Ranjana Steinruecke could have sold the exhibition by Abir Karmakar twice over in her gallery in Mumbai. However she resisted the demand at home for her young star, and brought the large format paintings to the Berlin guest show at Galerie Heike Curtze. ‘Interiors’ is the modest title for a spectacular debut, of this young Indian abroad.
There are six paintings only, the annual production of a reflective artist, who, on canvases measuring 183 x 228 cm, unfolds a delicacy of brushwork, a finesse of light-and-shadow-play, and a subtlety of nuance that reflects an entire cosmos (each 12,000 Euros). All the paintings depict the artist himself in a double role, configured sometimes as male, sometimes as female. The interplay with gender attributes, the references within the painting, trigger off different levels of meaning.
Very clear on the other hand, are the signs of a growing interest in contemporary art from India. This continent is being viewed in a new light, not only due to being the focus at the Book Fair. The exhibition with works by Amrita Sher-Gil, the Frida Kahlo of India, in Munich’s Haus der Kunst, may not be that currently relevant, nevertheless there is an upward trend for the modern art of the country – the latest auction results in New York where Christies like Sothebys have devoted a number of catalogues to younger Indian art, are the surest indication of this. They were not disappointed in their expectations. In this category, Sothebys achieved its highest sale so far (almost $15 million), surpassed by Christies with almost 18 million. Conversely, the demand for western art is growing in India. Ranjana Steinruecke, who until a few years ago was active as an art dealer in Mommsenstrasse, has now, in cooperation with Berlin galleries, arranged a joint exhibition of Jonathan Meese and Norbert Bisky. In December, she will show Kiki Smith, who at the time will be staying in Berlin as a Visiting Fellow at the American Academy.
Not only with regard to the economy, but also in art, Indians have shown themselves to be global players. The exhibition of Abir Karmakar proves this in its own way. The 29- year old, although not having left his country until now, meets, with his figurative painting and choice of themes, the level of expectations in the West. Karmakar’s still pictures evoke an erotic excitement, which transcends all cultural barriers. The young artist encounters himself in the bathroom in dark evening suit before a mirror, and at the same time dressed as a woman sitting on the toilet with an overcast expression. Still more pointed is the painting that shows him in the bedroom. The feminine counterpart dons a red top, the masculine steps out of a closet.
But it is not entirely as simple as that. Karmakar lures the observer into a trap with these allusions to hidden homosexuality. In the end, it is only about the two sides of a coin, the unity of male and female attributes in each one. And about the loneliness of the city dweller, confronted with himself. These everyone knows.