Arjun

Abhishek Verma’s oeuvre is characterized by his endless traveling, shifting, and the alteration of environs that he is frequently facing. The burning questions of identity and belonging add to the feel of conflict and anxiety in his mysterious, haunting visuals. He deploys popular idioms to fashion his own personal insecurities. The inclusion of satire and drama is done discerningly to build a story-like quality yet keeping it from being a narrative. The unadulterated contrast and the impact of a spotlight are often used in his works to give a theatrical effect, stemming from his childhood memory of his grandmother and mother telling him stories under a lantern at night. His process is an explorative one; an amalgam of personal histories and universal experiences, with the effort to fuse an array of space, time and involvement by means of elements that are conglomerated with his history as well as the manifested contemporaneous.

I see a silvery light
Falling onto me
Illuminating my demons
As they crawl out of my closet
My bed hasn’t felt very comfortable lately
And I’ve been questioning my intentions lately
Am I the killer or am I killed?
Am I Hamlet or am I Claudius?
Or am I just Ophelia?
Sinking in my bed of daggers
The bed I made myself
The bed of self-sabotage
With the divine light calling my name
I feel the pain no longer
I am airborne, levitating, light as air
My sins won’t weigh me down if I don’t count them.

The painting expresses the artist’s take on choices, the kind of choices that delineate our lives, for better or for worse. Questions pertaining to identity crisis, self-doubt, and analyzing one’s intentions are in dichotomy with one another; with the man juxtaposed in a seemingly self-reflective, surrendered, enlightened state of being. The use of spotlight creates a theatrical scene, with the man being in sharp focus, almost as though enacting the climax of a play, the crux of the moment, and impending finality. The room creates a feeling of isolation and introspection that one often faces in an urban environment. Reference to the Mahabharata, the line on the wall reads in translation “Here I am Arjun, and Bheeshma as well.” Insinuating the end of the immortal Bheeshma by Arjun with the help of Shikhandi, the bed of arrows and water are used as icons to illustrate the episode. On the bottom right we see a fish with an arrow shot through its eyes, a symbol depicting the dexterity of Arjun. The narrative is taken into an urban context, hinting at the self-sabotage, deliberate jeopardy of the essential being, death of hope, feeling of helplessness, a dead end that one encounters in life. There is an air of austerity in the painting, as though the character is frozen in that very state of being, contemplating his condition, and he seems to have accepted his doom. There is a conundrum that the artist is trying to address by employing the metaphor taken from Mahabharata, imposing the question of identity and self-actualization onto the viewer, making the viewer a part of the discourse, if not verbally then viscerally.

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