When the audio recording plays, artist Rajesh Srivastava closes his eyes to dive into the depth of the sound. In silence, he comprehends the sounds, words, pauses, which he recorded at Kurdish marketplaces. Suddenly he opens his eyes, and as if using the sound as paint, he produces swift brush strokes on the canvas before him. Srivastava, who keeps experimenting with auditory impulses to create such pieces of art, will do a live painting on may 15 to showcase this dexterity in an exhibition titled, Visual Aural. His other static works, all figurative, will also feature at the show.
The track that will accompany his live performance, includes sounds of crowds, hawkers, animals, children, food vendors, and more, at Kurdish marketplaces. Srivastava makes sound ‘visible’ by reimagining its pitch, density, audibility, timbre, and velocity. He can do this by studying each sound to identify surface-level sounds and embedded, yet indistinct-level sounds. If he hears a vegetable seller in the soundtrack, he pays attention to every feature and interprets it on the canvas. Thus he gives sounds ‘tangible forms, shapes and colours’.
Profusely inspired by Kurdistan’s art, culture and life, Srivastava’s works include such heterogeneous features. The Kurdish, who have migrated from Iran, Turkey, Syria, and Iraqi Kurdistan, are known for their architectural sensibilities, flair for poetry, love for indigenous music, carpet craft, and sports. And Srivastava, who visited Kurdistan many times, has grown to appreciate the relevance of this ancient cultural civilisation in the 21st century’s fleet-footed life.
To introduce viewers to the region, he uses Visual Aural to act as a cultural window. His exhibits titled Dream and Dare or She Identified takes reference from the Anfal genocide that killed thousands of Kurds during Saddam Hussein’s Al-Anfal campaign during the Iran–Iraq war.
“After the massacre, many severed bodies of Kurds were found lying around. Taking notes from the clothes and ornaments on their bodies, I constructed images recalling those times.” In Dream and Dare, rendered in acrylic on hard board, a woman in traditional Kurdish attire lies in her grave surrounded by cardboard boxes.
A satire on how political campaigns are always ‘packaged’ with various elements to undertake an operation, in this case, war. Another work, She Identified, reflects on the same sentiment. Through his live painting and static works, Srivastava reminds us of a civilisation that needs to be saluted.
Visual Aural will also have contemporary artist Abhijit Pathak showcasing his abstract line drawings.