Jitish Kallat’s oeuvre deals with Mumbai’s downtrodden and dislocated inhabitants as evident through his works on view at ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ show at Saatchi Gallery, London.
Faces are often illuminated by animated collages in his canvases. The collages precariously rest over their heads just like overbearing wigs that contain scenes of the underbelly of the teeming city. He mounts the portraits onto bronze gargoyles reproduced from the Victoria terminus in central Mumbai. The Untitled (Eclipse) series tackles a more pressing significance elevated upon these replica gargoyles. Here, the portraits turn into emblems and epitaphs to these animated lives.
A significant work from the series is an overpowering triptych. It's indeed an awe-inspiring celebration of the children who litter the streets of Mumbai and New Delhi. This generation of lost children, seeking scanty solace in the public buildings and sometimes the makeshift shanty-towns on the edges of the city, symbolizes the consequences of modernity driven by a sub-continent’s rat race for newness. Like an unforgiving disease that is riddled to their hair, the artist’s signature narratives of miniature figures and the corrosive overspill of modern life camouflage his young boys.
An equally powerful acrylic on canvas from the same series, done in three panels, project boys who look out at the audience in the triptych stretched across the wall. There are rays of sunshine emanating from the background. He wants to expose the bigger and bitter reality, which exists beneath the pomp of flourishing economy and thriving technological cities.
The ‘Eclipse’ series, made-up of thought-provoking templates, is determined by the distorted figures that illuminate much of the canvas, even as these heavy narratives and figures arise from the city’s modern detritus.