PADAMA SHRI KESHAV MALIK (2008)
It would surely be safe to say that artistic activity begins when man finds himself face to face with the visible world as though with something daunting. In the creation of art man engages in a struggle with nature not for his physical survival but for his mental existence. So that, one can claim, that art is the instrument of human consciousness.
If this notion is correct one can at once see how — Surekha Sadana — is trying to get a grip on the days self-contradicting actualities and where the ghosts of the past, as well as the assertive, ambitious, constructs of the information age, turn out to be an insoluble jig-saw puzzle. The world seems at loggerheads, and yet at the best of moments it could form a seamless whole. The mundane world sits at table with the spiritual one, rather awkwardly!
Thus the artist courageously reaches out to tilt the wind-mill of a volatile experience. And so her work brings us several surprises. Certainly, much of the art of modernity is old wine into new bottles, the actors (or the counters) are brand new and surprising , and yet the aspirations, the fears and the pleadings are age-old, it is still the old Adam and the old Eve stepping into new life, except that their dress code make you sit up.
With Surekha Sadana we go into deeper space – onward toward the whirling galactic universes. It appears man will just not rest content with the ground beneath his feet, but if he reaches out physically, artists reach out only figuratively: they mean to taste the majesty and the terrifying beauty of what is out there. Contemplation of the limitless is calming. It is this way the artists liberates herself from narrow confines.
At the same moment, human existence adding up to a great theatre, we see her puppet like forms in interaction, like dancers or as actors. Both inward reality as the outward, are here the stage-set.
So then comes great excitement, and a parallel great calm from such works, those are the two poles of our own humanity. The artists, by instinct, works out all this, and is sure to spell-bind the discerning public, even as the above mentions painter will. One of Surekha Sadana’s canvases is the simplest in content, and also the stillest. It is her depiction of a clump of bamboos. I doted on it for a good few moments.
Keshav Malik is a renowned Indian poet, critic, arts scholar, and curator. He has been awarded Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award in India for his contribution to literature.