This is mesmerizing……. the extensive experimentation of blending raw photographs to many new geometries, ideologies, wrapped in nudity and aesthetic elements Hariharan has many stories to tell. The exhibition happened in Kerala Lalitha Kala Academy Art Gallery Calicut. It was on from January 18th and ended by 25th the same month 2022,11 am to 7 pm. Hariharan is an interesting artist, always calm and composed with his thick glasses, pausing to think ahead of the listener and for himself. My first impression and judgement of him was a lot of humanitarian and gentle. The sameness in his eyes is observable. He very vividly explained his works, the crux was this, starting from childhood he told me he witnessed domestic violence, this has stayed in his layers of mind, this may have later sprouted as ideologies, warm emotions and compassion for the wounded. He is a thinking man with his own definite Views, about his exhibition Barbeque republic he laughs and said somebody while passing through his works commended an alternative name “pubic in the republic” …. Hariharan has read extensively and had done so many paintings, he started as a painter in early 80s. The works were accepted for exhibition in the annual shows of Kerala Lalitha Kala academy from 1982 to 1989. He gave up painting and started to focus more on photography. His clicks were published in major international and national journals. Prints were exhibited in UAE, Germany, and many Indian cities, some of these prints were part of international collections. A lot of mutations and evolution has happened in his works over the years, blending imagination and abstract logic. He has been awarded twice by the black and white universe, London for excellence in monochrome photography and also in all India photography saloons recognized by the FIP. He is vice president of the image photographic association, Palakkad the oldest functioning photography forum in Kerala and an editorial board member of the photo muse journal, an international fine arts journal published by the better Art foundation, Kodaly Thrissur. He served as a member of the jury (photography) for the Kerala Lalitha Kala academy during 2017-2018.
The current photo series Barbeque republic has received the Kerala Lalitha Kala academy grant for photography earlier this year. He is a participant of Lokame Tharavad the Mega art festival curated by Bose Krishnamachari. Currently, he lives in Palakkad and works mostly in Kochi.
Now regarding Hariharan and his works and his exhibition, he has a liberal attitude in life and practices it, questionably a leftist is a family man. He follows his own way his own structures of reality while holding and actively participating to nourish and give messages to the collective and art society. His art is intriguing more explanations are needed.
There is one verse in an Upanishad (an ancient Hindu scripture) saying “The face of the truth is covered with a brilliant golden lid; that do thou remove; O fosterer for the law of the truth, for sight….
This wonderful text is there yet there is the caste system in our community, some castes are barred to study the same verse that’s written in the lofty Upanishads, this is a strange situation, the same verses are celebrated and put in the altars while barring low caste people to study the same immaculate words. It’s this abstract idea that he tried to reveal through his exhibition. He always said there is no justice done…All the tyrants showed great placards and glorious orations are done but, in the end, they massacred and stained the masses…. this is happening from time immemorial. Another sequel to this is the 9th symphony of Beethoven; it’s glorified as the ultimate melody in the history of music. But at the same time of holocaust in the concentration camps, while Jewish people were persecuted and confined to cells, symphony 9 was playing in the background, the Nazi soldiers raped Jewish women and the same symphony was played again and again. Hariharan was asking what actually is the role of this melody to the persecuted women who will never heal from this…. what they feel and the trauma they feel if they hear the same, Beethoven. It’s grotesque…. it’s catastrophic…it’s just an unending theatre of tragedy. This association of the victims are embalmed in Hariharan’s works. The irony of celebration of the symphony and the torn and broken…he makes it clear that only those waking nightmares are remembered by the women not the euphoria of the notes.
Complete questioning of ideologies, big awe-inspiring statements and words which has the other side of wickedness, drudgery, injustice, and harm the same altars of shame. Having this in mind one sees the elated consciousness the simplicity and complex mental makeup. Ironic…. Is my commend but he put it in a very arcane way. Elements of fascination happened while I connected his amalgamation of these concepts to print, then it’s a float through his monochromes. One can see a CT scan or X-ray feel in his art photography, it’s a reminder to look subtle and a call for further penetration to the weirdness and absurdity of the sick history of mankind. The script of nudity, the nakedness, the rawness of the flesh in black and white, glimpsing the metaphors and verses of dark ages, present, and times yet to come. The only cloth in this series is just a white bandage around the two big toes of a dead body. The soothsayer tells the body, the realist sees the flesh, that’s Hariharan’s Requiem for flesh.
He mentioned getting a model for his work was a little tough, even one lady accepted but she was distracted by the close camera shots, but later agreed for the required poses. His style is appealing, and he manipulates his photographs to suit his visions. He also concluded that he was deeply moved by the life of late Gauri Amma the real communist iron lady of Kerala and the fearless Soni Sori who wrote a letter to the supreme court about the brutal rape and torture women activists are subjected in our jails, the letter that shocked the nation.
It was a big learning experience for me, it was wonderful to talk to a real genius and humanitarian. “Truth is Stranger than Fiction” this I saw.
Wishing Hariharanji all good.
Rahul Menon is an experimenting musician freelance writer and art critic hailing from Calicut. Curious and interested in all forms of art.