Fear doesn’t seem fiercely fearful when befriended with an open heart and a rational mind, both of which artist Ranbir Kaleka has achieved after a lifetime of sporadic contemplative undertakings. As times have changed, so has his relationship with this emotion. From back in his childhood when he was oblivious to it to current times when he is besieged by its overwhelming presence, Kaleka talks about it through his oldest companion — art. In his new exhibit, Fear of a New Dawn, he offers an honest, individualistic summery of sombre realities, looming gloom, and an ecosystem that actively proliferates it.
Take for instance passive fear, one that doesn’t directly impact you but haunts you even from a distance. “One felt the fear of those far away in Gujarat in 2002. One senses the fear of the Middle Eastern refugees, or for that matter, what happened to the Sikhs in 1984,” says Kaleka, adding, “The world is becoming much smaller in terms of emotions. The pain of those suffering in a remote unknown place is also easily felt.”
You see a lot of his imageries displaying residues of hate and violence in his work. These are comments on the intolerance he sees around, not just in India but the world. All these uncertainly unsettles him, and all this is reflected in the title of the show — Fear of a New Dawn — that is suggestive of a threatening future. “One simply cannot tell what the next day holds. Of course, there is always hope but one doesn’t know when and how it’ll manifest,” says the artist, who still doesn’t taunt fear. He accepts what it has to offer.
For most, the latter years of their life germinate an understanding of the complexities of life, but for him, it started fairly early when he was five or six. In his large haveli in Patiala, little Kaleka would have ample time to himself. He began observing intensely how family, society and the world functioned. Supplementing this were the many stories told to him emphatically by his mother and uncles. Somehow, these were always about the frailties, peculiarities and eccentricities of human life. “Through all this I began examining emotions, fear being one of them,” he says.
From the little boy who doodled with used coal on the walls of his house to a man who has exploited the entire gamut of tools for his artistic recreation, Kaleka has shunned the idea of fear as a liability and leveraged it to create ideas for inspired living.Fear of a New Dawn: On till April 6, from 11 am to 7 pm, at Vadehra Art Gallery, D-40, Defence Colony.