Even though you enter Mumbai-based Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke’s expansive new space with prior knowledge of the subject of Abir Karmakar’s show Everyday – mimetic chronicles of the doom and gloom wrought by the coronavirus pandemic – you are unprepared for the surge of emotions experienced on encountering the works physically.
Abir Karmakar's oil paintings use photorealism as a kind of abstraction. Drawing on photographs of now familiar pandemic scenes, the artist slows the viewer's recognition of the subject matter, so that municipal officials, hazmat suits, and yellow bags of medical waste appear first and foremost as luminous scrapes, licks, and dissolutions of paint.
Attributed to “magical realism”, Ratheesh T’s earlier paintings are surreal—often hypnotising—images of the mythological universe that informs the local culture he hails from. Interspersed with his personal iconography, his large-scale paintings are bold statements on social injustice and the marginalisation of the native inhabitants, who, as daily-wage earners, battle for survival and self-sustenance. ‘Allotted Land’ (2018) represents the intricate social fabric of village life in southern Kerala, ridden by poverty, manual labour, alcoholism as well as the betrayal by a political ideology which pledged social equality for all. Teeming with details, groups of figures and animals form various intersecting focal points, cohesively woven together into a singular picture plane. This “genre painting” of epic dimension suggests a deep sympathy with the “orphans of modernisation”, acutely observed by the artist “as if I was one of them”.
Sosa Joseph has lived most of her life by the Pampa River in Kerala, India. The fourteen paintings in her exhibition “Where Do We Come From?” did not stray far from its paddy banks. Each was a flash of something Joseph has remembered, half recollections that have come to her in sudden bursts. In A Viper in the Sugar Cane Field, 2021, for instance, we saw a crowd walking down a towpath lined with tall sawtooth cane leaves. The scene is blurred, as though sliding away, caught only for a moment before it disappears; it is tinged with uncer-tainty. A figure in repose, head tilted back, is being carried to the choppy water. Behind them, a snake is wrapped around a slim pole and an almost-full moon blinks in the indigo.
Abul Hisham is a young and talented artist based in Thrissur, Kerala, who has done four solo shows and participated in several group shows both in India and abroad. After completing his BFA and masters in fine arts, he was awarded the prestigious Inlaks Fine Arts Award in 2013. He was recently selected for the art residency programme at Rijksakademie van Beeldente Kunsten (2021), Amsterdam, the Netherlands; earlier he was awarded residencies at Skowhegan Artist Residency, Maine, USA in 2019, and at “What About Art” (WAA), Mumbai, in collaboration with Inlaks India Foundation and Harmony Art Residency, Mumbai, by Reliance India Foundation, 2015. His body of work explores the notions of desire, death and memory, and how they intertwine with the social and cultural spaces and his own personal narratives.
An alumnus of the Government College of Arts and Crafts, Chennai, Perciyal trained in painting (BFA) and printmaking (MFA) and progressed to self-portraiture, conceptual installations, and found assemblages after she received a junior research grant to work at the Lalit Kala Studios in Chennai. Through printmaking, she discovered the qualities of surface, texture, and positive/negative space, which expanded to three dimensional work employing the corporeality of touch. Her transversal practice comes forth in her solo exhibition, Aggregate at Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke, Mumbai (August 8- October 15, 2019), firmly embedded in figurative and representational forms, and also exploring minimalist abstraction.
Eyes—alert and alarmed—pop out of P. R. Satheesh's paintings. Their gazes evoke the aftermath of a tense encounter, its charge still lingering. With this focus on the ocular, and the interplay of consciousness it suggests, the differences between Satheesh's subjects—be they human, fish, or insect—seem not to matter. They all appear troubled or shocked, much like the men and women who bare their teeth in F. N. Souza's paintings, here jostling for space in dense compositions made between 2014 and 2019.
Kerala-based artist P.R. Satheesh focusses on his bond with nature throught 'abstract landscapes'
Ratheesh T.'s oils on canvas at Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke, Mumbai, from the 5th of September to the 20th of November, seem to defiantly guard aspects of life that come to constitute meaning and identity within his immediate community.
A few years ago, Henry Kaufman, the fabled economist formerly at Salomon Brothers, told me in his crusty German accent that "much in financila markets and life is comparative".
Girish Shahane steps into Abir Karmakar's house of illusions.
Abir Karmakar's contribution to the Kochi-Muziris Biennale in 2016 spread across the Kashi Art Gallery, a repurposed old Portuguese house not interesting enough architecturally to quality for the 'heritage' label.
Having trained as a painter at Maharaja Sayajirao University’s Faculty of Fine Arts in Baroda, Rajan became one of the youngest members of the highly politicized but short-lived group, the Radical Painters and Sculptors Association. Active from 1985 to ’89, the group aggressively rejected the narrative tendency of earlier Indian artists.
Satirical collages and metaphors make for descriptive storytelling in Abul Hisham's new works showing in Mumbai
Everyday scenes from Kerala through the sophisticated painterly eye of Sosa Joseph
While some of Kerala based Sosa Joseph’s varied art works – pastels, watercolors, oils and pencil – mine the possibilities inherent in realistic evocations, others attempt the same with evocative abstractions. One can wander through her small and large format paintings, their relatively spare images, refreshingly at odds with those loaded with frenzy or ambiguity, in what often passes for profundity in the conceptual claustrophobia of a great deal of current art practice.
Surreal, twisted and often disturbing, Ratheesh T's new works are full of violence, despair and darkness. Blood streams through the intricate streets. Krishnas, Jesuses and mosques stand with beatific expressions while innocents are hunted and killed. A carpenter with a distinct resemblance to Ratheesh himself lies on a crate marked fragile, in the precise pose as that of an old skeleton near him.
There is no disputing the fact ha Ratheesh T's paintings are born out of an unlikely alliance between the picturesque landscapes and bustling townscapes of his native Kerala - for the tension between tradition and modernity is palpable in the concerns he explores. Environmental degradation and social instability are evidentlv major issues that disturb him and his hyper-realistic paintings place them centerstage through the juxtaposition of unrelated backdrops and colourful characters in his dramatic compositions.
A master storyteller, Bhupen Khakhar is regarded in his native country and internationally as one of the most important Indian artists of the last 30 years. Although noted for a pictorial language that is deliberately hybrid—a mix of Indian folk-art traditions and modern European realism, sex and religion, modesty and flamboyance—Khakhar is most commonly lauded for pioneering a new contect for homosexuality in Indian art.