New Delhi, Jan 8 (IANSlife) Celebrity artist Jitish Kallat has had several exhibitions overseas over the past five years. He returns to his own city to unveil two of his latest and major new works. Kallat is represented by gallery Nature Morte and his exhibit opens on 10th January during the Mumbai Gallery Weekend. The pieces are open to viewing at Famous Studios until 22nd January.
Kallat will unveil ‘Covering Letter (Terranum Nuncius),’ a multimedia installation inspired by cosmology as well as the art of letters, along with ‘Ellipsis’ a 60- foot long painting that has been 2 years in the making. ‘Covering Letter’ will later travel to the Frist Art Museum, Nashville for Jitish’s first solo show there.
IANSlife brings you this exclusive conversation with Kallat.
This showing took five years in the making, share with us how you feel about the grand reveal.
Kallat: While in the last five years I’ve had several exhibitions overseas it is indeed special to return to one’s own city with a new solo project. My last exhibition in India was my mid-career survey exhibition titled ‘Here After Here’ at the National Gallery of Modern Art in Delhi in 2017, covering twenty-five years of work.
In a way I’m pleased that this solo is the unveiling of two of my major new works ‘Ellipsis’ and ‘Covering Letter (Terranum Nuncius)’. I’m sharing these within days of their completion so I’d be internalising them not in the silence of my studio but in the wider public domain.
Give us a few details about your experience making the pieces and what motivated you to create them.
Kallat: Both these works evolved in their own individual orbits but they’ve been parallel processes in the studio.
I have been very interested in the movement of the Voyager space missions for a while and have followed closely their recent exit from the dominion of the solar system. My interest in these space probes, and the contents of the Golden Record, isn’t stemming from technological and scientific perspective but more from a philosophical and symbolic dimension of what they represent.
The probes point to a deep human need to expand and explore the distant and the inconceivable, while the contents of the Golden Record reveals the fundamental human need to communicate. The contents of the record convey evidence of our presence on this planet to an unknown, space-faring alien other.The two Voyagers and the Golden Record will most likely outlast us as a species and our planet, as well as our entire solar system. They remind us of our collective mortality and our collective journey on a tiny planet in an obscure corner of an ever expanding universe.
I returned back to painting after a gap of close to five years in 2017. While working on specific canvases in 2018, simultaneously I began making marks and gestures on various other canvases. These fragments began to grow slowly, gather momentum and materialise as form, converging as clusters of speculative abstractions. Over the past several months these images slowly began to coalesce into a single painting titled Ellipsis.
Emojis have replaced the art of letter writing, how is your work ‘Covering Letter (Terranum Nuncius)’ relevant today?
Kallat: Indeed, we’ve gone from letters to short messages to emojis. We’ve also taken the declining path from complexity and detail to over simplification.
I’ve been very interested in the epistolary, the form of the letter and our impulse to communicate.
At a time when we find ourselves divided by all kinds of separatist propaganda and ideological differences, the contents of the ‘Golden Records’ can serve as a meditation of our shared origins and our impending extinction.
At a time when we’ve lost the vocabulary to communicate to the other, someone who may not share our beliefs or worldviews, the contents of the ‘Golden Records’ reflect a compelling effort to search for a vocabulary to reach out to a distant other, an unknown alien.
What can we expect from ‘Ellipsis’ – a 60- foot long painting that has been 2 years in the making?
Kallat: To me Ellipsis has served as a large note-pad, an accordion like panoramic space where I can let forms emerge. The ideas enshrined in the piece have been long standing inquiries but directed through a deeply probing painterly process.
I followed the impulses as they emerged from the canvases, letting a mark or a stain direct the course of the next gesture evocations of the bodily, the botanical, the sub-oceanic and the intergalactic all intermingle and exchange energies.
Being a contemporary artist do you feel events like The India Art Fair help popularize South Asian contemporary art?
Kallat: Events like India Art Fair become convergence points, around which a lot of activity happens in New Delhi and hence they are very important to the art ecology. While India Art Fair along with other art projects such as the Kochi Biennale and Serendipity have brought art to the wider public who visit these events in large numbers.
As an artist do you think social networking sites like Instagram have created a space where you have access to a wider audience?
Kallat: I have stayed away from all social medi- Instagram, Twitter, Facebook etc. and my abstinence is only to secure a degree of silence in my creative life.
That said I think they are rewiring the neural network of the collective planetary brain.