Metamorphosis – Recent work by Debanjan Roy

Akar Prakar in collaboration with the Embassy of India in France and Galerie Baudoin Lebon

6 – 23 May, 2015

at Galerie Baudoin Lebon 8 Rue Charles-François Dupuis, 75003 Paris, France

Ms. Apoorva Srivastava, the cultural counsellor at the Embassy of India in France will inaugurate the show

 

Metamorphoses
Debanjan Roy
There is an obvious opacity to Debanjan Roy’s wood carvings that belies the implicit transparency of meaning they unwittingly render. A toilet brush is a toilet brush is a toilet brush, except it cannot be used as one. The fluffy, furry mane at its tip is wooden, as is its stem, as is its handle. As he is wont to do, Roy has mimicked the material form of the original discarded and found object; preserving its image and likeness in the pliant fleshiness of wood. The non-functionality of the once utilitarian object is retained, emphasising the philosophy behind its status as a discarded being that has outlived its consumptive potential. Though transformed, the wood remains opaque. There is porousness, there are moments where light can filter through, but the stubborn inappropriateness of the medium ever resounds, signifying a throttling emptiness, just as the phenomenon of the echo is born out of structural vacancies. Whatever use the object upon which the wood carving is based was once invested with has been stripped off on account of excess. The model object is no longer ideally suited for the purpose for which it was designed. The singularity of its purpose limits it from being reused to fulfil the ends of some other task. It is divested of meaning, but hasn’t yet been destroyed. Though relegated to the junkyard, it continues to exist in its remaindered form. The toilet brush still is. It exists.
Now magnified and mounted on the pristine white walls of the gallery, it is suddenly more than the sum total of the conveniences it offered. The toilet brush has transcended its corporeal limitations. Roy has overseen its resurrection. It is now as useless as art.
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Metamorphosis presupposes both change and continuity, while change presupposes its own opposite, sameness.
The structural sameness inherent in Roy’s wood carvings ensure a continuity of form. The transformation lies in the materiality of the changed object, the renunciation of plastic or steel or the electronic in favour of the organic-ness of biodegradable wood. Roy infuses his found objects with life, thus presenting us with the predicament of their portended immortality against the dilemma of all that can be carbon-dated. Cast against sun-like light, suspended against the otherwise blank white-cube walls, the wooden carvings of derelict, once-functional objects are endowed with shadows that contort according to their form. They are now isolated figures within a solitary landscape, their lifelessness animated against the backdrop of their inutility.
They embody a capsulated meditation on time; simultaneously reflecting the expired shelf-lives of the objects upon which they are modelled while showcasing their new destinies as objects of art and therefore, subjects of time. Roy makes a spectacle out of ruin. Through his magnified recreations he offers these abandoned objects the redemption of restoration. He reinstates them into the fragile memory of the uncollected unconscious and in doing so, resists the proclivity towards sermonising. His is not so much a commentary on contemporary practices of consumption as much as it is an intervention. What the opacity of his material conceals is the invisible hand of the artist and all its curative possibilities in an age that is so obsessed with ingenuity, it is compelled to discard of the new the instant it loses its technological newness and is replaced by the hyper new; case in point the wooden imitation of an analog camera, which has been almost universally been replaced by the digital; or his derelict, time-worn tea strainer that is no longer whole enough to filter liquid and restrain pellets of tea powder from flowing into a mug. Roy posits himself as a mediator within this graveyard of used goods. His impulse is not to canonise as much as to expose the wounds inflicted upon objects across their lifespan. The wire gravitating towards the floor in his hair clipper piece serves as a metaphor for the already dated. The cord connecting the technological object to a power source is already in obsolescence.
Finally, how relevant is art within the context of these constant advancements? What succour does it offer to the disenfranchised or the marginalised? Roy’s carvings and drawings are essentially embedded in these provocations. If all art is inherently useless, of what use is it?
Rosalyn Dmello