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When Nothing Goes Right, Go Left: Art Centrix Space, New Delhi 

Jagriti Sharma 21st Oct 2020

Art Centrix Space’s latest show and Uma Nair’s curation, ‘When Nothing Goes Right, Go Left’ captures human essence and the contradictions that arise through time, language and dreams with works by Balaji Ponna and is on display from 14thOctober.

In these turbulent and uncertain times, tomorrow seems bleak and a hope for peace and equality seems blurry. Questioning the bearers of the future, Balaji Ponna’s series of watercolour on canvas comments on the doom and dystopia that surrounds us. Equality and truth seem like a far vision and the continuous oppression and deprivation at the hands of the privileged, a making of our own doing.

Ponna 1 Balaji Ponna, Friends and Foes, Mixed media on acid free handmade paper, 28ʺ × 18ʺ, 2019. 

Ponna 1 Balaji Ponna, Friends and Foes, Mixed media on acid free handmade paper, 28ʺ × 18ʺ, 2019. All Images are Courtesy of the Artist and Art Centrix Space, New Delhi.

By transcending the boundaries of material and form, the work, tinged with irony, depicts the global consequences of human greed and mercenary nature. The humour is interwoven with the conscious titling of the artwork that provided the viewer with the required context to make the sub text apparent, bringing the abstract thought to an explicit level. It generated meanings, and more importantly a dialogue where the art prompts one to imagine what tomorrow holds and what we can do to change that. In a politically dubious environment, it is necessary to look at alternatives and re-question what is told to us and then maybe, take the left turn. 

Ponna 2 Balaji Ponna, Branches for birds...Sculpture for streets..., Oil on canvas, 72ʺ × 93ʺ, 2014.

Ponna 2 Balaji Ponna, Branches for birds...Sculpture for streets..., Oil on canvas, 72ʺ × 93ʺ, 2014. All Images are Courtesy of the Artist and Art Centrix Space, New Delhi.

Language and philosophy are the bedrock for his colour palette and imagery, where Nietzsche and Schopenhauer’s Nihilism and morality provide the required commentary for Ponna’s ‘human scapes’. The grayscale is symbolic of the qualms of the reality we are living in, the potential of a better society, and the strength to dream a world that is not riddled with inequality and a looming collapse. 

Ponna 3 Balaji Ponna, My Emotion Dried Up My Words, Water colour and dry pastel on acid free paper, 25ʺ × 39ʺ, 2018.

Ponna 3 Balaji Ponna, My Emotion Dried Up My Words, Water colour and dry pastel on acid free paper, 25ʺ × 39ʺ, 2018. All Images are Courtesy of the Artist and Art Centrix Space, New Delhi.

The ruptures in our ethical fabric blend themselves with Ponna’s surreal approach, and a sound balance is struck between ‘tension and tranquillity’. Our lives are so closely tied with thoughts and opinions we see on social media that it has become difficult to separate the truth from fiction. Subtexts often get lost. And it is keeping this in mind that Ponna uses imagery in its simplest form to drive the message straight home. Through the carefully selected pieces, the viewer gets accustomed to the artist’s vision and starts to reflect on their own subject position. 

Ponna 4 Balaji Ponna, God's Path is Socialisms, Watercolour, soot and dry pastels on acid free paper, 28 12ʺ × 38ʺ, 2018.

Ponna 4 Balaji Ponna, God's Path is Socialisms, Watercolour, soot and dry pastels on acid free paper, 28 12ʺ × 38ʺ, 2018. All Images are Courtesy of the Artist and Art Centrix Space, New Delhi.

Ponna urges us to go back to the fundamentals of equality, if we are to salvage ourselves from the lament and chaos that is spiralling out. And if we are to take anything away from this exhibition, it is that we need to pick up on the most obvious symbols and markers that will potentially alter humanity’s course. With the horizon surrounded by dark clouds, we need to become conscious humans and understand the longevity of the consequences of our avarice. 
Jagriti Sharma is an up and coming writer from New Delhi

Also Read: Wearing Dreams In Drapes

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