Sathyananad Mohan
  4 April - 9 May, 2009




“My education at the two centers of the ‘narrative – figurative’ revival in contemporary Indian art, - Trivandrum, where I did my graduation, and Baroda, where I did my Masters, - can be said to have impacted my work decisively, each bringing with it its own specificities to my conceptions of art and its practice. The influence of the ‘Radical” movement (a far-left artists collective), although on the decline, was still keenly felt during my time at Trivandrum. They foregrounded an interventionist praxis which drew in equal measure from the European avant-garde as well as the various revolutionary political movements happening in Kerala at the time. My relocation to Baroda for my post-graduation tossed me into the midst of a waning cultural ferment that had been (for a decade or more) engaged in the task of articulating, through a narrative language that drew upon a variety of sources, a type of Indian Modernism that had the conceptual and visual apparatus to address both local and global concerns without, at the same time, becoming yet another exotic commodity in the world-market of ideas. From these encounters with different trajectories and approaches to art making, I have tried to evolve a visual language that is marked by the critical dialogue with tradition that constitutes a historically grounded practice. I am interested in the way that history operates through the minutiae of everyday life and of the ways in which it permeates its spaces. I have also been intrigued by Jurgen Habermas’ well-known formulation about the “incomplete project of Modernity”, which seems to me to particularly apt with regard to nations such as ours, - poised to become an economic superpower, yet more often than not unable to provide for the vast majority of its citizenry the social, economic and political stabilities that the passage through Modernity is supposed to guarantee.  These contradictions that exist and constitute the fault lines of our society are a further consideration that insinuates itself into my works. 

The particular set of works that are featured in my first solo show titled “Reliquary” have been loosely grouped together around the twin (and interrelated) themes of Solitude and Death.  It is, at one level, a stock-taking, and a look back at the components of my linguistic and aesthetic choices as an artist, trying to set them out more clearly in order to locate their own limits. Reliquary also refers in part to the presence of Death as a unifying thematic which here doubles as a metaphor for a loss of selfhood, thereby extending further my continuing attempts at exploring (in my work) alienation as one of the central components of the experience of Modernity. Thus the works also have an existential slant in the sense that they engage with and foreground the presence of what has been philosophically described as 'the abyss' or 'the void', in speaking about the moral and spiritual vacuum that is said to lie at the heart of the Modern experience.  The paintings are also grouped according to a typology of sorts, featuring a set of figures that resemble characters from a novel/ play (or a tarot stack) which allows me to examine this central thematic from various angles and thereby delineate different aspects of the same, setting it in context to our tangled relationships with knowledge, sexuality, history, nature and so on.” - Sathyanand Mohan


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