Abir Karmakar is an artist of the fraught interval. He has measured it in various ways in his previous bodies of work: as the brief emptiness between exit and entry in the lamplit glow of a room; as the pause between one flamboyant, seductive act and the next in a masquerade of androgynous selves; as the threshold state at which an individual stands besieged by demons, uncertain whether to retreat into enclosure or escape into the open; or as the aftermath of mingled pleasure and regret following transports of passion, surrender or self-revelation. In ‘Room, Interrupted in Passage’, which comprises two video works and a suite of 30 paintings, Karmakar returns to the interior spaces that exercise a particular fascination over him: the bedroom, the bathroom and the hotel room, each a space of transient intimacy, each a repository of private and even secret experience that is rendered curiously, awkwardly public through the gesture of being imaged in a painting.
In Karmakar’s video work, ‘A Long Whisper’, a solid figure dissolves into shadows and phantoms, imprints itself on a curtain in segments, striations. Half-substance, half-illusion, this creature of transitions touches, barely settles on, and fades across the breeze-quickened waver of cloth. The artist adopts an economy of means here, his palette tending towards monochrome, the austere grammar of the work parsed from the movements made by the figure, its multiple iterations, and the curtain. In his second video work, ‘Shadows of Distressing Dreams’, the artist brings together four protagonists. The action of the piece is a series of successive superimpositions of these protagonists as they lie down in bed and are shown fidgeting, scratching themselves, yawning, twisting and turning, shifting the pillows. Selected for their unexceptional, middle-class backgrounds and because they were not trained professionals, their interaction—following the artist-director’s basic mandate but taking place on camera in his absence—takes the form of an involuntary, unscripted, awkward choreography of sleep, dream, nightmare and wakefulness. In the gap between what we see and how we interpret it, we discover the psychological shadings and subtle moral slippages that define us as viewers.
[extract from ‘Fait Accompli’, an essay by Ranjit Hoskote on the artist’s recent works]