In 1998, when Aditya Pande was studying graphic design at NID, he happened to strike up a friendship with Swiss Michael Husmann Tschäni. At that time, Tschäni – a comic book artist and painter – was working in Ahmedabad on a comic book titled Rama based on Indian myths. About eight years later , Pande v isited his friend in Switzerland, where he, Tschäni and Pascale Mira (who collaborates with T schäni and is also married to him) decided to create a project together in India. The couple travelled to India for a six-month residency with Pande (funded partially by Pro Helvetia and Deepika Jindal of The Stainless gallery).
Michael and Pascale have created ten five foot-by-five foot paintings for the See: Saw exhibition on view this fortnight at The Stainless. Often their inspiration comes from their own young children: these paintings are almost a narrative about two chubby-cute kids in the style of a loosely-woven illustrated children’s book. Although the two have been collaborating on comics and artworks for some time now, of late they’ve been more interested in painting. They create large, fantastical, enamel-on-perspex works. What’s interesting about their collaborative style is that each has a unique way of drawing, and this distinctness is retained in their work. Tschäni’s drawings are clean and neatly illustrative, even charming, while Mira’s lines and figures are more organic, sketchy and lively.
The works are painted backwards, from the surface down to the background, so that the paintings have a glossy sheet of plexiglass as their face. The strong, almost old-fashioned figures of the children anchor the lush, imaginative swirl of colours, doodles, shapes and creatures. One of the nicest things about these works is that they consciously draw from a nostalgic visual language of childhood that seems almost dated. There are no grown-ups to protect the little girl and boy and the monster-creatures are both friendly and scary.
Walking into this show is a little like revisiting your Enid Blytons or Peter Pan. Even The Little Prince comes to mind in the depiction of conversations between children and animals and the prescient demeanor of the little boy and girl.
Pande’s work in this exhibition includes nine tall prints. These are centred largely around drawing – specifically drawing that uses several media in the same piece. Thus, his giclée prints (high-quality inkjet) are simple reproductions of drawings that he has executed by hand or using an electronic tablet. Pande then draws on these prints using pen and other media, including blobs of enamel paint. The prints themselves are simple blocks of colour in predominantly blank space that suggest a composition – a bit like a very out-of-focus photograph. Pande sharpens these drawings with his pen, giving the blobs features and limbs in a graphic style that’s almost like three-dimensional rendering, while the bits of peeling enamel paint add texture. His work, like Tschäni’s and Mira’s, is loosely narrative, though his figures are not in the least realistic. His experimental use of a 3-D rendering to draw almost cartoon-like creatures and people is interesting and arresting.
The three have created installations and a book as well. Pande, who also likes to draw using thread, will display an embroidered fabric, embellished with ball-point pen drawing. Tschäni and Mira have made large soft toys – taken from the creatures of their paintings and translated into three dimensions. These fun plump creatures sprout tentacles and sport sequins in a most attractive manner. Steel cut-outs lie next to these installations like unnaturally sharp shadows. Cloud cut-outs see-saw above the viewers’ heads and the effect of all of this is to make you feel like you’ve walked into a wonderland. The trio wanted to do a video work as well, but didn’t have the time. We just hope they’ll be working on a next installment.