With the layering on canvas of woven jute cloth which he cuts and draws out thread by thread, and the use of gateway tracing paper, Manish Nai less covers the base, more reveals it, making it his subject. Seen from a perspective of the western avant-garde his work refers to the radical change in European postwar painting. One recalls artists such as the Italians Piero Manzoni and Lucio Fontana, German artist Franz Erhard Walther, and the Dutch Jan Schoonhoven. They all did, during the sixties, make the material of the canvas their theme in that they pasted upon, cut or folded it – the artistic treatment signifying an explicit denial of illusionist easel painting that ideologically was rendered corrupt and implausible. These artists could no longer represent classic themes such as portraiture, landscape and history in an 'illusionary' manner without getting too close to an art that set out to numb rather than intellectually enlighten people.
Similarly Manish Nai sees himself in India today, facing an extensive dominance of narrative, illusionist painting. As there is no ideological apparatus that dictates the content of art in India, representative painting captures themes that meet the desire of people to once again recognize something from their own world. Manish Nai's works in contrast address the recognition of seeing as such. The presenting, making transparent, laying open of the artistic material itself is his 'Hour Zero' — as conceptual analogy to Europe's ZERO Movement — overcoming the imperative of 'recognition' and opening the way toward an intellectual transparency.Christian Goegger