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Vilas - The Idea of Pleasure
On at the Birla Academy, Mumbai from 16 to 21 December. Curated by Gayatri Sinha, art critic of The Hindu, the show has nine artists exploring the idea of vilas. Miniature painting, theatre and dance developed on the idea of pleasure in viraha (seperation) and sambhog (union). Equally in the image of the gods, vilas is an intrinsic part of bhakti. Laxmi-Narayan on Ajanta or the Durga in Kshirsindhu are described as resting in a state of vilas.

In the modern context of 20th century art, the idea of vilas/pleasure becomes subject to the mass media and the readings of psychology. Pleasure is emotionally coupled with violence and anxiety in classic modernism and doubt becomes intrinsic to personal subjectivity. In the post modern art practice, pleasure and its sources are subjects of scrutiny. Moreover the idea of pleasure itself has become secondary as art activity engages in debates of gender, marginality and social inequality.

The desire of pleasure however endures. It is a concept that is universal although its expression is individual. Pleasure and its anticipation quickens the human state and it is frequently in the gap between anticipation and realization of pleasure that art is borne.

KG Subramanyan and Nilima Sheikh use the miniature as a basic paradigm. Sheikh who excels in Asian art traditions creates a large scroll inspired by the legend of Sohni-Mahiwal called Dying by Chenab.

Anita Dube, for the first time, works with a photographic installation, stimulating touch and sight, particularly through intimate rituals of worship. Ranbir Kelka creates a large work on wooden board which combines the fantasy and anxiety in adolescent desire.

However artists also sharply critique the idea of vilas as overindulgence and even wasteful. In large format photographs, Dayanita Singh uses pictures of wedding pandals elaborately fashioned like the Sistine Chapel or the snowbound, violent peaks of Kargil. Other participating artists include Subodh Gupta, Nalini Malani, Jogen Chowdhury and Bhupen Khakhar.


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