Curious to the eye, interestingly rendered and playful in its visual vocabulary, in its kineticity Shailesh BR works towards the creation of a “machine” or the “mechanical”. Peculiarly so, the oeuvre of Shailesh almost looks like a cabinet of curiosities and his studio like a workstation, a laboratory at times or a workshop even maybe. Wood shreddings, his dremel, drill and woodcutting tools conform to his insistence that he must create completely, shuttling roles of a carpenter, mechanic and welder etc hands on. Asymmetrically arranged drawings that function as blueprints, rendered on paper yellowed by time, from pages of a diary, a novel or a vintage question paper, besides blank sheets are canvas to his childlike drawings and little written musings – unapologetic about spelling it right or being grammatically correct. These errors being about so much more to how he sees, perceives and defends with childlike vigour. But it would be a mistake to write it off as just that, to see its surface mere, smile at it and move on. Shailesh’ work stems from his studies in Sanskrit that forms a major portion of his growing up – fourteen years to be precise. This formative education and having grown up in a village where electricity is a distant luxury even as you read this, inventions as simple as the bulb to the privileged folk makes for his fantasy.
There is a back-story fished out from the yonder of mythology to see the contemporaneous in a light so unassumingly distinct that it takes his little narrations to connect the puzzle clear. Having studied in two completely diverse artistic pedagogies viz. CAVA, Mysuru and The Faculty of Fine Arts, M.S. Univeristy of Baroda his artistic practice derives generously from both. Here Mannerisms meet Machinery and his work takes from this dialogue in a premise of Mythology, which in his own works makes for his “Mythological Machines” (the term serving as an oxymoron in itself). When you look at his “No line is straight line, because the world is round” it harbors candor, as he looks at things sequentially, as a phenomenology. However he examines it all autobiographically, pulling out little incidents from his childhood elucidating his emotions. Objects that he was introduced to at a later stage in life then are manipulated and their functions altered as per his imagination.
His drawings show little regard to the realistic and usually start with the simple idea of – I have never drawn a dog before, so let me draw a dog or his Anti-Clock that just moves in the opposite direction as though it were against time. The Anti-Clock is striking in its appearance and like most of Shailesh’ work uses the ornamental. There is a sensibility of the antique intrinsic to his work embellished with carved wooden frames and embossed bronze sheets, and a conscious choice to keep the mechanism exposed to the viewer. For example in the Anti-clock the mechanism usually on the hind of the clock is brought to the fore, to see the machine tick in its multiple teethed dials as it propels time.
Shailesh says he does not know how to work, but he sure can create for his own and from his own. For example the joy of hanging by a cow’s tail as a child and swinging brings backs the onomatopoeia reminiscent of a bell, thereby his work where hangs a rope connected to a manjïrà (manjeera) -one stationary and the other kinetic by the subordination of a spring. The pulling of the rope recreates the memory of the swinging in its sound. There is a heady mix of the past and the present appropriated in his view of the world. While working in a Hospital, he ended up collecting a few thousand capsules only to convert it into a beanbag and help people play a game in which they guide the mouth to swallow pills to just address the phobia of medicines. he witnessed first hand. The myth of Manthanam in Sanskrit (Samudra Manthan) lead him to several drawings of how he would perceive a machine to depict the event, which was eventually realized with the mechanism of a washing machine that rotates clockwise followed the anti-clockwise alluding to the episode of the churning of the sea. I see the climactic in his Philosophy machine, entitled that as well wherein he takes the simple idea of a certain philosophy being conceptualized, examined and explained and gaining that prominence for a certain sliver of history till it is outdone with a new philosopher and his philosopher. In the many drawings he symbolizes “enlightenment” via this certain elusive philosophy that goes on to extinguish itself eventually with the flame of a new thought. Circularly motioned it also takes back to it as a continuous and endless phenomenon where thought continues to culminate and disseminate.
It is a premise of wonder then, stimulated by the rather unknown to him for several years. These ideas and implements form the investigative in his work; as he questions the staunch formalism with some of the simplest questions, the answers to which form his device, premise and preoccupations.