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Transparency as Opaque

Author: Sibdas Sengupta

B.F.A, BK College of Art, Bhubaneswar

Transparency as opaque — an object whose characteristics talk about transparency but physically holds its opaqueness. Let us explore this notion further now shall we?

A transparency may talk about many layers who hold their different characteristics but at the same time combine with each other and talk about an opaqueness. What is opaqueness then? Is opaqueness a singular thing which holds a bold formation, or a language which is justifying an idea using transparency as a medium? Or is opaqueness an abstraction where the narration comes as a specification? How linear or correlated are transparency and opaqueness then? How dependent?

So my perspective on transparency and opaqueness is that of a phenomenon and how they stay in a different angle, with that differentiation again talking about symmetries. Maybe they move out with different actions but in the end they talk about evoking a particular reaction. According to me, the sense is mostly about translating, and how the translation begins in a certain order and how it takes place in a certain process.

In this context let us explore what tradition is. Is tradition about culture and behaviour, or is it a space to specify things in minute detail , like these are the statements of what tradition denotes? When I read about Indian tradition with my visualsenses switched on , I feel there are many things which negotiate with each other and how this negotiation is narrated as defining something.

Bringing it to life

I used some feminine garments in my installation like a saree , inner-wear , silk hand kerchiefs , dhotis and blouses , etc.When I started this process, the first thing which fascinated me was a regularity about how the installation stayed in different places and how different spaces change their characteristics with respect to the subject. As conceptual artist Robert Rauschenberg says ,’In a physical object , if we take its physicality then the object quits talking about as the subject.’ That is how physical installations are as a subject for me. When I transport them to another space , then how does the work react with that space?

This is what intrigues me.

An approach, an inspiration.

In my approach to art, I prefer to do things by assembling objects and creating a quiet visual language to deliver as my title. My works are inspired from folk culture and sensibilities. And how the folk tradition is manipulated to evoke thoughts about their sensibility.

If we consider the various forms of painting like madhubani, tanzar, patta and miniature , they are different from each other and then again in certain spaces they are very much linked to each other. They belong to different spaces but hold a strong emotion of Indian tradition. This is how I metaphorically connect with my work. It fascinates me how the elements of my work come from different spaces but give an angle to understand what they want to say.

If we look at history, we talk about many civilisations such as Harappa, Mohenjo–daro, Mauryas and the Guptas that helped define our concept of India. In my perspective it is all about how they played a role as a transparency to define the opaque tradition of India. Or did they just play their role in an opaque manner which is a transparent layer for today’s contemporary scenario?

There are many movements and hidden eras, which give a language to Indian tradition. Just like even though there is a gap between art and life, they are very much linear to each other. But if we talk about the gap or the fluid which talks about translation, who holds a role of transparency in that scenario? Here transparency is a language to define and specify from one opaqueness to another opaqueness.

The Installation

If I come to my work ,which is titled “Transparency as Opaque” – it talks about a sense of dualism. May be transparency and opaqueness will play a role of encountering or being linear to this particular work!

This work is a site specific work, which was installed in a dry space, and the installation talks about regularity. And how it stayed in a regular manner in different spaces and different times. The question is , is it as regular as we think, or does it have a different narration with different action? We usually think of a thing in a narrative manner but sometimes we don’t think about its specification.The specification often talks about a different narration.This is what my subject talks about and outlines the concept of how narration and specification are linear.

In assembling the installation, I studied how things come from different spaces .For example, if we are talking about a certain iconography of Indian clothing ,it often has quite a different narration from our perspective.The dhoti was a garment for both genders until its later transformation into the distinctive saree.

If we consider three-piece dresses, they came into existence in the third century BC in India, in the time of Mauryas which was influenced by Graeco-Roman culture. If we talk about existence of silk in Indian society it was an influence from Chinafrom the time of the Indus Valley Civilisation. Inner-wear’s pop culture was influenced from American culture, and so on and so forth. Several things have thus influenced the ethnicity of Indian traditional clothing.

There are some languages which translate in different angles, and after a while we accept them as our tradition. My point is how do we perceive the icon’s identity in our society – with their current narration or with their particular specification? What we hold as our tradition, is that an imitation of others or is it just merged with the situation? What can help us identify a tradition? And when we come to a visual approach how necessary is it to know these things in a contemporary scenario?

In my installation, the objects were arranged in a compositional manner. I often wondered, do they talk with each other, or are their regional languages different? Do they learn a common language to communicate? Does silk speak Chinese and drapery speak French? Do they truly understand each other’s behaviour or are they just reacting to one another?

I was inspired to do this work , because throughout my perspective the behaviour and arrangements were regular. But after some time I felt that they changed their language from one space to another. Maybe the approach of the garments were same, but when it came to a street they evoked a different narration . And when it came to a residence they said something different. In certain cases they may have spoken to the culture and behaviour of the surroundings.

Thus these elements are not just garments for me. They react as a language which has its own specification but want to be placed in different spaces to speak out. Very much like the dialogue and differences of transparency and opaqueness.

This is how I was inspired to give my installation the title “Transparency as Opaque”.

About the Author:

Sibdas Sengupta is a practising Odia artist who is currently completing his Masters in Fine Art (M.F.A) at Shiv Nadar University. He has participated in numerous workshops and projects including the Kala-Setu project a collaboration between Utsha and Raza Foundation.

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