Friday, January 18, 2019

Where Art Happens - Thought is also a Matter - Kochi Muziris Biennale 2018

I chanced upon Vaishali Oak and Raju Sutar at one of the exhibition Openings in Gallery 27, Mattancherry two years ago. Vaishali and I connected instantly, and from then on we have met on and off at a couple of exhibitions. Raju had curated a show “Roots/Routes” during Kochi Muziris Biennale 2016. It was one of the best shows and it was part of the Collateral project as well. This year Raju Sutar is back again in Jew Town with “Thought is also a Matter” as part of the Collateral project organized by The artists include Vaishali Oak, Sandip Sonawane, Rajesh Kulkarni, Hrishikesh Pawar and Raju Sutar himself.

“How does it (thought) work on our minds and on different levels, conceptual or otherwise; or does the thought go beyond? I think it is important to question/challenge the very idea and go deeper instead of adopting it as it comes to you.” – Raju Sutar (from the Concept Note)

Enormous canvas paintings, huge fabric assemblages, colourful canvas on wooden mounts in basic shapes, languidly floating terracotta ‘matters’ in steel wires and culturally-transmuted performative pieces are not what you expect when you hear the title “Thought is also a matter.” Time and thought go hand in hand. Not a moment passes without a thought as we, humans, as are so cluttered with thoughts. While the sages had enlightened thoughts, we normal mortals have chaotic ones. It’s an exploration into this day-to-day seemingly mundane and unconscious process which is made exciting, colourful, humungous, surreal, performative and gestural in “Thought is also a matter.” Each artist reflects on the effect of thought in their lives and brings out their exclusive perspective.

Vaishali Oak and Raju Sutar

Entire Existence is a Thought Except Now – Raju Sutar

Raju Sutar explores the concept of ‘NOW’ and what this ‘now’ can offer. It’s an interlude between past and future. What is now will become past in a moment and it shapes the future as well. So 'Now' is crucial. He has made seven enormous 12’x42’ canvas with ‘action paintings’ as Raju calls it as his focus was just on actions of the now and not on the movement. The movement would have needed more organized thought and he was just living the now, capturing the fleeting thought by thought. There is also an animation that captures the movement of his action paintings like scribbles that web out of a plain surface projected onto the wall.

“ avoiding movement of thought I am trying to look at the possibility of mutation to happen in the moment of ‘now’. Is there a possibility of mutation to happen in NOW? Which may change the course of the future. Yes, that is the quest going on...” ~ Raju Sutar

Thought-is-also-a-matter-Raju Sutar- HuesnShades

Seed Post – Vaishali Oak

An age-old thought revisited. A seed has always been associated with life and propagation of life and ideas. To Vaishali thought is a seed that when sown at the appropriate time sprouts into a sapling, which when nourished and nurtured would grow into healthy 'beings' providing food, shade and shelter. All life processes begin from that seed and ends in the seed. Follow its journey and you can journey along into the depths of your being. Vaishali’s fabric assemblages are intensely colourful drawing our eye and prompting it to move from one end to the other and back again. You could see the layered fabrics, the tear, the threads, the peeping warp, the in-between muted tones and you see the evolution of her thought. She has a black seed installation hanging from the roof ready to burst to life. Vaishali has even devised a Seed Postcard embedded with seeds that are available at the counter which can then be sent to your loved ones who can sow these cards and there you go with a ‘life’ sprouting from within.

“There is a great significance in the evolution of civilization. We are the products of what has been sown yesterday and this process will go on. When we dream of a brighter future we have to sow seeds ‘now’. ...Just as the way seeds travel and propagate, our thoughts do travel and propagate in our minds.” ~ Vaishali Oak

Thought-is-also-a-matter-Vaishali Oak- HuesnShades

Thought-is-also-a-matter-Vaishali Oak-Seed-HuesnShades

Breaking it Down to the Basics – Sandip Sonawane

According to Sandip Sonawane, we break down a complex image into simple shapes in the initial process of drawing for a better rendition of the image, for a proper grasp of the proportion and details. Whether it’s a circle, a triangle, a square etc. they are but the joining of lines to form an object/shape. So any complex picture can be broken down into basic shapes and can be seen en-route formation. They are also the boundaries that project an exterior and an interior; the field within and without. At first glance from a distance one could see monotones of shapes – circles, squares and triangles – in red, yellow, black etc. but as you near you could easily discern the layers of paint beneath; a camouflage of thoughts in 6’x6’.

“The idea is to break down the thoughts in a similar way. The thoughts are complex in nature we try to break them down to make sense. Whether it makes sense or not.” ~Sandip Sonawane

Thought-is-also-a-matter-Sandip Sonawane-HuesnShades

A Thought about a ‘Thought’ – Rajesh Kulkarni

Rajesh Kulkarni’s take on ‘thought’ is much more dreamlike and esoteric. Thoughts are like particles that hang around and once it steps into the past it immediately transforms that energy into enigmatic, abstract and clustered forms. Rajesh’s “Thought” is 15’x45’x28’ where beautifully sculpted terracotta forms float indolently in space through thin steel wires at the slightest breeze. One can even walk around it absorbing the sight of those gleaming earthy forms as the sun hits the roof, seeps through the pores of the warehouse and falls on its ‘raw skin’.

“When I thought about a ‘thought’ I thought that the thought that travels with speed, that has fickleness of present and at the same time, there is a sense of strong flowing reality. Present that annihilates the moment it creates itself. There is a grasp of multi-faceted analysis of the moment and amalgamation of mixed illusions co-existing.” ~ Rajesh Kulkarni

Thought-is-also-a-matter-Rajesh Kulkarni-HuesnShades

Thought-is-also-a-matter-Rajesh Kulkarni-Detail-HuesnShades

ITIAN – I/Travel/I/Arrive/Not – Hrishikesh Pawar

Hrishikesh Pawar's pertinent question here is where do thoughts originate and where does it end? It plays with time and space; a space with characters performing postures and gestures that have been imbibed, altered and metamorphosed not from any single individual or the performers themselves but from a “library of personalities” or “a pile of flesh, living a metaphor of turmoil and conflict of the surroundings affecting the present “Thought.” “ This performance is the melting pot; a layered deconstruction of various traditional dance/performative forms from Maharashtra and Kerala. With the help of 4 assistant choreographers, 25 dancers, they are to perform 48 shows by the end of the Biennale. The performance dates can be sought after at the exhibition venue. I am yet to see the performance albeit I did see their video in the gallery.

“A weaving of story-telling between the performer and the audience with abstract rhythmic poetry of sounds, gestures and forms. The performance is a first draft of re-imagining the physical aesthetic of the body and its thought which creates matter.” ~ Hrishikesh Pawar

Thought-is-also-a-matter-Hrishikesh Pawar
photo courtesy -KMB

Thought is also a Matter is on view at VII/35, Jew Town Road, Kappalandimukku until Mar 29, 2019.

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Monday, January 7, 2019

Where Art Happens - Enunciation of an Enigma - Juul Kraijer - Kochi Muziris Biennale 2018

One of the artists’ whose works I could relate to most at many levels is perhaps Juul Kraijer, the dynamic Dutch artist. Her works are mystical and quite uncanny and it’s hard to explain its effect on us; they have this haunting mystery about it. Juul Kraijer started with drawings, progressed into sculptures and extended into photography and even short films. The instant I stepped in and laid my eyes on her works I felt connected. They are pretty intense and amazing as they reflect the emotional perceptions of self (whoever is looking at it and most pertaining to women, I feel). I probably felt this deep connection more so because I myself am often exploring the inner realms and the emotional-spiritual space than the external one. That doesn’t mean I am doing the same kind of work but it is women’s psyche that I am pretty interested in. That said the inner self is not exempt from the outer one and is always a twisted-reflection of the exterior (not generalising, this is often subjective). It is those very actions that take it to the inner-most suggestions and experiences all through our explorations.

Juul Kraijer

The eloquence of my drawings I can't match with words. In spite of this, I'm asked so regularly and with such persistence to give a specific explanation, that I don't want to refuse out rightly doing so...Personally, I shrink back from interpreting my work, considering the fact that the meaning of a drawing is always ambiguous. If it were unambiguous, I would have chosen a more direct form than the poetic-associative one of visual art.” ~ Juul Kraijer

Photo-Archival pigment print on Hahnemuehle Museum Etching -38.6x50.7cm-2014-15

The awkward-contorted poses, the bleak-eerie look, the suggestions of duality, the connection of man and nature at the very core, the unusual juxtaposition of animals and self probably mentioning the basic animal instinct that man is supposed to possess, minimal and yet a taste of the elaborate is all served in one plate. Even when we try to understand others, we often fail to understand self. But then these days trying to understand others is not much in vogue; we often close doors at the slightest of misgivings. Only when we realize who we truly are will others stand a chance, I suppose. As it’s said: “How can you love others when you don’t love yourself?” It stands true for any other sentiment too.

I seem to be the type of artist who recognizes a small field as his or her domain, to be explored in depth and detail. In the drawings made during those twelve years, the main principles remain the same. Changes do not occur in the form of an abrupt break; instead, they appear as gradual shifts, leaving the core intact, like landscapes at the turn of the season.” ~ Juul Kraijer

Charcoal on paper/pastel on paper - 2013/2014

Juul’s drawings are in charcoal – sometimes with wiping and rubbing that traces the earlier patterns, her earlier drawings are less linear and her isolated forms loom out of emptiness or the black undefined background. Time, space and context remain absent in this landscape of the mind that just stretches far and wide, there is conciseness, lightness and brevity, female body borders on androgynous without explicit details like eyebrows, breasts and pubic hair, expressions are unmoved and reticent; a posture adopted for eternity, her forms are completely self-absorbed as if in a profound sleep or death, bodies are neutral and they mark the domain of the spirit rather than some reality and all that is there is ambiguous. Impermanence is the perpetual cohort or rather a confidante in Juul’s works. Some works also feature swarms and flocks that contours the human forms, and some have the twin form – the play of duality. Japanese, Indian and classical influences and that of Balthus as she herself mentions can be traced in her works.

I frequently have the feeling that I am no more than a conduit.” ~ Juul Kraijer

Photograph-Archival pigment print on Hahnemuehle Museum Etching-2014-15 edition

The eeriest, however, is her works with creatures. The medusa-like figures, the bugs, scorpion, snakes, owl and chameleon crawling, slithering or standing over, the face with tiny faces on it. The woman with her half-snake hidden face teases our senses. It could be facing our inner fears while baring ourselves to the world for them to see and yet stay aloof, impenetrable. There is a kind of violation in her images that is always endured and accepted. It most certainly raises the question of “Why such disconcerting endurance?” The inner turmoil while maintaining an external inertness is all too evident. The presence of these sinuous creatures seems to accessorise and become an inseparable and inevitable part of the form also indicating the beast within us. Juul’s figures evade gaze as they are in their own realm, pre-occupied, in monotone surroundings mostly black and luminous white. Her mutating figures may speak a thousand tongues and yet be silent, oblivious to our visual investigation.

Sculpture in bronze - 2007-8 edition

The world is miraculous without our filter of rationalism, but as soon as you try to express that in words, it immediately turns into mysticism.~ Juul Kraijer

In photography, Juul is inspired by Surrealist photography where she can employ alienation, mirroring, fusing of incongruent beings, objectifying body parts and/or casting an incredible snare of shadows. She is also inspired by *fin-de-siècle (end of the century especially nineteenth century) medical photography and Julia Margaret Cameron photography. For some photo shoots, Juul hired animal trainers to supply the reptiles, snakes and owls as they were specially trained to be draped on bodies and not be provoked by the human presence or of the glares of the photo shoots. Her photography like her drawings are concise and share the qualities mentioned earlier.


Juul’s figures are more of an abstraction or an apparition than an individual in flesh and bones. They are in a transitional zone somewhere between the transient and the timeless. It could probably be that searing desire to unite with the Universe which of course is unattainable unless one conquers the discord within.

*fin-de-siècle medical photography – In the second half of the nineteenth century the new media of photography and film gave way to a new understanding about mind – psychology and psychiatry. They became the mirrors of the unconscious, capturing the inner state of people who were troubled which paved way for an indulgent understanding of consciousness and sanity. 

An Update as received from Juul Kraijer on 14-01-2019:

Happy to announce to my readers that Juul Kraijer has won the 3rd place in the Lensculture Black and White Awards 2018 for this series:

In April there will be an exhibition with works by the winners and finalists at Aperture Gallery in N.Y.C.

This is my second post for "Where Art Happens - Kochi Muziris Biennale 2018 series". The first post can be read HERE.

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