by Sathyanand Mohan



Picture 1 of 26

One of the things that I have tried to explore in this set of works is the relationship between language and representation. We grasp the world through language; but since it is an impure medium already ‘contaminated’ by all manner of historical and cultural residues (and thus ideological in its very essence), our experiences are always partial. ‘Abecedaire’ uses the basic formal device of a child’s language primer in order to explore the question of the relationship between subjectivity and interpretation. Using alphabetical blocks juxtaposed against meticulously constructed scenes, I have tried to provoke the viewer into bringing an active act of ‘reading’ into the work; – one could say therefore that it also tries to posit an equivalence between the interpretation of a work and the ways in which we engage with the world as sentient beings. Experience, or our being-in-the-world is primarily a form of interpretative activity; we frame the world through the perceptual, linguistic and cultural codes into which we are born (or that we acquire).

Editor’s Note – Anil Cherukupalli

Sathyanand’s twist of the language primer which almost everyone in the English speaking world is familiar with through this essay is both playful and profound. On the surface, the saturated photographs are easily attractive and vaguely comforting as they instantly evoke childhood memories of many hours spent learning the English alphabet by rote. But linger a little longer on each meticulously constructed photograph and deeper, often disturbing, thoughts surface. The allusions made with each brightly coloured alphabet in the foreground and a constructed background are manifold. ‘Zetigeist’, ‘childhood’, ‘words’ seem the most obvious of such but even the most obvious allusion lends itself to multiple interpretations. W could mean just words, it could mean writers or it could mean wrong too.

By constructing such multiple interpretations within this series Sathyanand is highlighting the importance of subjectivity in language. Nothing is black and white. What I see, interpret and construct will be different from you. Each of us, based on our subjective natures, process the world differently even if using similar symbols. Uniformity of opinion is not always possible in the subjective world of language. But should we guard against attempts to enforce a universal sameness that a globalised world seeks to impose on us? The ‘M’ for McDonald’s or the bitten apple for Apple, for example, seek to hard code such interpretations. By building many meanings into something as simple as an abecedaire the artist is asking us to delve deeper into the symbols we take for granted. So linger with each photograph, attempt to throw out the A for Apples and C for Cats that you have learnt long ago and instead interpret each alphabet anew based on what you see and have experienced. Trust me, it will be a rewarding and educative experience.

About Sathyanand Mohan
Sathyanand Mohan (b. 1975, Kerala) is a visual artist and writer who lives and works in Vadodara. He completed his graduation in painting from the College of Fine Arts, Trivandrum in 1998 and his MFA in printmaking from the Faculty of Fine Arts, Vadodara in 2000. He has participated in many shows and art fairs in India and all over the world. He has done two solo exhibitions, - 'Reliquary' (2009), and 'Mirage' (2012) both at the Guild Art Gallery, Mumbai. He has written for various online and print magazines such as artconcerns.com and Art & Deal, as well as a number of independent essays on contemporary art and artists. He won the FICA (Foundation for Indian Contemporary Art, Vadehra Art Gallery) award for Art writing and research in 2009. He presently teaches Photography at the Faculty of Fine Arts, Vadodara.



  • Reply March 5, 2013

    Turjoy Chowdhury

    Very different and contemporary approach. The power of artistic concept is really clear here. (just a personal question to Mohan : Was the reflection of your own in some images that much important ? I will be really glad if you explain your thought a little bit.)

    • Reply March 6, 2013

      Sathyanand Mohan

      Hi Turjoy,
      Thank you for your comments.
      I assume that you are referring to the mirrors that I have used in some of the works.
      Their main purpose was to reflect back a little bit of the view from the side of the camera and the photographer. In some photographs (for example in ‘v’), one can see my reflection as well as the set up (lights camera etc). This is to stress the aspect of making, both of how we make pictures as well as the ways of making meaning, or of making sense of the world. In the photographs all these questions are tied up together.
      I hope that answers your question somewhat.

      • Reply March 6, 2013

        Turjoy Chowdhury

        Thank you for explaining your thought….Actually I was guessing the same thing. Well….take care and keep going. Best wishes.

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