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Siji Krishnan at India Art Fair

New Delhi 2018

At an experiential state, Krishnan’s paintings are rich with the texture of the surface that she meticulously prepares with smooth over layering of fine rice paper on canvas. The paper lends an organic quality to the painting that is reminiscent of the brittle quality of dry leaves, and the tautness of stretched hide on a mrudangam. The surface lends a sensation of sound that seems to emanate unknowingly from dark empty rooms or from still water bodies. This surface is then layered with gentle tones of pale watercolors. Slowly, as the image assumes intensity, darker layers are added and sometimes scrubbed in, to create undulations on paper, almost like wrinkled skin. The surface arrests the dark interiority of incubatory spaces. This process of modeling with paint is so frail, that it blends and seals into one single surface of cloth paper, as a membrane reverberating with a lot that has been firmly secured in it.

This near sculptural surface is juxtaposed with another flimsy layer, that of approximate projections. Recording sensations of body and its memory, painting, for Krishnan, is a simultaneous act of recovering experiences from the past and chronicling sensations in the present. She neatly blends the figural and the gestural on the paper, the surface resonating a thin film of inferences, like a very fragile projection of dreams under our eyes, while we sleep.

She visualizes this interiority as an abstract space of reflection, concentration, transformations and discoveries. Perhaps it is the painter’s studio that becomes an insulated cocoon for undertaking mental voyages. And the painting, the painted surface becomes that device which helps in activating the zone.

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Spider Net, 2010

Watercolour on rice paper

30 x 60.2 in / 76.4 x 153 cm

Where ‘painting’, for Krishnan, is a cathartic process, its appearance for the viewer delves on the faded, obscure appearance of very old personal photographs that have been subjected to severe weathering. A photograph is a mute reminder of a time or moment when the photograph was taken, or when that moment was lived. The remainder of the image in such cases becomes a game of signs. To construe the image is to mentally resurrect the contents from the residual traces of the forms within our minds. We, as viewers of these works, search for similar forms hidden in our experiential memory. The quality of drawing only provides a mere fleeting sign instead of representing the photographic real. The forms, the people inhabiting these frames are types; their identities are generic, not singular. Thus, the signified person or thing at the most suggests and then leaves us. Its trace fuels and retrieves that which has been forgotten.

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Installation View
“My Sketchbook 1 — 25”, 2010
Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke, Mumbai

Yet, for a viewer, who stands far from the field of enduring this mental exercise, the stills produce real moments, from a story of an absent time. The repetition of characters in each frame, as ‘stills’ similar in spirit but different in their gestures, becomes a part of larger series, whose beginning and end has little inference. The different positions and gestures of one single moment animate those retrieved moments and lend them an organic playful quality. Taking this drama a little further, are the metaphors that are cast within these images.

(Excerpted from the essay written by Rekha Peswani)

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