a change is just around the corner

///--->>>rethinking art, contemporaneity and (my)self

Works and Curations

Monday, October 1, 2018

INDIRA PURKAYASTHA : SCULPTURE AS EPIPHANY



SCULPTURE AS EPIPHANY: In this world of contemporary art, when factory-produced sculptures are dominating gallery space and mediatic realism is almost unchallenged in our imagination, Indira Purkayastha’s ‘Epiphany’ is a very important body of work to be showcased. Her works show us tangible alternative ways to imagine and articulate our world, our contemporary life, our anxieties and our nostalgia.  



Will as a Catalyst,  Gourd & Wood

                                                              
At a time when cold conceptualism almost dominates mainstream imagination of visual arts, Indira Purkayastha’s sculptures show engagement with materials and narration. These engagements make these artworks important articulation of a different kind of contemporaneity, bringing into focus our continuing engagement with modernism. Her works carry a memory of our folk cultures and their visual language without being overtly derivative if those traditions. There seems to be inherent connect with folk traditions and their idea of sympathetic magic. Purkayastha’s forms and their silence speak of an artist who is aware of the forces and memories that inform her work and more importantly is in sync with their conscious altering possibilities in the face of contemporaneity.

 ‘Epiphany’ is a large body of work produced over seven years after she became an art teacher; it has been a long journey for the artist. Teaching exposed her to the power hierarchies of the knowledge industry, but also to the great power of the subconscious mind and the vast power in children to explore fantasies and create narratives, which are sincere and playful at the same time. ‘Epiphany’ contains many such explorations and stories of power, play, inspiration and fantasies. The show is a rich container of an adult’s struggle to imbibe to experience and articulate the emotions of children in a representational form.

Purkayastha’s works not only are a response to her relatively new life experience as a teacher, but it also connects her to the nostalgia of her bygone days. As a child, she grew up in the hills of Chhattisgarh playing with adivasi children. This experience grew seeds inside her, which grew to always connect her with notions of purity and a beautiful sustainable relationship with the environment that comes to as an almost primordial language.  Possibly, her love for the subconscious innocence, the playful, the narrative took roots within her during her childhood and her experience in teaching art to children re instigated her memories buried deep within the pressures of a grown-up urban life and art school education. This enables her to develop a critic of contemporary culture.

Picassos words “It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.” is something Purkayastha identifies with deeply. Her relationship with Picasso goes beyond their delight at the strong, emotive, pure forms of ‘child art’. One can see a certain knack for geometric formalism in her works, her incorporation of the visual language of tribal masks, paintings and woodwork. Like Picasso, she goes into the world of tribal art and child art in search of a language that will enable her to articulate her critique of the present. 

As an artist, she has always been interested in giving aesthetic forms to abandoned objects and accidents.  She began doing collage at the age of fourteen and since then her works continue to be inspired by what she finds around her. Slowly as a sculptor, she began to use abandoned wood, furniture using them as starting points for her imagination in her quest to give visual form to her life experiences.
 
Detail from 'Fantasy'
Working from a far away rural setting, her connection with primitivism is very strong and it deeply informs the installation oriented, simple, geometrical and bold sculptural language she works with. The work ‘Fantasy’ (2016, Gourd, wood & metal scrap, approx. 50 x 95 x 135 cm  & 50 X 82 x 115 cm each; reflects an artist who is immersed in trying to articulate the intersubjective response through which modernity classifies humans and enforces subjecthood onto them. The sculptures thus form a deliberate alignment with elements in the adivasi imagination, which is at the same time a tool for pushing the constructed boundaries of reality enabling her to create fantasies of altered contemporanity. 

‘Assembly of Angels

Though storytelling, play and improvisation are important to her art practice, yet, that does not limit her worldview and imagination.  She is capable of carefully crafted Kafkaesqe nightmares. ‘Assembly of Angels, (2016, wood & metal scrap, 15 x 3.5 x 3 ft.), shows a factory-like building possibly representing an institution. One conveyor belt goes through the building, on which baby ants are entering into the building from one door and coming out from another door of the building like grown-up robotic ants. The work is deeply disturbing even as it is beautiful forcing us to be engaged in this startling critique of the education system. The work Untitled (2016, wood scrap metal & fibreglass, 33.5 X 4.5 X 8.3 ft.), too is a grim take on how power operates inside education systems, the temptations how power and how it tarnishes young souls that go through its structure. 

The scale and execution of the body of works that show in ‘Epiphany’ speak not just of life experiences, imaginations and deep inspirations, they also contain a deep engagement with skill and sculpture making. The eastern part of India has a long history of working with discarded wood, entering the fantasyland of children; it is a land of wooden dolls and adivasi totems.  Yet, through all this her deep training in sculpture at the Banaras Hindu University comes through the idea of outdoor, the idea of large-scale, focus on skill, execution and craftsmanship all carry the inspiration of the legendary Balbir Singh Katt and the values he instilled in his students. What makes Purkayastha special is her constant urge to improvise and narrate deeply social stories and concerns. Her ability to form her own language of feelings, the ability to conceptualize and craft the images that come out from within, and her constant struggle to manifest into sculpture what is often incomprehensible are the facets that form the cornerstone of her practice.



Rahul Bhattacharya
New Delhi

Monday, July 23, 2018

another night and then another dawn






the greed for their story went on and on
another night and then another dawn

the journey that was up in the air
a monk who could not sit without a chair

remembering faces that knew no fear
i thought of the sheep we always shear

passions ebb as seasons flow
the seeds would live if we would sow

another night and another dawn
the things unknown had begun to spawn 

the curtains burnt in the cigarette fire 
the factory announced that they would not hire

morning prayers and a sleepy meal
weeping for the bread that he did not steal

so many desires and no place to die
had to presume that someone could fly

so many friends love cats so much
and trees are scared of the human touch

on every inch i love to dwell
so many things to always tell

another night and then another dawn
the greed for their story will go on and on


Sunday, January 14, 2018

some salt for you

Have sugar with a pinch of salt
Take loneliness with a pinch of salt
Take praise with a pinch of salt
Have your heartbreak with a pinch of salt
Take your friends with a pinch of salt
Have your birthday cake with a pinch of salt
Have a pineapple with a pinch of salt
Take your salary with a pinch of salt

Have your tea with a pinch of salt
Take your lover with a pinch of salt
Take your mother with a pinch of salt
Have your yogurt with a pinch of salt
Take history with a pinch of salt
Have caramel with a pinch of salt
Have your peace with a pinch of salt
Take your nation with a pinch of salt
Have your dinner with a pinch of salt
Take advise with a pinch of salt
Take your teacher with a pinch of salt
Have your revenge with a pinch of salt
Take truth with a pinch of salt
Have your dreams with a pinch of salt
Have your beer with a pinch of salt
Take yourself with a pinch of salt

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Mansi Trivedi’s solo ‘Before Crashing To Earth’





Images from the show at Lalit Kala , New Delhi

For a full documentation, see
https://www.facebook.com/evilareve/media_set?set=a.10155133679937498.1073741913.622117497&type=3


'Before Crashing to Earth' can be seen as a proposition by Mansi Trivedi to escape the personal and spatial entrapment of urbanity. We see her stopping by and reworking fragile moments inspired from fungi, insect nests, forgotten barks and such unnoticed marks. One can feel the artist stopping by, watching, composing and preserving these fragile moments of beauty in a personal exploration of the picturesque; possibly an intimate antidote to the contemporary celebration of the spectacular. This body of works can be seen as a collection of moments between such utopias and dystopias. There is a deeply private, sensual exploration that one sees, privacy and sensuality become visual metaphors hinting of her need to find fleeting zones of solace, rooting her own journey. This engagement with organic, fragile beauty that surrounds our everyday life, unnoticed, as we live our urban alienated lives, also capture moments of tension, like pockets of utopia, threatened and on the brink of destruction.

“My works are inventories of found objects and surfaces I stumble upon. For these chosen works inspiration was chiefly drawn from the abstract sense of nature, its unpredictability and the lurking chaos, both of which seem very inviting. Almost as if it is nothing short of a visual poetry screaming to be heard. Entwined in the multitude of scar's and scales, dead cells, pores and scratches, there lies a fascinating story awaiting to be told in the endless cycle of bloom and decay.”
 – Mansi Trivedi

Trivedi, has been dwelling on the connection between humans and their environment, the thin, almost invisible state of interdependence and order that guides all transitions of life. She feels that, these are important symbiotic interconnections that are easily ignored today. In Before Crashing to Earth, she draws on that very perception of the extraordinary in the ordinary, to come up with art that is as reflective, as it is raw.


'Escape' can be a multi edged concept metaphor. It carries meanings of finding alternatives, flying away, looking away, trying to protect one, and finding space. This space is essential not just in the visuality of the moments felt and rendered, but is essential for the studio process of the artist. She likes to construct surfaces slowly, laboriously, sometimes in the same way destroy them. The works in a way become a residue of this process of seeing, hiding, masking, preserving, and destroying. Her interactions with the fragile picturesque, before the world comes crashing to earth.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

ON THE SUPREME COURT AND THE NATIONAL FLAG

 Image from  -  Of 2G, illegal mining and the Supreme Court! 2011 http://www.rediff.com/business/slide-show/slide-show-1-yearend-2011-of-2g-illegal-mining-and-the-supreme-court/20111228.htm


Appalled at the aghast being expressed , jamming my facebook newsfeed about the Supreme Court ruling #indiannationalflag , i write this note in some haste and a sense of urgency.
In my opinion, the Supreme Court of India has been the keeper of status quo, rather than the harbinger of change. The landmark judgments, have been towards keeping the 'spirit of the constitution' , rather than alteration , upgradation of that 'spirit' . Also this  'spirit of the constitution' dos not exist in vacuum, it is imagined and embodied by a heteronormative , patriarchal , casteist population; articulated and practiced by their elites.  This judgement of the Supreme Court tells us what the Supreme Court of India imagines 'urban India' would want. I would stress that till now there has not been a single judgement in which the jurisprudence is not framed by that imagination.


Yes, all these years we have fought against this very jurisprudence, I remember the young me and my heart sinking reading about the Sardar Sarobar verdict, before that Bhopal had happened, lately article 377, and so many in between (how does one forget marital rape?) . Lately, reflecting the growing urban citizen activism , the Supreme Court too became 'activistic' . However if one looks at the 2G and Coal Mining scams, no real big politician of the center and business giant is in big shit trouble.

Also , our current ruling party is extremely brash and aggressive. The implementation of the Adhar Card is a case study. The Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that the government cannot make Adhar card compulsory for any state benefits. Yet the central government refused to listen and is linking it to every citizenship transaction. We did not bother to stand up and support the court, we all lined up for our Adhar Cards instead. Where are we really investing our ideology?

The first hearing of the demonisation case made me feel that the courts did not want a constitutional stand off. Imagine the consequence if the courts had called demonitisation illegal and the Prime Minister had still implemented it (that is exactly what would have happened) ? The Supreme Court is already faced with a takeover bid, the new regime is pushing hard infringe it completely and change the very structure. At this juncture being 'publicly humiliated' could possibly mean loosing the battle and the war . There has been a sea change in the nature of elites who practice and articulate the imagination of India and this new elite is forcing the judiciary to re consider its (old) imagination.

Either way by now the courts had realised that no matter how much they decree, people not standing up to the National Anthem will be beaten up, and also realising ( by the case study of Maharashtra) most urban people are willing participants, the Supreme Court cant possibly see any wrong in its judgement.

Also we are falling into a trap. Our attack on the systematic destruction of the Indian Constitution by the new government ( as they try to come up with an undated one for 'hindu' , neoliberal India) , is getting distracted every day by a new tamasha. This shower of tamashas  is in fact the systematic attack. We all know it, but suddenly we are like rabbits caught under a headlight.






Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Anish Kapoor | Death of the Conceptual


AESTHETICIZING POLITICS VERSUS POLITICIZNG AESTHETICS

Anish Kapoor’s “Cloud Gate” (2006) following the artist’s recent recoating in Vantablack (photo courtesy City of Chicago)
via http://hyperallergic.com/287628/anish-kapoor-coats-cloud-gate-in-the-darkest-black-known-to-humanity/

To get to the heart of Kapoor's thinking and making we must register the difference between physicality of void space, and truly made emptiness. Let us use Heidegger 's beautiful parable of the jug for these purposes. What does the potter make when he shapes the jug? Of what material is the jug made? The potter forms the sides and bottom of the jug in clay to provide the means for it to stand, to be vertical; to make the jug a holding vessel, however, he has to shape the void. 'From start to finish the potter takes hold of the impalpable void and brings it forth as the container in the shape of a containing vessel… . The vessel's thingness does not lie at all in the material of which it consists, but in the void that it holds.'
Homi BhabaThe True Sign of Emptiness
http://anishkapoor.com/185/making-emptiness-by-homi-k-bhabha


Anish Kapoor has been creating lavish, sensual abstract, sculptural forms for over four decades. Over the years he has been rated as one of the best contemporary sculptors, and in a way as the 'master of public art'. Homi Bhaba in his analytical eulogy of Kapoor, offers us Kapoor as the ‘maker of emptiness’. In this short piece stems from my discomfort with how Bhaba gets so lost in the philosophy of emptiness that he becomes completely blind to materiality and its impact on the politics of visual culture. 

The blind spot that Bhaba and Kapoor share for ‘thingness’ and materiality is not new. This is the blind spot shared by the genre of makers and thinkers whom we can call neo liberal conceptual artists. This group that has grown to be rich and powerful, twisted the radical possibilities of conceptual art. Conceptual art as a practice emerged at a time when the authority of the art institution and the preciousness of the unique aesthetic object were being widely challenged and artists felt the need to interrogate the possibilities of art-as-idea or art-as-knowledge. It was a breakaway from formalism, bringing in a new philosophy of materiality. The neo liberal contemporary group has managed to quote  the linguistic, mathematical, and process-oriented dimensions of  conceptual art , yet has gone on to support and buffer the very hegemonic systems, structures, and processes conceptual art poised itself against.

The popularity of conceptual thought in contemporary art practices has created a moment of oxymoron in art history. At one level, bowing to the pressures from corporate and museums that are mediated through gallery practices, artist have to large scale fabrications and have effectively become cultural producers. There is a visual dominance of the large, the phallic, of the archival, of the vaginal and of the spectacular.  Materiality, finish and longevity have become more and more important for artists who claim their art has got nothing to do with the ‘thingness’ and exist purely in conceptual terms.  It is this oxymoron that results in a situation where Anish Kapoor patents the blackest colour, claims that it is the darkest colour, thereby showing a complete lack of conceptual understanding about darkness. Nor does he explore the politics of the concept metaphor called 'black'. Just like the modernist masters for him it is a 'pure aesthectic' engagement.One can forgive Kapoor for this blind spot, but how does one forgive Bhaba?  The coat of Vatablack on the Cloud Gate gives a fantastic sense of a dark void, visually flattening out its voluptuous form.  If anything the ‘thingness’ is the only thing left visible, yet it is the very thing Bhaba and Kapoor deny. 

The collapse of discourse over skill , materiality as art history was run over by literary studies has lead to primarily semiotic , interpretations of art works even though it remains well known that image and objects carry an excess which cannot be reduced to textual interpretations. Questions of ethics and politics got swept away by the neo liberal market economy and a middle class distracted by its manufactured desire. Ethics of course has become unfashionable, but politics has gone on to become a decorative motif. Most of our contemporary masters make work in which the politics of making is in opposition to the political content of the work.  Conceptual art becomes an easy escape door for these artists , by denying the ‘thingness’ they can escape the politics of its making .





Sunday, October 23, 2016

best beauty treatment for her



i don't know what to make of the smile they shared
she almost looked away, looked back and the then dropped her gaze
he was so happy to see her that he could not stop looking
could not stop himself from coming close and holding her 
she melted in his arms too
and there was so much heat
maybe they had missed that physical touch
maybe they had still loved each other
maybe they just missed each others body
they made love ,they kissed they spoke through the night 
sharing intimacies only they can share
it seems they missed the softness and the care
they could not sleep that night
their bodies had met after too long
too deeply aware of the other to be able to sleep
when the morning came, they parted
that too was gentle and soft
it was in the parting that the ritual of separation was enacted again
we don't know what each took back that morning 
maybe for her it was the touch the sex and the way he held her
also the comfort of knowing that he still loved
maybe or him it was the words they shared and the heat of her body
also knowing that making love was the best beauty treatment for her 


Monday, August 1, 2016

Cat Lover's Sundays



All night she has been a ghost
Not in the usual sense that cats always are
All night she has been a ghost to herself
She lived with humans
But had not realised that cat lovers are only free on Sundays
She had three children
Three spunky playful kitten
She had gone for a evening prowl
They came in turns and took two away
She did not know that cat lovers were only free on Sundays
They took away her healthiest children
She had no chance to say goodbyes
She has been a ghost all night
Crying looking for her children
Still trying to understand that cat lovers are only free on Sundays
The thinnest weakest one was still there
Lost and lonely
In the evening they were all playing together
Then one by one two were gone
Too young to understand that cat lovers are only free on Sundays
Their dinner is uneaten
Their is a sense of despair in her eyes
Looking for her children in every shadow cast
Crying the night away
Another litter might come and go
But cat lovers are free only on sundays.
All night she has been a ghost
Not in the usual sense that cats always are
All night she has been a ghost to herself
She lived with humans
But had not realised that cat lovers are only free on Sundays
She howls as she cries
One can feel her silently going mad
Little by little as her hopes fade
Sometimes picking her self and going for another search
She is yet to realise that cat lovers are only free on Sundays

Monday, June 27, 2016

#SORROW

Digital reworking on Van Gogh's  'Sorrow'



How did we become like this
Atleast Kafka thought of it as a nightmare
We have reduced it to the mundane
In India you do not need television to see amputated legs on the streets
Or men and women with eyes gouged out 
We see that everyday
On our way to work
On our way to parties
They are there all the time haunting our crossroads
Alienation cannot capture how disconnected we are 
What do these people invoke in us 
Even the ones who patronise build walls of apathy
We know the violent cruel system of human trafficking 
We even ignore them on our way to Jantar Mantar 
Coming together to protest for lands some of these beggars might have migrated from.

Saw something violent on the other day
That day when my facebook wall was lamenting brexit
Screaming and calling democracy stupid
That evening i saw a pregnant beggar
And my mind erupted
People right in front of us
Sucked into the dirty underbelly of urban begging
The levels of greed have become so steep
That they are being sucked straight from the womb
A violent hatred for left liberalism erupted from within
All those people who call democracy dumb
Who hate the urban losers of globalisation
Even as they dream of protecting the landscape and the environment

I cannot relate to people who use politics to judge and enforce their elitism
Nor with people who constantly call people stupid
This they do just to hide themselves  
And their glaring failure to be connected with different aspirations
That is almost all of my facebook feed
And that young pregnant lady begging at our crossroads
She brought out so many things
Waiting and gathering like the monsoon clouds
Again those thoughts raging in my head
Atleast Kafka thought of it as a nightmare
We have reduced it to the mundane
My pain of brexit
And the way we ignore the urban poor (even) on our way to Jantar Mantar 
Coming together to protest for lands some of these beggars might have migrated from







Sunday, June 5, 2016

Numbness and a Dear Friend


How is it to be numb my dear friend 
Is it a comfortable place 
Like in the Pink Floyd song
I heard brown sugar makes you numb
That is why I never did sugar
I have an handicap
I cannot understand numbness
We are all numbed are we not
Born into four concrete walls
Our right to live depends on money
Trading relationships for sustainability
Choking rivers with our filth 
How could we survive our modern lives
If we were not all numb
How long will be go on surviving dear friend
We live life as if our soul is an excess 
Which can be ignored, forgotten , castaway
As we live our lives busy 
Feeding, clothing, decorating and entertaining our self(s)
Yes if we do it for too long 
A numbness does envelope us
Taking us further and further away from this world
If we get too hurt 
A numbness does envelope us
Cutting us away from people close to us
I don't think we ever become numb my dear friend
Yes, an envelope of numbness envelopes us
Blessed are those who feel that envelope
The feeling is the first step towards melting that envelope away
You will slowly remember 
I cannot understand numbness
We are all numbed are we not
Born into four concrete walls
Our right to live depends on money
Trading relationships for sustainability
Choking rivers with our filth 
How could we survive our modern lives
If we were not all numb
The very act of living is our constant negotiation
Finding ways and energies
Reaching out from this numbness
Grabbing all the love, magic and connections we can
One may get distracted again
Feeding, clothing, decorating and entertaining our self(s)
Maybe the envelope returns
It will again melt away my dear friend
Each time it returns it is an invitation to look after yourself 
To understand how depended on this world we are
Yet, to let that make you feel more connected and free
How is it to be numb my dear friend 
Is it a comfortable place
Even if for just a while









Sunday, February 28, 2016

THE MANY DEATHS OF ROHIT VEMULA


The first blow came from his comrades
Realising that his struggles meant nothing to his Marxist brothers , he moved on further left
That was some years ago
Rohit took the blow and like any good fighter
Used the blow to become stronger

Somewhere though, the death had set in
A young Marxist was forced to become a young Dalit Marxist
the world of universities and learning , could not free him from caste suppression
They pushed him deeper into it
Yes, the first blow came from his comrades

The second blow came from the nation
Caste is history they said
Some even said, caste was the culture of the nation
Yet they believed that talking about caste now, destroys the nation

Rohit loved justice too
It is a sad one sided love story
He and his friends felt that Yakub Menon did not get justice
They called some some friends to talk about Yakub Menon and justice

A small band of boys, radical and isolated
A small band of boys with a one sided love affair with justice
Easy to isolate and destroy
A strong south Asian powerhouse began flexing its muscles and nationalism
Such strength against a small band of boys
Dalit Marxists , with a one sided love affair with justice
Yes the second blow came from the nation

The third blow might have come from us all
Poverty, hunger, pride loneliness and fire
Rohit must have remembered his old Marxist friends 
There were many of them and in large numbers
They had all the organisation and structures
There were many love affairs they still shared

But they were still silent 
Busy with their grand struggle against capitalism
there were any who did connect 
But, they too were isolated, few and sometimes far away 

It is an absence of hope that lead to a suicide
A complete absence of hope
Yes, the third blow might have come from us all

Rohit died, but left behind a body that was so alive
Finally in death, maybe he just wanted to be
Just a student, bright, political, hounded by institutions; 
a bright citizen who had to leave all hope
Yet in his death he became more Dalit
His identity further hounded

Rohit's fire had touched many hearts
Many of his older Marxist friends too came out on the streets
Marching and chanting
They brought in their old battles
Fascism and capitalism won over Rohit again

The final (yet)  flow came from his comrades 
Even as his mother lead an emotional candle light march
Even as she was assaulted, arrested
The old Marxist friends stayed inside universities debating nationalism and capitalism

Yes, the final flow came from his comrades 
His narrative does not suit their memory






The room where Rohith killed himself . (Source: Express photo by Harsha Vadlamani) - See more at: http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-news-india/dalit-scholar-rohith-vemula-the-student-the-leader/#sthash.lMlEpZ9R.dpuf


Sunday, January 17, 2016

A Blank Verse For My Smile




Once, smile had a meaning
Its own connection with eternity
Now the connection is gone but everything else remains
Just that, the best things do not bring out a smile any more
Sometimes they bring out a deep sigh
Learning that the faintest smiles etch the deepest
Sometimes i smile when death heals
Someone has to give that farewell smile
Jokes too make me smile, so does love
Everything negotiated through that broken connection with eternity


Tuesday, December 8, 2015

A BLANK VERSE FOR A TROUBLED RIVER



Floating on the web @ tumblr.com


The night was a neon outburst of emotions
Dawn brought some dread, some hope
The other side was steeped in dusk
They sat down to drink some tea
Hoping their dawn would shed some light
But, the other side was still dark
Some music could perhaps to stir the soul
Can music save a dark dying river
Can a river ever die
The tea pot was empty
But no one knew what was inside
On the other side, the dusk still lingered
How does light come in
Do we know how to remove our shadows
Unanswered questions over a opaque tea pot
Dusk came in and soaked their senses
The dusk on the other side lingered on
Another night, another neon outburst of emotions





Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Hint of Violence:

My catalogue essay for Indrapramit Roy’s solo-show with Galerie 88 Kolkata. ‘Mezzaterra’, previewing on 20 November, 2015.



Maybe the "trivial" is just a failed version of the "everyday." The everyday, or the commonplace, is the most basic and the richest artistic category. Although it seems familiar, it is always surprising and new. But at the same time, there is an openness that permits people to recognize what is there in the picture, because they have already seen something like it somewhere. So the everyday is a space in which meanings accumulate, but it's the pictorial realization that carries the meanings into the realm of the pleasurable.”Tumlr, Jan | The Hole Truth.


What is tension, but a hint of violence?

The paintings carry the sense of empty sets.   Sometimes they seem to be anticipating actions, sometimes we see residues of actions by characters that we never see. Spaces and objects, become metaphors that evoke the drama. The artist takes away the human agency as the prime actors of the drama, but the human presence is everywhere - the serendipity and violence that lies in the zones of absence and presence. The space and the objects speak about that presence, and are frozen moments of cinematic tension. However, these are not just spaces and objects; they are of a special kind. These mundane, ordinary spaces carry the empathy of intimacy, an intimacy achieved, not only through durational bonding, but also often through experiences and memories.  They seem to want to tell a story and stay silent about what the story could be.

Over a period of over ten years Indrapramit Roy has been experimenting with a visual language that capture the emptiness and tensions when mundane meets the everyday in moments of transience. At the same time; emptiness, tensions, mundane, transience only touch upon the surface of his imagination. When one visits his art from the aspect of language formation, one can read many linkages and cross references in modes and strategies between the artistic influences, political positions and engagements regarding the aesthetic value of objects and spaces.


The Aesthetics of ‘contemporary art’ has long being governed by the idioms of content, style and concept, when experimentation and investigations over Form and Language (almost) surrendered to the digital/electronic media. Contemporary Art itself began by being critically distant, cold; layered by dominant purity, pristine images, perfect copies and spectacular illusions. Indrapramit Roy belongs to an early group of contemporary Indian painters who realised that mediatic-realism needed to be scratched and washed if painting had to offer alternatives to the neo liberal-digital progress. In the emptiness of contemporaneity the notions of physicality and body are very important. Indrapramit Roy’s engagement with painting has always been through a physical engagement with materiality; right from his very early experiments with frame of the canvas, his journey into multiple and shaped canvases, the cardbox box period, and lately in his combination of drawing, marking , painting, overlaying actions that mark his watercolour series. 





Indrapramit Ray's artistic practice has always found its edge by producing art which is a constant critique of the ‘fashionable’, interrogating the manner in which medium, form, motifs are chosen, rendered and presented. Yet his subversion does not take the direction of the anti-aesthetic. In fact, his dialogue is deep rooted in the linguistic structure of form, line colour and space (they become tools for expressing a Jamesonian[i]* lament about the contemporary celebration of surface-ciality). It attempts to reconstruct the philosophical tradition of affective alterity and to construct a discourse though one's own artistic journey.


The architectonic, layered, compositions, the love for bird’s eye views that become important for Roy’s language formation hints at of narrative traditions ranging from the murals of Giotto to Benode Behari Mukherjee and works of artists like Bhupen Khakhar and Gulam Mohammed Sheikh. At the same time Roy situates himself in a post narrative mode. The high-density motifs, textures, figures and postures disappear, instead the viewer is invited to pause and imagine. He is one of the rare artists who have taken the idea of a culture far beyond the domains of the narrative and the iconic.  The paintings become propositions towards a fresh understanding of the pictorial surface.  The post narrative tradition that Roy begins to articulate, is not interested in the city as the site of the local or in the play of urban folklores.  His cities are motifs, visited and revisited though alienated birds eye views or large illuminated empty spaces; in either scenario no living beings are seen. The local exists for the intimate viewer, but these cityscapes are also templates, the artist transforms empirically observed places into wistful critiques of an empty present and a dystopian future.

The paintings offer us a space to rest our eyes, and in them, there is enough chaos to stir our anxieties. We live in an age of the spectacle, when images are designed to jump at you, craving for that attention that bounces off into the recesses of your overfed consciousness. In these times Roy offers us a different mode of seeing. It’s the quaint silence of a tranquil mind, etched with abstract anxieties.




The manner in which he mixes his media, the self consciousness about the various mediums and their aesthetics, and the manner in which he appropriates the photographic, the mediatic into the ‘painterly’; speak of a deep entrenchment into the history of visual vocabularies. Deeply influenced by modernity, Roy has always worked towards a critique of it. One can see his works as an aesthetic  critique of modernity , at another level , when one reads into his gaze, one sees an awareness of the historical/aesthetic  frameworks of class consciousness and the understanding of ‘spectacle’ and ‘intimacy’ as political categories. This class consciousness is significant it a time when class consciousness become marginal in the globalised imaginations and desires of urbanity; it marks a certain resistance to the homogenization of the urban into a globalised cosmopolitan. It is this post modern critique of contemporary, which strongly marks his experiments with watercolor and drawing. 

The lived cultural memory of the class is layered; layered by the nostalgia of a past, layered by the anxieties of the day to day, layered by the celebration of the present and layered by the skepticism and fascinations about the future Celebration of the neon; co exists with the empathy for the decay. Sometimes, it gets inverted to celebration of the decay and anxieties about the neon[ii]. Through the intimacy of his object studies and alienation of his cityscapes, we see Roy invoking the relationships between humanity and urbanity, between beauty and spectacle.



The painted surface is not just a residue of pictorial mark making and rendering, it is also a reflection of the artist own gaze, the way he or she engages with the world, and how images morph inside our heads. Roy is not a flâneur, his gaze is not shifty, behind the scenes and documentative. Instead his gaze has closer connections with the discourse on boredom as a discursively articulated phenomenon, one that understands leisure as both objective and subjective. This brings into his subject matter not just a sense of response to the world but also a historically constituted strategy for coping with its discontents. In his paintings, leisure and hints of boredom become fundamental to the experience of time and problems of meaning, creating that hint of tension between notions of existence, consumption and taste. 





[i][i] Fredric Jameson, Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism Verso, 1991