False Promises
  T. V. Santhosh  
Grosvenor Gallery
37 Albemarle Street, London,
W1S 4 JF


T V Santhosh is a rising star of the contemporary Indian art scene. This is his third solo show and his first in London.

Santhosh’s work tackles the relentless presence of violence and injustice in history. His canvases confront the hard-hitting subjects of war and terrorism seeking to question the influence of politics and media on these global issues, most notably their representation and manipulation of the events.

“…One looks at the world through a tinted spectacles of ‘news reports’, that unroll the stories of massacre of innocents, spectacular highlights of explosions, flux of faces of people who make headlines, spitting the words of hate and arrogance and the kinds of propaganda campaigns that just struggle to hide nothing but truth. It is a strange world exposed and manipulated. A world where one does not know who the real enemy is, yet ‘terror’ is the common word for both those who resist and those who attack. It is one’s extended vision that construct and reshapes the perceptions of the ‘present’. And it is riddled with a number of eternal questions and a couple of ready-made yet elusive solutions, which I am interested with. It is the touch and smell of the ‘present’ I am dealing with in my works, in a process to find a solution, where the praxis of language becomes one with the perceptions of reality.”

He appropriates references from such sources as magazines, newspapers and television. The influence of print media is reflected in the photographic quality of his works, both in their clarity and composition. The viewer is placed at the center of the action, whether pressed up against the nose of the sniffer dog in Whose War is It? or standing directly over the unexploded bombs in Waste Land of a History Lesson.

Our sense of a stolen, even covert viewpoint is heightened by Santhosh’s painterly technique and palette. The objects and figures tonal values are reversed like the image seen through thermographic camera, or xray in neon neon pinks, purples and greens.

Such solarisation, or negative imagery is a defining part of Santhosh’s work. In his last show works were mainly diptychs, a device he employed so that he could juxtapose both positive and negative images side by side. However, in these works Santhosh fuses both the negative and positive within one single frame. A photographic negative is usually the 'original' from which a photograph is printed, and so lies the paradox of Santhosh’s method of revealing the concealed truths of war. The inversion of the image gives the picture a new context and meaning as the darkest areas in the original image are transformed into the brightest highlights.

“More recently, I have been appropriating in my works the logic of turning a positive photographic image into its negative. Negative images evoke the inverse aspects of the phenomena. As certain elements get deleted and become unrecognizable, they reveal an event’s hidden implications. In the process, the elements of ‘local’ lose their specificity, attaining instead a universal significance and vice versa. Marking a shift from my earlier paintings and its linguistic concerns, which dealt with a world as seen through the pages of history that tells its stories through the images of metaphors, my recent works deals with the kind of devised ‘glimpses’ of a much larger, unresolved stories of immediate happenings…”

Santhosh’s technique owes much to the modern masters before him. Man Ray’s ‘Rayograms’ for example were a simple process of exposing a simple everyday object, say an egg-beater, cigarette or light-bulb, against photographic paper to create a negative image of the object.  The technique allowed him to subvert the object and to re interpret it, and it became a favourite of the Surrealists.  Likewise, the Pop artist Andy Warhol is famous for his inverted images of the icons and symbols of his time, from Marilyn Monroe to The Electric Chair.

Santhosh however takes this technique and brings it into the 21st Century by using images from today’s society. At the turn of the 19th Century, which was also the beginning of the Modern Art Movement Baudelaire made a calling to young artists to “ il faut etre de son temps”, to be of their time, and Santhosh is one such artist.

Anne Fleetwood and Conor Macklin


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