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Rear View Mirror #1

Panchal Mansaram (b. 1934)c. 1969

Royal Ontario Museum

Royal Ontario Museum
Toronto, Canada

This work captures the artist's sense that after a period of expansion of the global village in the late 1960s, the world was starting to shrink and slow down by going back to an older way of life. This is visualized through a collage of imagery from newspaper and cartoon clippings contained in an egg or womb shape. An image of DC Comics superhero, The Flash, known for superspeed, lies prostrate at the top pierced by the artist's arrow doodles. Below, a hand holds up a shruken world. Below that, there is imagery referencing an older way of life such as horses (transportation), a blotter, an old-style coffee urn, dishware, and old-style map, a daguerreotype (early photography), and kerosene lanterns. The artist's doodles in black marker around the collaged materials reinforce these associations, including the spinning wheel (chakra) at the top that became a powerful symbol of pre-modern self-reliance during India's independence movement. The plastic lace doilies that frame the top and bottom of the work reflect the artist's interest in low tech media forms. He likens his approach to art-making to jazz music, improvising on an inutitive level between abstraction and realism, colour and monochrome, paint and ephemera.

Panchal Mansaram (P.Mansaram) was born in 1934 in Mt. Abu, Rajasthan, in western India. He studied at the Sir J. J. School of Art, Mumbai and later at the Rijks Academie, Amsterdam. In 1966, he migrated to Canada with his artist wife Tarunika and three-month-old daughter Mila. He formed a friendship with Canadian philosopher Marshall McLuhan that would last throughout their lives. Mansaram’s series Rear View Mirror, based on McLuhan’s writings, relates the fragmentary experience of contemporary life. It is a perspective through the rear-view mirror of a car: moving forward but with one eye on the past and seeing the world through small fragments akin to contemporary media-saturated culture. Interested in media, daily life, and cultural signs, Mansaram experimented with various techniques from printmaking and painting to photography, textiles, xerox art, and video. The technique of collage pervades much of Mansaram’s work, serving as an artistic approach that mirrored his experience as a diaspora artist. His later work employs computer manipulation to combine different techniques that Mansaram describes by coining the term "mansa-media."

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