Does art always necessarily have to be a celebration of grandiosity? Is it so that only a painting by a celebrated artist hanging on the walls of an art gallery can only move us as spectators and not we remain unaffected by a crayon painting of a family portrait made by your child, placed on the refrigerator in your dining room? What is a more valuable piece of art to you — an ostentatious jewel-studded ring worn by an Empress and currently on display behind a glass case in a museum or the tiny family ring that has been passed down through generations in your family and now your wear on your finger? That is the power of art, it celebrates the marvelous as well as the ordinary — there is beauty to be beheld both in the elephant and the ant.
When I first looked at the latest work of visual artist, Abhijit Deb Nath, titled The Museum of Mundane, these are the thoughts that flashed through my mind. However, a museum is not just a space harboring art. It is so much more and so is this particular work. We could term it as ethnographic art. Abhijit is not merely aestheticizing the “mundane” objects of everyday life but exploring how their materiality is intricately woven with our personal histories. The series delves into the intricate interplay between materiality, geographical space, and the dialogue they engage in with social identity and human interaction.
Drawing from his personal experiences and upbringing, Nath's inspiration for this series stems from his father's tales of ancestral history. The stories acted as a pendulum, oscillating between the past and the present, making him acutely aware of his roots while highlighting the complexity of his relationship with the space he was born into. This dynamic tension between belonging and not-belonging, ownership and dispossession, serves as the foundation for Nath's exploration.
Through the medium of mundane objects, Nath forges an archive that encapsulates the essence of the land and communities that have shaped his identity. These objects, imbued with personal and cultural significance, become vessels of introspection, urging viewers to question their own sense of place and belonging. Nath's incorporation of local materials and textiles, such as charcoal, lungi, gamcha, and cotton clothing, further anchors his work within the fabric of his environment.
The use of found objects is a distinctive hallmark of Nath's artistic approach. These objects foster a dialogue that transcends their materiality, bridging the gap between the physical and the conceptual. This dialogue unfurls between the objects, the spaces they inhabit, and the individuals who interact with them. Nath's artistic process becomes a vessel for understanding the nuanced shifts—be they cultural, political, or historical—that have molded the land and its narratives over time.
Nath's creations form figurative topographies, mapping his personal journey through colonial history, identity, and memories onto the canvas of material and space. The Museum of Mundane, as he describes it, becomes a vessel of forgotten identities and untold stories. With each piece, Nath constructs a new dialogue that challenges preconceived notions and invites viewers to contemplate their own relationship with the familiar and the forgotten. Through his masterful fusion of materials, narratives, and spaces, Nath invites us all to engage with the museum of the mundane, to reexamine our connection to the world around us, and to discover the stories hidden within the everyday.
This story was brought to light from an interview with the artist conducted by The ArtDocuMentorProject.
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