Moving through Abir Karmakar's Passages, QUASAR THAKORE PADAMSEE maintains that we are never just one thing.
I’m not sure one can pinpoint where Sangram Majumdar’s paintings live, but he isn’t asking us to. He once described his process as a room of chain-smokers creating an atmosphere from which the paintings emerge. This beautiful and mysterious visual stays with me as we discuss his first solo show in India, somewhere elsewhere, at Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke in Mumbai. At every moment we’re compelled to engage with the work as if seeking a friendly visage through a haze. One might eke out a nose or an eye, only for it to disappear, leaving a haunting sensation of the familiar. In a previous review of Majumdar’s work, John Yau called it “necessary ambiguity.” I call it good painting.
In 2003, prominent art dealer Usha Mirchandani and her daughter Ranjana opened Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke in Colaba, just behind The Taj Mahal Palace hotel, and began working with a circle of emerging young talents who are now significant names in the Indian art scene. Last year, the gallery relocated to a 460-square-meter space inside a stone-clad heritage building in Fort’s Ballard Estate, where it continues to rep some of the country’s most sought- after contemporary artists. The beautiful, light-filled viewing room makes this a superlative experience for art aficionados (galeriems.com).
South Indian artist Ratheesh T’s practice of looking centers objects, spaces, and people, including his family in his hometown of Kilimanoor, a small town in Trivandrum, Kerala. Here we begin to peel away the layers of a “generative objective knowledge” of a place that forms the core of his work. Many of his paintings show family members and depict land, neighborhoods, and stories that have unfolded within a forty-mile radius of Kilimanoor. In effect, his paintings reveal the lives of his people and the place of his birth. However, Man and Doll (careless objects 2), a 2023 painting, turns Ratheesh T’s gaze inward.
The nuances that make a home
Walking into an Indian home can be a sensorial experience with the objects amassed by each family member symbolising a time capsule ripe with sentimental stories and vibrant memories. A dusting cloth placed to cover the top of every electronic device or old cardboard boxes stacked haphazardly above every cupboard betray tales of an owner’s personality, living habits and idiosyncrasies. While for some, sifting through generations of clutter within drawers or a store room is akin to an archaeological excavation; for the common man, these pieces bring together an idea of home. Exploring this familiar domestic imagery of Indian homes, Baroda-based artist Abir Karmakar’s larger-than-life, photorealistic paintings spotlight the social and temporal quirks of modern India.
It is with the exhibition “Passage” that Abir Karmakar’s obsessive interest in interiority marks a point of definition.
From the 12th of January to the 9th of March, Mumbai's Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke hosted seekrajan, a retrospective of more than 30 years of work by CK Rajan.
The lived realities in Aban Raza’s art
Her emphatically social paintings make us see the “invisible” people whose labour fuels the economy.
Aban Raza’s solo exhibition of large-format oil paintings is dominated by bodies—bodies bearing the charge of dissent, bodies engaged in constant labour, and the invisible but ever-present body of the Constitution as a site of contestation. Running from November 3 until December 28 at Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke in Mumbai, Raza’s show, titled “There is Something Tremendous About the Blue Sky”, serves as a memory log of the events that have marked public life in India in the past two years, charting both the excesses and assaults of the state and the widespread civic eruptions that challenged these. Nestled between the great events are ordinary moments, depicted through train journeys, construction work, or the after-hours of a wedding celebration. Made between 2020 and 2022, the period darkened by the COVID-19 pandemic, the paintings are marked by a refreshing publicness; they look outward and are consistently social, drawing attention to those who could not afford to retreat into safety in the fractured republic.
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.
Mumbai’s iconic Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS) is celebrating its centenary this year. To celebrate the event along with the 75th year of Independence, an exhibition titled Woman is as Woman Does, featuring 27 Indian women artists, opened at the museum on August 13 (August 13-October 16). Curated by art critic Nancy Adajania and showing at the Jehangir Nicholson Art Foundation and Premchand Roychand Gallery of the museum, the exhibition is an immersive experience where the images reveal as much about India’s feminist movement as the texts accompanying them.
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.
In much of Édouard Glissant's life and theoretical work, the archipelago occupied a central place, so much so that he used its geographical form to theorise a state of being and relation, which he termed "archipelagic thinking”. The concept locates Glissant as an island-dweller - he came from Martinique - and indicates how his experiences on the continent of Europe were oriented towards the environment in which he had spent the first 18 years of his life.
What matters to me in a painting is painting; what’s vital is challenging myself as a painter,” artist Sosa Joseph had noted during a series of conversations with writer John Mathew in Kochi, Kerala, and Bengaluru between 2019-2021 “My only concerns, quests and considerations are formal and aesthetic; what is more important to me than what I paint is how I paint it.” This pretty much encapsulates the Kochi-based artist’s continuing commitment to the medium of painting, especially at a time when some of her contemporaries may have veered towards new media.
Taking it back to the Pamba River and to sights and sounds that she grew up with, Kerala-based artist Sosa Joseph’s latest works are a refreshing take on the ‘purpose’ of life.
Drawn from the riverside village of her childhood and early adulthood in Kerala, India, Sosa Joseph's paintings trace the origins of her life back to the river. Joseph grew up in the north of Parumala, a small town on the Pamba River, and activities and festivities associated with the river—from turtle hunting to luffa gathering—were a constant in her life before the artist left to study painting at the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda. Rendered in the artist's characteristic, loose figurative style, 15 new canvases completed between 2019 and 2021 manifest Joseph's memories of home in Where do we come from? at Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke in Mumbai (13 January–26 February 2022).
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.
Benitha Perciyal's sculptures build on the qualities of her material. And for her first solo show in Mumbai, Aggregate, she wil exhibit a new body of work featuring materials such as reused Burma teak, tree resin and African tulip seeds.
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.
In the central room of the commodious Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke _ currently, the venue for Chennai-based artist Benitha Perciyal's show, Aggregate - is a circular wall-mounted sculpture created out of raw banana fibre. Five-feet wide across the diameter, the sculpture titled, "What Am I looking For?" signifies the earth element. It's one of four open-mouthed, papier-mâché containers that the artist has used to represent the four elements: earth, air, fire and water.
Contemporary Indian artist Manish Nai has a rather unique artistic style. He often works with found and discarded objects- recycling old clothes and newspapers, compressing books and various kinds of fabric- transforming them into sculptural pieces that are both overwhelming and playfully nostalgic. His practice finds new forms for old objects through remolding by twisting, cutting, and folding, and abstracting the material to create something new.
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.
Lajja Shah feels that Manish Nai's works, made of recycled material, industrial detritus and everyday objects, frame a statement against hyper-consumerism.
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".
Dutch-Indian artist Aji V.N’s ongoing show is a multi-faceted journey that explores unknown worlds that reside within
“The city like a passion burns.
He dreams of morning walks, alone, And floating on a wave of sand.
But still his mind its traffic turns Away from beach and tree and stone To kindred clamour close at hand.”
— Nissim Ezekiel, ‘Urban’ 
A conversation with the artist Gieve Patel cannot be limited to referencing his art. The rigour with which his work has celebrated and delineated the human condition over decades, the effortless way in which death has been made meaningful – not sensational or gratuitous – and his own wonder at what that last journey might involve...these ideas dominate a Sunday morning meeting with the painter, poet, playwright and physician at his Cusrow Baug residence in Mumbai.
Patel's work is unmistakable for his use of colour—saturated with pastels, his paintings often feature a solitary element that deliberately stands out in contrast. We are to consider, when observing his work, the very process of looking, and the nature of perception.
Two simultaneous impulses take over the moment one encounters Sifi Krishnan's watercolours: the compelling need to zoom in up close to observe the minute details and the urge to pull back and absorb their panoramic scale. These photographic/ cinematographic motions continue to be at play as one views The Family Portrait, the Kochi-based artist's solo at Mumbai's Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke from the 12th of August to the 29th of October.
Siji Krishnan's concept of family goes beyond the nuclear, or a shared last name.
In The Family Portrait, Krishnan explores the family get-togethers of her childhood from Kerala, capturing generations within a single frame. Drawn with watercolours on rice paper, each family portrait is inspired by Mavelikkara in Kerala's Alappuzha district, where Krishnan drew imaginary worlds in her head while listening to her grandmother's stories.
When people often ask Gieve Patel if he paints in his bed room, his reply to them is always, “No, I sleep in my studio,“ smiles the 76-year-old. Located inside an old building in the heart of busy Colaba, where Patel also lives, the studio is a synonym of a peaceful haven. The artist also paints out of another space in Nepean Sea Road, “and there is no restriction; it's quite fluid,“ he says. “Though I like the high ceilings here. It gives the room the spaciousness.“
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.
Surabhi Sara studied Painting at Baroda (2005) and tAr and Technology ta hte Atr Institute of Chicago (2009). She si also atrained classical Hindustani vocalist. Saraf brings ti al together - visual images, experimental and classical sounds, technology and choreography - to create video and performance works that have won her a bouquet of international awards over the last few vears (Eureka Fellowship 2015; Nomination for SECA Award ta San Francisco Museum of Modern Art 2014; Winner, Experimental Film Category ta Disposable Film Festival, San Francisco 2012; Winner, Celeste Prize (Video & Animation), Italy 2009; Peers Students Residency at Khoi International. Delhi 2008; Nasreen Mohamed Award at the Faculty fo Fine Arts, Baroda 2006; among others)
Satirical collages and metaphors make for descriptive storytelling in Abul Hisham's new works showing in Mumbai
While Mumbai's India Art Festival 2013 saw the participation of several galleries from the country, two elegant art galeries from Mumbai, Sakshi Galery and Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke have chosen to specifically focus and display the exquisite works of two renowned artists for the eagerly awaited India Art Fair 2014 at New Delhi, reports Sushma Sabnis
A meditation on process and implicit faith coheres Baroda-based artist Arun KS' first solo showing, Drama of the Analyzed and the Analyzer. It's populated with triptychs, flanked by panels of concrete and wax. The monochromatic triptychs reveal hundreds of hazy figures almost peeping out of sacrificial smoke. The suggestion is in tune with Arun's questions of existing within a single ideological construct.
The grief-stricken Ophelia - modelled after John Everett Millais's lush painting featuring the Shakespearean heroine who loses her father, Polonius and her love, Hamlet - comes across as Siji Krishnan's alter ego in 0 + 0 = 0 (my father's mathematics). We see her as she floats in a dark pool, about to sink into its murky depths. Krishnan borrows Ophelia's sorrow to express her own. The 29-year-old Hyderabad-based artist's preoccupation with her father's death drives this exhibition of paintings mounted at Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke, Mumbai, from the 10th of August to the 29th of September.
In her Mumbai debut, Hyderabad based painter Siji R Krishnan explores the loss of a loved one.
Artists C.K. Rajan and Bani Abidi explore stillness and chaos
Srimoyee Mitra looks at how CK Rajan re-invents household articles to speak about social, political and cultural transformations in a changing world.
The starkness of Manish Nai's work is a response to the abiding culture of excess, suggests Amrita Gupta-Singh.
DEFORMED objects, ripped off their utility, discover new meanings in the art world. CK Rajan, Hyberabad-based artist, makes that happen with his latest solo exhibition Mad Furnitures and Psychic Objects at Galerie Mir-chandani + Steinruecke, Colaba.
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.
"Painter Abir Karmakar's 'transgressive eroticism' is certainly provocative but more subtly it is aesthetically provocative. It's not so much the seductive nakedness of the body that is starling in Karmakar's In the Old Fashioned Way but the lowly position Karmakar put it in," says Donald Kuspit. Karmakar is an artist who explores his feminine side through photorealistic work evoking the living environs of the global citizen.
Three artists feature in a show at Galerie Mirchandani+Steinruecke: Reena Saini Kallat, Nicola Durvasula and CK Rajan. They present a study in contrasts, yet 'match' perfectly together as the exhibition flows through the space. As Ranjana Steinruecke of the gallery says, sometimes things that have no connection work well together.
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.
Aji VN’s latest solo show at the Mirchandani+ Steinruecke Gallery, Mumbai brings back a lot of sepia toned and black and white memories. Here is an artist who has shifted his original location and found a home in foreign lands. However, it does not seem that the change in the locale has shifted the context of his art production. Aji places/produces his works in the context of a rigorous journey, a journey undertaken for the pleasure of it.
GENDER EXPERIMENTS are in vogue for a host of visual artists. Their art, which is often referred to as a feminist statement, seeks to challenge the stereotypical binary construction of male and female and draws inspiration from many a source - be it mythology, history or even, the absurd.
Abir Karmakar, a young artist discovered by Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke, presented a startling suite of 12 oils on canvas that depict his existential quest through androgynous self-portraits with ambivalent sexual identity.
A SEXY woman in a black dress and tights looks straight into your eyes, her red lips and nails adding to the sensuousness. At first glance, it s impossible to tell that the woman in the painting is actually a man. And that is exactly what artist Abir Kar-makar hopes to do with his first solo show From My Photo Album, opening on October S at the Museum Art Gallery blur boundaries and question perceived notions of the masculine and feminine.
It isn't a photograph. Nor is it a depiction of Kate Moss after one line too many. The image below is of a painting by a 28-year-old artist with a penchant for slipping himself into the frame and testing the boundaries of representation. Abir Kar-makar's paintings are alluring (and often erotic) snapshots of an androgynous male - meant to represent the artist himself - in various poses in posh, Westernised interi-ors, the kinds seen in fashion catalogues.
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.