MITHILA CALLING: Indian Ambassador Ranjit Rae (centre) at SC Suman’s exhibition.
For centuries, humans have been obsessed with understanding the conscious and subconscious mind. We want to determine who we are and what we’re doing in the world. Do we serve a greater purpose, or are we destined to merely perambulate life but not fully understand? And what is our connection to the universe? These are the breed of questions that are evoked when experiencing SC Suman’s Mithila Cosmos: Perambulating the Tree of Life.
What really stood out for me was the sheer consistency of the 50-plus works created by Suman for the exhibit. Extended across the three floors at the Siddhartha Art Gallery, the pieces take you on a visual journey into another context altogether. Inspired by his Maithili heritage, Suman employs the use of acrylic, natural dyes, and pigments used with pens, brushes, and even bamboo sticks.
In the true style of a Madhubani or Mithila painting, the works are characterised by geometrical patterns and symmetry. This is of course aligned with the concept of cosmos or a beautifully arranged, almost perfect universe. The motif of the tree which is present in every one of his works represents just this, ecological harmony. Like our world, Suman’s paintings look simple, yet hold complex and profound ideas of human relationships as well as dynamics of love and power.
What makes Suman’s form of art interesting to look at are the use of bold colours and intricate details. His Milan, Bibaha, Kohbar Ghar and Bidai is especially wonderful because the more the viewer observes, the greater meaning the painting gains. While at first it may seem to be a simple story of a girl getting married, at second and third observation the audience realises there is more to the story, a kind of visual dialogue that is occurring between Suman and the responder.
Art has always been an important form in the sense that it reflects the world around us; however it may not always be relevant to the one viewing it. Suman on the other hand, narrates stories of identity, family, religion, and history through his paintings of village people, their daily duties and responsibilities; concepts that have intrigued us for centuries.
Admittedly apprehensive before walking into the gallery, Suman’s modern take on traditional Mithila art was finally, appreciatively unpretentious and a visual delight. Because of the universal nature of the themes expressed, the responder consciously or subconsciously finds a piece of themselves in the work. Be prepared to be lost in Suman’s vision for some time.
Perambulating the Tree of Life
Runs until 6 January
Siddhartha Art Gallery, Baber Mahal Revisited