Karmakar’s reflections on site-specificity not only address ideas of display and perception, but extend them into the mode of dissemination as an imperative of the commercial space. Unlike the institutional frame of the Biennale, the gallery brings to mind the cycles of the capitalist market economy, which circulates art works as exchangeable commodities. Exploring the genesis of painting, from mural to easel painting, Karmakar traces the medium’s history from being organically connected to architecture to its execution on a portable support. In Room 4, the last one in the sequence of gallery rooms, he ironically plays with this genesis. He paints one detail of the medium-sized interior, which he created specifically for Room 4 – a skirting made of geometrically patterned floor tiles typical of Indian middle class homes – on the bottom of the column facing the painting, which is part of the architectural structure of the room. Likewise, he paints the surface of the gallery door adjacent to the painting in one of the interior’s dominant colours to generate a coherent spatial environment that integrates the main architectural elements of the room.
The gesture of painting the bottom of the column reminds of early murals at a time when painting hadn’t gained mobility and autonomy from architecture. Reassessing the relationship between painting and architecture, Karmakar demonstrates that site- related works of art are not just exchangeable commodity goods that fall victim to the ‘tyranny’ of capitalist market forces. As the series ‘Displacement’ manifests, the in situ displayed interiors are not mere self-sufficient, trans-historical entities with universal meaning. Rather are they experienced in the hic et nunc of an ‘unrepeatable and fleeting situation’, emphasizing the spatial particularity and temporality of the location as well as the ephemeral presence of the beholder. Karmakar ingeniously resists the homogenization of space and the commodification of painting as placeless and exchangeable. The exhibition is testimony to the celebration of the open-endedness and continually expanding, self-interrogating and evolving nature of the medium. He forces the beholder to critically rethink the prevailing cultural and economic value system which circulates painting, throwing light on the conditions of its production, perception, display, and dissemination.
(Excerpted from the essay written by curator Birgid Uccia)