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SIDDHARTHA TAWADEY presents ‘TRANSIENCE - A photographic salutation to Impermanency’

From:     Neha Chandra
Category: Exhibitions
Date:     06 November 2009
Time:     05:44 AM


New Delhi: In an era where art photography has become synonymous with digital prints and dependent
on photoshop manipulation, here is a photographer who makes the fast-vanishing dark room his studio
and a Buddhist concept his muse! Investment banker-turned photographer Siddhartha Tawadey exhibits
yet another remarkable collection of more than twenty photographs in his upcoming solo exhibition
titled ‘TRANSIENCE - A photographic salutation to Impermanency’ at Travancore Art Gallery,
Travancore Palace, Kasturba Gandhi Marg, New Delhi from November 12, 2009 to November 22, 2009.


Born in Calcutta, Siddhartha Tawadey’s first creative influences came from his mother who taught him
“how to look and wonder at the natural world” around him, inheriting her love of collecting and
finding beauty in the smallest pebble or leaf. Though his ambition was always to be a fine art
photographer, family pressures led him to pursue an MBA from Middlesex School of Business (London)
and enter the corporate sector as a banker with Global Funds Solution, London. As providence would
have it, a failed business persuaded him to pursue photography with a renewed passion. He studied
Art Architecture and Photography from St Martin’s School of Design (London), Painting and
Photography from City University (London) and Photo Fusion - Advanced and alternative Darkroom
printing (London) and returned to fine art photography to express ideas and concerns from an
individual standpoint with a particular theme.


Siddhartha Tawadey says: “I create from various references that I find in art; whether it be the
surrealist qualities of the paintings of Rene Magritte or Salvador Dali, to the abstract
expressionism of Rothko and Mondrian to the sheer beauty of a Monet and Seurat or the striking and
involved imagery of Van Gogh.”


“My ideas, references and inspiration have been largely influenced by my education and work spanning
continents and cities. Thus, my photographs reflect a more prosaic approach to photographic seeing -
a fascination with the everyday things, with landscape, both natural and urban, repetition, shadows
of memory, the layering of history, order and chaos is all present in my work.”

”There may be other, more descriptive or poetic words that may be used to define the “pattern” that
connects the images, but the simplest meta-pattern is this: I take snapshots of moments in time and
space in which a peace washes over me, and during which I sense a deep interconnectedness between my
soul, the moment and the everyday world around me.”


“I work abstractly and non-linearly – however, my designs do have trends over time, usually with the
goal of delaying recognition so a photograph may have a better dialogue with its viewer, free of
labels. Recent techniques have included seeing without gravity, designing in soft focus, and using
shapes to continue the photograph beyond the physical frame.”


The theme of his current show is based on Mujo, a medieval concept of Buddhism, literally meaning
‘no’ (mu) ‘permanence’ (jo) and also known as Anittya in Sanskrit, Transience encompasses the
impermanent and momentary aspects of our existence and that of the things around us, including
birth, growth, change, decay, death, organic forms, constructs of society and time. Transience
exists in organic forms, constructs of society and time itself. The past consumes the present while
we move constantly into the uncertainty of the future.


As a photographer, Tawadey, however, has moved from the figurative genre that he showed in his debut
show titled ‘Silent voices of an Unseen India’ in September 2008, where he displayed an intimate
philosophical exploration of time, memory and history. His second show titled ‘Un Vague de Reves’ in
March 2009 set a trend of sorts with Triptychs in photography where he juxtaposed three images in
one picture to portray the inner realities of the subconscious.


In the current show, through the universal language of abstraction and the use of metaphor, he
reflects on his personal and universal concerns about the transience of life and nature. By creating
work  without the constraints of representation, the work can exist in its own  right, as an object
if you like, which may draw from the viewer a sensation, a  memory, a collective recognition of the
beauty of form, a perception of space  or the purity of a line.


According to him: “Photography can be described not as capturing reality, but rather as an
abstraction of time and place. What may have been real now only exists on paper in the swirl of
chemicals and fixatives that hold it in place."


He continues: "What then of the photographic image that is in itself abstract? Our focus shifts from
the recognizable, indexical form, to composition, tone, line and the intent? But what if the image
gives us both? What if the image presents a real, recognizable form in an abstract presentation? The
results are much more complex than in abstract painting because the eye is conditioned to read
photographs by their surface, to take it for what it is, and therefore not question more than what
the eye can see. The images challenge the viewer to these specific assumptions that we draw from the
photography mediums so called reality."


For instance in one of his work, the photograph on first glance shows an eyelid but on a closer look
you can see a foetus captured in those eyeballs. In another photograph, one really has to look deep
and long to judge whether the eyes are of a child or a woman; the face being distorted so as to make
the features unrecognizable. In yet another image, one can see two trees and an outline of a hut
still intact while a strong wind is swirling pass by. The photographer tries to capture stability
which is very essential in one’s relationships. For one of his photograph, the photographer had
specifically gone to Dindigul, Chennai “just to capture the movement of windmills”. Other works
include Elephant Boy, Mystic, Soul and Monet.


However, what remains his signature style is the desolation in each of his photographs. The lonely
feeling in the vast spaces and the paradox referred to in this exhibition is that in order to be, we
must change; when we cease to change we cease to exist. Everything is in movement. It is this
movement that the photographer has attempted to capture through his images.


In an era dominated by digital prints, Siddhartha Tawadey still favours the traditional concept of
darkroom and also incorporates photograms, which were made before the advent of photography. For
him, the darkroom is where he is the happiest, as he is in control of everything – from the images
taken from his 5 D Mark 2 Cannon or the F 90 Nikon that are processed by hand and then contact
printed to the images which are enlarged using an old Fuji enlarger and rendered on resin coated
Hahnemuhle archival paper. From scanning them on the latest technology scanners and then printing
them from Epson Stylus 9880 professional wide format printer on the archival paper using the latest
Epson Ultra Chrome K3 archival pigmented inks to the way he wants to play with lights of the lens,
to the washing of the prints - everything gives him immense joy just to see how he can transform the
photographs on to print.


Quiz him that one can do the same in Photoshop, pat comes the reply that “there is restriction in
using the mouse on computer.” When asked about the difficulties he faces in his photographic
journey, he quips “it’s been a Herculean task to find a darkroom or good quality printing paper in
India. As each fine art print is made manually with a degree of dodging and burning, no two
photographs ever come out exactly the same. I like to print on fiber-based papers, which are the
traditional papers, but the handling, washing and processing is very time consuming. Also, apart
from the expensive fees for studying photography, there aren’t any short term courses available here.”


Tawadey’s big break came with the photo – essay at the Tate Modern (UK) but the latest achievement
that has him excited is a soon-to-be-launched book on lateral ties between India and Colombia titled
‘Una apasionada familia humana’ for which he has provided images. What also inspires him is his
collaboration with the famous photographer Diego Ferago with whom he “will be putting up a video
installation at Barcelona Airport (Spain) next year”, he adds.

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