To paraphrase Sigmund Freud’s famous question, I will ask, “What does Roy Tamboli want?” I have watched his art for several decades and have written about it a few times. Each time I see his work, it seems different, sometimes radically, another expression of a search for the right form. This anxiety could be a function of a protean imagination, barely contained by the vessels of its creativity, or it could mark a feeling of perpetual quest that stems from a lack of commitment.
What Tamboli wants is what any artist of any background wants: a sense of completeness and inevitability. When the poet finds exactly the most powerful metaphor, when the photographer enters the breathtakingly perfect scene, when the choreographer achieves the transcendent movement, there is a sense of having arrived, an aura of homecoming.
Tamboli, best known as a sculptor, is showing 11 works – nine paintings and two charcoal sketches – through December 3. This is her first exhibition entirely devoted to painting in Memphis, and it offers an incredible explosion of brilliance, bravado and self-confidence. They are mainly abstractions, essentially oils on canvas with fumes of charcoal, enamel or silicone. The energy that unfolds there is grandiose, constantly changing through a journey of transformation and metamorphosis and gestures that border on abandonment and the disruption of the senses.
Moreover, the scale is suitably enormous for the dynamism of the work; such greatness of design, detail and dimension requires space for its accomplishment. What size are these parts? Two, “La Presa” and “Shefa”, are 60 by 60 inches, yes, five feet on each side. “Essere Vivo” measures 49 by 89 inches. The masterpiece in the exhibition, and the painting everyone should look at now, is “Birth of Antero”, at 82 inches by 111 inches, one of the largest paintings I’ve seen in this city, at least recently.
However, mere size does not make a great work of art, and all these pieces are not coherent at the level of the inevitable and the inescapable. “La Presa”, for example, incorporates a kind of maze-like Greek key pattern that covers the entire shot, but the lines wobble and aren’t rendered with the precision they need to be effective. This is why masking tape was invented. A few cheesy, overdone passages occur, mostly in places where the artist seemed to refuse to acknowledge that a piece was finished and couldn’t help but apply more and more pigment. Apparently, artists need publishers as much as writers.
And yet the best of these extremely complex and layered paintings – “Birth of Antero”, as I mentioned, “East Jesus” and “Essere Vivo” – have about them the impulse of life, of creation and the mythical force that gives art a deeper dimension. truth than superficial reality. They seem touched by the cosmic picture in which we lose ourselves in the realms of art, death, love and time. They feel like homecoming from Tamboli.
Roy Tamboli, ‘Recent works’
Until December 3 at the Jay Etkin Gallery, 942 S. Cooper. Artist talk at 2 p.m. Saturday. Call 901-550-0064 or visit jayetkingallery.com.