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Sosa Joseph returns to the Pamba River | Ocula Insight

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). 

There are many faces to the river in Joseph's new works. In Duck Farmers (2021), figures populate the canvas, colours and activities abound, while the river itself is dark and foreboding. Painted at the bottom-right corner of the canvas, the river frames three figures: two are long-haired and clad in white, bending towards each other for a kiss; the third, to their right, is almost invisible in the water save for their pale face and hands raised, in a pose reminiscent of John Everett Millais' Ophelia (1851–1852).


Elsewhere on the canvas, children and adults dance, gather around for a chat, or form a procession. A group of ducks tilt their heads, their plump bodies and comically tiny feet uplifting the mood. Joseph adroitly shifts from one colour to another to separate figures into smaller, more manageable groups, balancing pastel yellows and greens with darker blues. The resulting image is one of dynamic village life that is charged by the river's presence, even at a distance.

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