Breath of Visual Fiber

25 Mar 2008

A decade of fabric collages by Vasant Wankhede.

Ever since I first saw Wankhede's work, I want to return to it again and again which is one test of any truly meaningful work of art. I am fortunate to have a friend who has one of his works in her studio and I find myself needing to come back to it for reassurance that in the meaningless acrobatics and the flashy circus-acts of a great deal of the current art scene in the city, that there are some who are continuing to follow their own unswerving path, free from the seduction of the market forces and shifting current trends. The work I am talking about is a collage of raw canvas on canvas and it always seems to have the answer to any and all of the questionings and anxieties that I might be facing at the time. I spend some time with it and in its quiet perfection and ultimate simplicity, I find my bearings again and the world seems to make some sense again.

All the works of Wankhede that I have seen give me the unreal feeling of being the culmination and end result of a series of natural forces without the intervention of a human hand. The discipline, the training of a superbly honed sensibility is most definitely there, but the work ultimately looks effortless, like breathing or a heartbeat –the ultimate result of the miraculously complex but invisible human machinery. The pieces of fabric, the few gashes and slices color, line, handled and placed with the utmost restraint but with the deceptive appearance of a natural phenomena, like the falling of a leaf when its time has come for falling. The finished work is ultimately just there, unmovable, asserting its own, very special place in the world. The work of art is pulsatingly there but its creator has effaced his own personality and has withdrawn, distanced himself from the work. This, to me is the true test of a great work of art, unlike so much of current work that has the strong imprint of the artist smeared all over it. I want to see the work of art and not the boring individual who created it!

At this stage in my effort to describe the impact of Wankhede's work, I must mention another work of art that I periodically need to return to for sustenance. It is a faded reproduction of a Thirteenth-Century Chinese painting that I think is one of the very great paintings of all time and has a direct bearing on what I have tried to express. It is a still life of six persimmons placed in the lower half of the painting in achingly perfect grey washes. Nothing is painted in the space above but the grey expanse is charged with the most incredible energy and life force. It very simply says ' Attributed to Mu-ch'I, Early 13th c ' and it has all the answers to all the questions in the world.