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Alka Jhamb

Alka Jhamb, in her latest series of works that include paintings, drawings and sculptures made out of improvised furniture and found objects, has extracted human presence to its abstract minimum, leaving the feeling, ‘someone was here’ for the viewers. In her previous works, the human protagonist has been a woman crouching on chairs, exemplifying her self induced confinement, adherence to duties and above all restrictions created by the mind itself. These de-personalized images stood for the feminine position/s in the society and her works presented themselves as subtle commentaries on such positioning. Seen against this context of her images and works, even considering them as the aesthetical backdrop of the present body works, one could say that the artist has moved away from such confining ideas and has become more liberated. It is not only a self reflection of sort but also the very change that has come to replace the former notions about feminine or even human positions within a society largely driven by materialistic thoughts. Art subconsciously reflects the changes in the artistic self as well as those take place in the society. In this sense, Alka Jhamb’s present series of paintings and other works of art are the reflections on the society where she lives in and on. Born and brought up in Delhi, Alka Jhamb sees the city as a place of opportunities. A city which is replete with possibilities and opportunities naturally brings in the ideas of opulence and power, essential operatives for making life successful by grabbing the opportunities and making use of the possibilities. Such societies that thrive on the notion of success are like an organism with two heads. Unlike they mythical Janus whose heads/faces are turned to past and future at the same time, city as an organism with two heads generally do not turn its attention to past and future, instead it looks at the present and future. That means, a graphic representation of the city could be a pair of unsymmetrical heads with one face looking at present and the other face looking out into future. While Janus lives an unreal life, leaving the blessings of the present behind, city as a double headed organism lives a half real life. While its indulgence is in the present, it is focused upon future. It gives certain amount of uprooted-ness to the people living in a city. The people living in a city tend to behave like a creature with an imaginary mind controlled by several other forces, and head towards something unknown called ‘the future’. At the same time, the people become severely individualistic looking sharply at the present in the hope of achieving everything here and now. When such ambitions get moored in human minds, the first thing that they gravitate to is a position; a weird alteration of a possible manifestation of individuality. Position becomes a sort of occupation, sucking up rest of the ideas of existence, leaving no room for spiritual anchoring of the self. This idea of occupying a position brings forth the images of a chair in human mind. Alka Jhamb has visualized this strange transformation of human self in the cities, where human beings become occupation mongers who want to possess chairs to establish their power and position. Interestingly, the artist does not remain critical and harsh throughout her creative moments. She tries to see the sunny side of it by painting chairs that stick out; the individual and lonely chairs that embody the anchoring of the self. They are humble chairs, not the stately ones that represent power and glory. These humble chairs, though devoid of human presence, help the artist to visualize individual human beings who look at the present and learn lessons from the past and do not think much about the future. But in a materialistic world, aversion towards future or such a thought process itself is a next to impossible. Alka Jhamb sees this conundrum of power and position that people have been caught in. She imagines this maze like imaginary structure as if it were a hellish symphony. Hence, one could see, like notations on a musicians note book, chairs appearing alone and in groups in her paintings. However, 
she does not connect this orchestra of chairs with the musical chair situation for capturing power or the race for it, nor does she directly connect it with the seats of power though Delhi is the seat of ultimate power as far as the political scenario of the country is concerned. For the artist, chair is a metaphor, a stand in image for a lonely individual as well as individuals who forget their individuality when they become a part of an organism called society. The colours that Alka Jhamb uses to create her paintings are not stark. They are subdued and more or less show the subtle tonal variations of grey, white, brow