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Sosa Joseph: Flow of Consciousness

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.

Many years ago, when a big group of young curators visited Sosa Joseph’s studio in Kerala, we were all struck by the complete lack of any pretension or ‘arrangement’ in her workspace. There was something deeply organic in the way the paintings ‘manifested’ in their space, almost like they grew out of the walls and the furniture. This organic connection with her work and the complete interiority that Joseph displays in her process, still appears to be in evidence in her solo show, ‘Where Do We Come From?’ at Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke. The artist’s paintings seem to take over the wall space at the gallery.

A Faculty of Fine Arts, M.S. University, Baroda post-graduate, Joseph’s work has been cited as ‘faux naïve’, because even though she does have naïve elements in her paintings, especially in the manner in which she renders the forms, there is something extremely mature and worldly about her expressions and concerns, especially in the way she deals with the female experience. The large canvases are filled with the local village folk who appear to be crowding her mental space and finding expression here in the ambience of the quiet gallery in Mumbai. Joseph shares that she finds crowds interesting and challenging to paint because even though people throng together, they continue to remain distinct. There is a certain ‘deadpan summation’ of elements in the painting as if it were potentially a micro-vignette in a larger scheme, where these micro-episodes accentuate the slightly edgy, almost astringent wit underlying her vision of the ‘sheer randomness’ of the quotidian drift, the ‘purposiveness without purpose’ of the figures that people these paintings. Joseph’s works never reveal all and she as a painter, shares even less of the process of her paintings, or the reason behind why she chose a particular subject. “A certain level of reticence, (sic: about one’s work) is good, isn’t it? I must not bias viewers or introduce barriers to viewing. I also don’t want to restrict free interpretations of my work by talking much about them,” says Joseph, in a conversation with John Mathew. An artist who encourages the works to speak for themselves, she also believes that a work of art is ‘just there’, it need not be defended or explained.

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