Monsters are Crawling Out of Mazes

Monsters are Crawling Out of Mazes

Sahej Rahal’s hybrid beasts look real in a world marked by distortion and false propaganda, suggests Shweta Upadhyay..

Monsters are crawling out of mazes

Sahej Rahal. Pg. 49, Juggernaut folio. Mixed media on paper. 41.75” x 31”. 2018. Image courtesy the artist and Chatterjee & Lal, Mumbai.

Sahej Rahal’s absurd monsters seem to have escaped from a labyrinth. Descendants of the Minotaur, these part human, part animal hybrids are impossible and fantastic: they are militant and ludicrous at the same time.  These larger-than-life figures that have crawled from the cracked bed of the underworld fill the entire surface of the canvas. Rahal uses mostly two colours – variations of saffron and black in this series of paintings – which give the effect of the beasts emerging from the landscape or as being embodiments or mascots of the landscape. Confronted with their bizarre bodies and totems, with whirlpools and moons in their glares, you forget that landscapes were once idealized as part of the celestial feminine! 

These paintings along with sculptures and an AI programme were part of Juggernaut at Chatterjee & Lal, Mumbai, from the 16th of January to the 2nd of March. This series draws from mythology, science fiction, Manga comics and video games, among other sources. Rahal claims that his work is to be seen as a “form of world-building” and part of an unfolding meta-narrative.  The paintings are presented as pages of a book. The show is a narrative within a larger narrative, like infinite fiction.

The term Juggernaut is actually derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Jagannatha’ meaning lord of the universe, after an annual chariot procession in Puri. The term is now used in English in the sense of a moving behemoth with untrammelled power and crushing force that demands sacrifice, and in the Indian context is also a reminder of the ignominious rath yatra by right-wing groups that culminated in the demolition of Babri Masjid. Juggernaut is also a fictional superhero created by Marvel Comics.