Aicon Contemporary is proud to present Whoever Brought Me Here Will Have To Take Me Home, a solo exhibition featuring works by Avishek Sen. The following is an essay written by Rosalyn D’Mello;
“Avishek Sen has always delighted in playful titles that suggest that you, the viewer, have arrived in the middle of a work’s plot line, and that the work, itself, is part of a larger chronological sequence and is inter-linked to an all-encompassing mythical framework that is uniquely the consequence of his wild imagining. In Whoever brought me here will have to take me home, we see, once again, how Sen constructs scenes that are invariably familiar within the realm of his fantasy-steeped practice. Having followed his work since 2015, when I wrote an essay on his then solo Bedtime Stories, I recognise many recurring motifs even in this newer body of water-based paintings. Among them are fish-eating-fish-eating-fish, the gaping mouth of crocodile-like hybrids, the preying tiger unhinged by its own desire, the slit surfaces of pears, and occasionally, their tantalizing skins, bananas in awe of their own plenitude, accompanied by the ripe edible flower over-emphasising the suggestion of fertility, alongside the penile shape of the soft, mushy fruit that is held intact even while it serves as a perch for the crouching tiger’s curious, lithe body. There’s also the tangled imagery of phallic roots and fuzzy nest-like aureole, in one instance with recurring pears resting like eggs under a hybrid animal being.
Sen brazenly unleashes this fecund imagery upon his unsuspecting viewers, baiting us with the temptation of rich, liquid, at times even glossy texture. He constructs inter-species tableaux, dramatic spectacles where one specimen or hybrid, whether zoological, botanical, or human, is stacked upon another and relates to each other precariously, in twin states of suspense and suspension. What holds the whole is some form of touch that resembles an ecological caress. As if they knew where paradise is (2019) is an excellent example of the carrier-nature of the stack.
A long-legged, webbed-footed long-necked crane-like creature is a vehicle for six birds and a stack of fish who are collectively en route. Sen suggests through the title that they may be potentially ‘in the know’ about paradise. They are as if they knew the coordinates of the promised or coveted land, as if their more evolved sensory capabilities made them more attuned to finding the way. Was it they who brought Sen ‘here’? Are they the ‘whoever’ meant to take him back, as the show’s title suggests. What is their relationship to the thesis of the titular declaration? Like this work, we are offered not answers but clues in the form of fleshy excesses and riddle-like work titles. One thing they point to is that whoever or whatever impelled him into the ‘here’ to which he refers has also cajoled him into considering scales that attest to cosmic dimensions.
The Universe Within (2019) is the result of this detailed tuning in by which Sen accesses the galactic through the domestic. The subject of study seems to be a halved pumpkin. The hyperrealist interior is cushioned with febrile strands that host seeds and its colour contrasts mightily against the bruised pumpkin-orange of the circumference. The universe within is alluded to but not made obviously visible. But Sen makes it easy for us to touch its nebulous subjectivity with our imagination. There is the mystery of the great unknown contained beneath the fibrous surface, and the outermost delineation of circumference has a halo-like glow that is suggestive of the green-yellow striated skin. Sacrifice (2019) features another study of a melon-like being whose surface is tantalizingly wet, and underneath which are packed glistening seeds as if in amniotic fluid. Oddly, while both these still lifes suggest the erotic potentiality of the fertile, they seem candidly non-sexualised. Their register feels vastly different from some of the orgiastic configurations that were elemental to his Bedtime Stories. Offering and Feel that Breathing continue in this more meditative register, and given that both were made in 2020, one wonders if this is the ‘here’ to which the whoever has brought Sen. Offering is masterful, not only because it is so marvellously rendered and shows Sen’s obvious elan with his water-based techniques but because of how he frames this study of a cross-section of a Jackfruit. There’s something of a departure, because Sen’s earlier work would have flagrantly focussed on the prickly green eroticism of the Jackfruit’s exterior. Instead, Sen is focussed on what the interior holds, and we sense the stickiness of the sap, we gleam the sharpness of the instrument that would have sectioned the fruit from sturdily the seeds have been halved so they become a window into another dimension. There is rawness all over. The flesh is not ready to be eaten. Like Sacrifice, this Offering is not being harvested for its edible qualities. It has been abstracted for other missions. In Feel that breathing, the interior is lung-like, even vestibular. The organ-like core that is usually extracted from the fruit when it is put to culinary use is what
Sen is intently focussed on. It’s possible that in future iterations we may see these cross-sectional studies appear in the playful way the pear manifests; in a bathtub with a towel. It is wonderful, though, to have cause to pause and glimpse at what feels elemental to Sen’s practice, this obsessive fixation with abstracting the fleshiness of what constitutes the core, with that which is otherwise discarded when the objects of study are actually in use.”
Through his highly suggestive and sensual paintings, Indian artist Avishek Sen has always sought to showcase and reframe the conversation between man and nature. Sen’s uncanny conflations of animal and plant, animal and animal, man and animal, are nothing if they are not metaphors for man’s endless lust for dominating nature. No surprise that his breathtaking images have effortlessly become metaphors for our strange times.
There is a thread of darkness, of the un-natural, that flows through Sen’s work; making it difficult for the viewer to quickly internalize what they see. As if in compensation, Sen renders the work with an incredibly well-wrought ornamentation, and embellishment. Not just realizing a visual sumptuousness - which it does, but also embellishment of the mind. The embellishment reveals itself over time and through multiple passages back to the work. Each return passage opens up more doors as it were, doors of reference.
Sen’s work is full of layers, and full of references. He frequently references the intersection of politics and faith. The references are often obscure, and serve as a prop to the visual, which occupies the primary place of honor. But, it also allows for repeated viewings and rediscovery of the work. Just as he builds the painting with layers of paint, applied thinly and repeatedly, so does Sen build the mythology and the story told by the painting."