Inviting the viewer to assume the gaze and role of the voyeur, Karmakar's video installations adopt an economy of means, his palette tending towards monochrome, the austere grammar of the work parsed from the movements made by the figures. In viewing it, we become painfully aware of the depredations of time on the body, of the gradations by which the body casts off security and social propriety, like so many suits of clothing, as it descends into sleep, to reveal the primal motors of selfhood. And as we watch Karmakar's this ad protagonists and become involved in their dramaturgy of involuntary disclosure, we too find ourselves inveigled into dropping the customary defences of adulthood.
Karmakar became known for his voyeuristic self-portraits that saw him place his body in intimate settings. His oil paintings evoked an inward looking world replete with imagined situations and layers of psychosomatic content. His approach in more recent paintings is as sophisticated a performance as his flamboyant narcissism was in the preceding phases of his career. The body's urges and discontents, its shapes and impressions, leak beyond their physical confines and imprint themselves on objects and across spaces. The domestic interior records the extended presence of the bodied self, which claims it as habitation and, indeed, as habitat.
In 'Home', a suite of seven site-specific paintings completed for the Kochi-Muziris Biennale in 2016, Abir Karmakar explores questions of identity, rootlessness and place.
"Karmakar's work resonates with our collective sense of an 'existential emptiness' as represented through an abundance of images", said Sudarshan Shetty, curator of the 2016 edition of the Biennale. He adds, "Through Abir's work I think there is a case to be made for a rigour in 'making'. I believe that making too can be a means to production of knowledge."
'Uncanny Space', catalogue essay by Donald Kuspit, Aicon Gallery, New York
'Room, Interrupted in Passage', catalogue essay by Ranjit Hoskote, Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke, Mumbai
Kochi-Muziris Biennale Fund-Raiser Auction, Saffronart, Mumbai
‘DWELLING’, 10th Anniversary Show (Part II), curated by Ranjit Hoskote, Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke, Mumbai
'Forming in the pupil of an eye', curated by Sudarshan Shetty, Kochi – Muziris Biennale, Kochi
Essl Museum of Contemporary Art, Klosterneuburg
Asia Society's Future Artist Award