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Noise and Anonymity

by Himali Singh Soin

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The anonymous lives of street vendors and their carts are mobilized with uncanny visual effects by Sohan Jakhar’s series ‘Vendorism.’ As the coined term suggests, Jakhar views these omnipresent stalls with the eye of an intellectual (the ‘ism’) observer from afar; this is reflected in the angles of the subjects in the foreground and the uncanny sense of the viewer lurking just outside the canvas’ frame. Jakhar takes photographs of vendors then Photoshops them against the colorful backgrounds of wallpapers from his own Haveli in his hometown, Shekhawati. He then increases the noise in the image until the photograph blurs: the residue produces a scene that is seemingly timeless-- the harsh reality of a day to day sale of perishable items softened round the edges, silenced, anonymous.

Jakhar deploys a method previously used only in film: rotoscoping live-action and compositing it over a matte. By employing such techniques in his process and traditional life as his content, Jakhar implies the paradox of timelessness and technology that is so frequently seen in India today. Though Jakhar’s background is local and unique to his own history, the patterns seem to appear out of the 1960’s hippie movement; its flowers symbolizing constant flux, hope and peace, romancing the otherwise harsh reality of the darkened faces of street vendors. The stands seem to be floating on the background, disembodied and de-contextualized in their dream-like state. However, this method of semi-abstraction does not compromise real detail; in fact, it paradoxically enhances it. We search for the corner screws of the cart or the spokes in its wheel to find ground when the stalls themselves have no concrete to rest upon.

The juxtaposition of the light pastel colors of the background and the deep, dark outlines of the vendors reflects, formally, both the facelessness as well as the depth that characterizes these stalls of everyday. Jokhar’s work contains, though more mildly, some of Suleman’s humor: he captures stalls such as ‘On-Line’ Halwai (sweet-maker) that have nothing to do with the internet, instead the phrase is something the vendor may have heard repeatedly, and chosen as an enticing one for the literate world. Though the vendors appear nameless, each of them has their own personality, be in a mustache or the hand with which he chooses to serve a customer. Through abstracted concealment, this series of ten 60” by 60” acrylics manages to reveal a deeper, bolder depiction of the man who sits waiting patiently in a box, just around the corner.

Himali Singh Soin, Art Slant. http://www.artslant.com/ind/articles/show/11164

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