observer of people, society and relationships the artist seldom if ever resorts to melodrama, the attribute not being a part of his own disposition, one that allows him to hold himself aloof and neutral. For instance, all of the sex workers in their groups, the women who wait for the return of kin, the labourer carting his load, or indeed the resting rickshaw puller, are all engrossed in their own world without angst or acrimony. Even as the barber goes about his business in the saloon, and the cleaning woman manages affairs on her cellular phone, they inhabit a world that is too complete even to warrant a comment. Noticeable is the artistic ploy of extending each of the protagonist’s world into the backdrop as a frame. The visitors of the night club smoking and dancing are observations not statements.

    The Silent Observer swings from being the artist himself, to the boy on the floorboard of a scooter, the man at the red light, or even indeed the dog, perched atop the cart, freely enjoying his joyride, or just a sitting observer of the rickshaw puller stealing his nap in a moment of rest, very much part of the reigning scenario. Couples await their fate in mute anticipation, or conceal desire in fumbled touches on a pillion ride with her beau on his cycle. In the midst of the multifarious demands of urban living, relationships must yet continue, and new ones forged as per calling.

    Like most things else homosexuality, too, is meted a matter-of-fact treatment, adaptability and acceptance manifested as hallmarks of both artist and his subjects.
    In one drawing we see a young ascetic washing the feet of his elder, probably his guru, in a telling co-existence of tradition and modernity within the urban scenario.

    The artist expands his frame, pulling himself back to project figures in tight close ups, imprisoning them within their seamless horizons of nowhere to nowhere, so that they gain their significance both as individuals as also representatives of a class, from the implicit surroundings within which they are placed. The depiction thus defines the individual in a community with reference to the cityscape that binds him, his sensibility numbed by urban routine and taxing demands of survival.

    The body of works for the present series is a continuation of striking monochromatic drawings, and large oil on canvass paintings. The drawings have a specific rhythm and mellifluousness, lyric and body language captured with great virtuosity, the high contrast arresting to the eye. For his paintings, however, the style is variant, in his deployment of luminous colours that mark the majority of his works this time, the greens, blues and saffrons scorching the canvass in rays of energy. This is not to imply the burning of destruction but rather that of a passion that must make itself known to even to the sceptic’s eye. This attribute of flat toning the canvass before juxtaposing it with highly textured images is what makes Manoj Aggarwal recognisable in his existing style.