The immense childhood influence of iconic cartoon characters of Tom and Jerry seems to have found place in artist Mrinmoy Debbarma’s canvas Oh My God, on display at Galerie Romain Rolland, Alliance Francaise de Delhi. The artist from Agartala has embedded the top portion of the painting with motifs of feet adorned with payals, as if handpicked from Indian classical sculptures. A thumb on their feet appears to have been poked using a pin by Jerry, and bleeds into a bucket he has placed beneath. Featuring on the same canvas, amidst a bombardment of war jet planes, a child is seen reading a book in Kannada. While most viewers can’t read the script, they do understand the conversation between Tom and Jerry written in English, where Jerry tells Tom, “I am the best”.
Talking about this work, curator Dhritabrata Bhattacharjya Tato says, “The western entertainment industry, represented here by Tom and Jerry, has become part of our lifestyle. Whereas our classical dance forms, such as Manipuri and Kathak, have taken a backbench.”
Organised in collaboration with the Krishnakriti Foundation as part of the Bonjour India festival, the exhibition titled “Sojourn as an Artist’s Virtual Studio”, includes works by 11 artists who attended a fellowship in France instituted by the French Embassy and the Foundation. Tato adds, “The show is a reflection of a certain kind of critique of humanity and certain societies. The works of the artists have also been impacted by their stay in France.”
A modified map of the Mughal empire by artist duo Swathi and Vijay from Hyderabad is another highlight. Made using acrylics on a large sheet of cotton, the map has safety pins joining the torn border between India and Pakistan and also the China border. Swathi points out that she choose to use a Mughal map that existed long before the divide between the countries occurred. She says, “It shows the connection between the countries, where the bond is not strong enough.” Artist Megha Katyal’s self portraits are riddled with holding words — including enthusiastic, anxious, rejected, optimistic, annoyed and courageous — that reflect on the individual self. Artist Mana Khera has placed two chairs on separate ends covered with jute, with the jute on the floor appearing as if a male is reaching out to his female counterpart. Playing around with the concepts of gender, the work puts into question the role of gender, consent and choice, in a society where rape and molestation is rampant.