Catalogue- Ages of Separation exhibition, Visual Arts Gallery, India habitat Center, New Delhi
09/20/2006 , By Dr. Alka Pande
I have known Diwan Manna for more than twenty years .Two decades in many cases are a significant time frame in a life time.
I have seen a quiet boy from the small town of Bareta evolve in to an assured and elegant young man. But the contrast has been his gentle demeanor. It is this elegant attitude, which brings in movements of stillness in his work.
From his black and white series which he did as a student during his studies from the art college in Chandigarh to his latest conceptual work, experimentation has been a recurring leitmotif in his personal vocabulary.
As India captures the imagination of the world through its indigenous wisdom and brilliance in software technology the contemporary Indian artists are also becoming more and more acceptable in the global vocabulary of art .Though still at the very periphery, contemporary Indian art is very quickly inching its way into the graph of important collectors the world over.
As the Indian art market continues to be buoyant, and the Indian economy continues to rise at an 8% annual growth photography has also grown in leaps and bounds. In 2004, 7,000 photographs were sold in auction rooms across the globe, and the price rise seen was a whopping 7.5 %, quite a jump for what was thought to be a technical art.
While painting and sculpture have had an edge over installation and video within the art museums and galleries, photography too has entered into the portals of art. In the 1970’s pictorialism entered the space of galleries.
In the last thirty years photography has been used by photographers in a multi dimensional way. From a static to a moving image, it is the ‘eye’ or the gaze of the photographer which has become the tool of communication. Identity and reportage, social documentary and fine art become the multiple genres of photography. “The photographic image….. is a message without a code” states Roland Barthes. And in a parallel voice David Bailey writes “ It takes a lot of imagination to be a good photographer. You need less imagination to be a painter, because you can invent things. But in photography everything is so ordinary: it takes a lot of looking before you learn to see the ordinary.”
It is within this context that I would like to place Diwan Manna.
From taking straight pictures in the genre of social documentary Diwan moves into the realm of the surreal and onto the domain of conceptual photography. His photographs cross many boundaries from documentation to fine art, from experimenting with the process of print making to playing with elements of composition and colour.
No longer can Diwan be placed in any category, his images have a stamp of his continually evolving language. In fact I would like to use the quote of Diane Arbus when she says “A photograph is a secret about a secret. The more it tells you the less you know.”
What I particularly like about Diwan Manna’s exhibition is the way he holds his multiple voices together threading it into a magnificent meta narrative of his personal ideology.
While contemporary urban Indian taste is readying itself for embracing new languages of art, Diwan Manna’s photo images provide a comprehensive entry into the world of a pictorial representation.