Tuesday, October 30, 2012

‘City of Hope’ by Martand Khosla

‘City of Hope’ is emerging artist Martand Khosla’s first solo presented simultaneously in two parts at Seven Art gallery and at the School of Art & Aesthetics, JNU (Jawaharlal Nehru University). It’s important that these artworks inhabit two known avenues of knowledge production – one a throbbing contemporary art space and the other a public institute renowned for higher learning – mainly because the series looks to dig out and explain several dualities within his practice.

He shows how the migrant workforce is increasingly getting displaced and largely ignored within the broader, popular discourse of the country’s shining future, he realizes. His works therefore try and address this concern by engaging with the faceless people ‘building’ India of tomorrow albeit seldom considered within the spectrum of India’s apparent development.

He employs a wide variety of potent materials and visual vocabulary so as to make his pointed observations – using brick dust, abundantly found at all construction sites, and creates the workers’ portraits, poetic vignettes of their tools and footwear as they pause momentarily during lunch, barren or abandoned and parched landscapes etc. He creates miniature and peculiar acrylic encased rooms of singular possessions, which mark an upwardly mobile segment of society.

The artist’s brick dust is the stuff of both the possible and impossible dreams and the everyday. The portraits he comes up with are striking in the fact that they remind us of the ‘Veil of Veronica’, the cloth bearing a rust colored (almost similar to hue as brick dust) Jesus Christ portrait imprinted after Saint Veronica during the journey to crucifix wiped his blood stained face.

Another series made with the official rubber stamp feature portraits that exude a different tenor, and highlight those who are or sometimes are not included within the official schema. He made several vertical landscapes in ‘Five Days’ through repetitive stamping to document the burning of slums in Delhi in 2010, just before the Commonwealth Games. Whether it was a mere accident or arson, it’s a stain on the capital’s bloated memory that underlines the State’s refusal of legitimacy to these slum dwellers.

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