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‘Art is all about wetting new sands’

Ambica Sachin (Art + Culture)
Filed on May 15, 2009

The waves write their poetry on the sand and/ Not satisfied, wipe it off over and over again…

For Indian installation artist Subodh Kerkar, nothing exemplifies the ephemeral nature of his work set on the beaches of Goa better than this poem. While most artists are content to create a tactile work of art, Subodh goes a step further as he first ‘installs’, then saves the artwork for posterity through his photographs. “My installation is kind of my poetry and it is ephemeral, because the waves take it away,” he explains.

Showcasing a series of black and white photographs at the Jam Jar gallery in Dubai, Subodh’s deep-rooted connection with the sea is apparent in every grain of sand and every fleck of foam frozen in the visually arresting frames. But the ocean is not the only focus of his work. One’s eyes are drawn to the play of light and shadow, and the way in which shells, sand and the fishermen are used to tell a story.

“Anchored Ocean is a work that explores the inseparatedness of the fisherman and the ocean. Just as the fisherman’s life is anchored in the seaside, the ocean is an anchor in his life,” Kerkar explains.

And who better to understand the life of a fisherman than Kerkar who started off his career as a doctor in Goa before art took over his life. Life has indeed come full circle for the artist as the fishermen who were once his patients are now his models.

“The life of a fisherman is very insular; it is anchored in tradition and firmly connected to the sea,” says Kerkar, whose installations are a means to showcase this close bond. In one shot, a group of fishermen stand in line with their hands extended, mimicking a boat with its oars out.

Another one shows a full moon created entirely from shells followed by one in which the tide is seen slowly swallowing up the ‘moon’.

The ocean is a constant source of inspiration for Kerkar whose childhood memories are indelibly linked to the sea. “As a child, I used to walk on the seaside till the sea sort of became part of me. I would watch the waves for hours. She was a teacher and an inspiration. Slowly, the sea became my medium. It is a very unique situation where the inspiration and the medium are the same. So the sea became my canvas and also my teacher.”

Anchored Ocean may have a simplistic theme, but Kerkar is not beyond making political statements through his artwork. As he puts it: “When the waves break, the surf rushes to the land to wet the sand — art is also all about wetting new sands.”

Anchored Ocean is on at Jam Jar gallery till June 6.

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