THE DE­CEP­TIVE LENS

Brahm Maira’s first solo show is strik­ing ev­i­dence of a sharp, fresh eye, says ARADHNA WAL

Tehelka - - A HARD-WON VICTORY -

Ablue-green back­ground looks like sky and wa­ter meet­ing. A woman kneels in sup­pli­ca­tion and prayer. The im­ages have been su­per­im­posed on top of each other; a vi­brant fig­ure stand­ing out against breath­tak­ing colours. This is Hu­mil­ity, one of the im­ages in Brahm Maira’s up­com­ing show Tra­verse. All set to open on 8 Septem­ber at Delhi’s Stain­less Gallery, it is the 26-year-old art pho­tog­ra­pher’s first solo show.

Tra­verse has been in the mak­ing for years. The art con­sists mainly of per­son- al work Maira has done while jug­gling com­mer­cial fash­ion/in­dus­trial work, other com­mis­sioned shoots, group shows, and study­ing at the Sydney Col­lege of the Arts. “I spent five years in Aus­tralia, so I’ve shot the East coast. I trav­elled the States, so there is work from there. I’d find my­self in ran­dom in­dus­trial towns in In­dia on work,” he says. His im­ages, too, come to­gether post pro­duc­tion, where he com­bines scenes cap­tured from dif­fer­ent ge­o­graphic spa­ces to cre­ate a com­plete pic­ture; there is an Aus­tralian land­scape, trees from Ker­ala back­wa­ters and the Chat­tarpur Mandir in Delhi. All com­bine to evoke the seren­ity and the macro­cos­mic scope of de­vo­tion in Hu­mil­ity.

The medium is called photo ma­nip­u­la­tion. The words them­selves could cause peo­ple to doubt its merit. Is it med­dling with or tak­ing away from pure pho­tog­ra­phy? Maira seems un­fazed. The art is pop­u­lar in gal­leries in US, Europe and Aus­tralia. It is, how­ever, small in In­dia. “I don’t know how peo­ple will re­spond to it. That re­mains to be seen. Peo­ple are slowly be­com­ing more re­cep­tive. So let’s wait till they see the work,” he says.

Maira’s im­ages are trippy. His in­flu­ences in colour and style can be seen clearly — Alex Grey and Ansel Adams, re­spec­tively. Grey’s kalei­do­scopic can­vas has been in­voked in the im­age Pa­tience. The im­age of Bud­dha from Ladakh is de­picted in a tun­nel from a Scot­tish cas­tle, that has a floor like a seabed, and its walls are rings of green re­fracted from the lit­eral light at the end of the tun­nel. And the land­scapes try to be as sweep­ing as Adam’s fa­mously were. As the pho­tog­ra­pher ad­mits, land­scapes are his favourite sub­ject. How­ever, Maira’s skill with colours and his will­ing­ness to ex­per­i­ment keep his art from be­com­ing just an­other im­i­ta­tion. Though some im­ages have a lot of com­po­nents to them, they are not clut­tered. A case in point is Glow­ing Eyes Pur­ple Haze. It could eas­ily be so over­whelm­ing that one can­not take it in as a whole. How­ever, there is a cer­tain clean­ness to the lines. The im­age of the face is sharp, yet if looked at closely, the lines on it form a sort of op­ti­cal il­lu­sion. Play­ing around with pic­tures, peo­ple and places has taught Maira some tricks of im­pro­vi­sa­tion. For ex­am­ple, in Pa­tience, he uses the spring of a slinky toy on his lens to achieve the tun­nel ef­fect.

Tra­verse is Maira’s solid at­tempt at mak­ing his own state­ment. He ad­mits it is an ex­per­i­ment in the mak­ing and has no one theme. But it brings to­gether five years of travel, work and dis­cov­er­ing his skills and pref­er­ences with the cam­era.

Im­age builder (top)

by Brahm Maira (right)

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