Overview

Works

Notes

Curatorial Note

SOLILOQUY

“Lately it occurs to me what a long strange trip it’s been.”

 

These words appear just beneath the horizon in one of the Quarantine Diary pages of Indrapramit Roy, a thought whispered in one of his many moments of self-immersion. In the recent series of thirty monochromatic works on paper done through subsequent lockdowns during the outbreak of Covid variants (2020-2022) we encounter Roy’s ruminations on soliloquy, with his focus closer to inexplicable thoughts and feelings.

 

Roy’s Quarantine Diary alludes to the ambiguity of mind–fogging moments, unexpressed anxiety and panic, a restless silence, or aimlessness experienced as a common, perhaps a collective condition during the last two years. His responses to the everyday oscillate between the tender and the violent, while yearning for stability and restoration of the larger world around.

 

Roy creates a linear mesh on the paper with a dense layering by lines drawn over lines rather instinctively, suspending conscious thought and control to mindlessly meander, even surrender to the impulse, creating solitary pockets and interior spaces. He tints the paper with watercolour washes to bury and reveal traces or memory fragments, with words not mechanically stamped but written precariously, hinting at the passing of time or the ambiguity of the day spent.

 

In the splurging of sensual touches of colour, we encounter swirling cloud-like forms; moving, melting, dispersing and merging, never stable to relax our eyes on it.  The emotional overload is nuanced in varying tonalities of hues, in the fluid released of energy exploding on the shifty surface or slipping by.  A sensitive mind and hand at work, Roy puts more meaning and soul into his sense of colour, highlighting its evocative accent.

 

Text as a word or a phrase has been appearing sparingly in Roy’s works for the last few years, signifies through its fragile manifestation, a silent hysteria. In some, words are camouflaged by lines drawn over, partly popping out unexpectedly on the entire surface. Roy is not hoping to substitute the painted phenomena through the word, but instead uses it to amplify the force of the inexplicable and the abstract. ‘Suspicion’, ‘Threat’, ‘Conspiracy’, ‘Keep Still’  ‘Tense’, words woven into the painting seem to be recurrent, conflicting ideas of discomfort and comfort that take on psychological dimensions.

 

A single word becomes more concrete than the painted form in connecting us/communicating to us the heaviness of the pervading mood. The telling words such as ‘stay calm’ as well as ‘panic’ both hand written in one work intensify the dichotomy of lived moments, the painting emblematic of overlapping gestural presences of darkness and hope, of the realization of our strengths and weakness, amidst the mortal fear of the temporariness of life itself.

 

For Roy, a trip to a cacti garden in Kevadia Colony in Vadodara triggered a series, with the cactus plant becoming his muse. He found both awe and beauty in the cactus forms with their inherent geometry, his eye fixated on its stark patterns, its muted colours, and the odd assembly of multiple off shoots conjoined within one form.  Sometimes Roy makes them appear like crystal balls exuding light sparkles under a night sky, and at times as a strange multi-limbed creature with sharp contours.

 

What draws us closer to these works is Roy’s brilliance in the treatment of the subject, playing with its scale and texture, the oddness and eeriness of its shape taking on mysterious dimensions. He painstakingly renders the thin sharp needle-like thorns of the cacti that are suggestive of both threat/danger as well as protection. Under nocturnal shades and twilight moments, Roy’s exploration and dialogue with many species via a single isolated cactus has resulted in paintings with a dense emotional charge.  Anticipation of pain, loss and death has made us turn towards nature, neglected by our hurried lives for long, now reinstated for its medicinal value and as a calming/ healing force.

 

The informality of Roy’s painterly articulations bring forth the irregular rhythms of an uncertain and unstable world, amplified during the alienating quarantine and moments of soliloquy. It is also a reminder to be attentive and listen to one’s inner voice without the posture/crutch of heroism.

 

Roobina Karode

Art Historian and Critic

Director and Chief Curator

Kiran Nadar Museum of Art

 

 

 

Artist Note

When days roll into the nights and the nights roll into the next day relentlessly and wait for the light at the end of the tunnel scouring the day’s news, the time is ripe for soliloquies. As such all paintings are, in some sense, soliloquies. They are inner dialogues manifested. The unprecedented hardship of people around me during the lockdown, the helplessness , the surfeit of bad news coming from all sides and my relatively privileged existence with a roof above my head and food on my plate and perhaps no less importantly, with the luxury of time at my disposal – I wondered, shuddered, questioned and pondered. It is a continuous process. I can’t paint ideas but have to look for what the Californian painter Wayne Thiebaud called ‘what is paintable’.

The Quarantine Diaries began as a journal that I wanted to keep on a daily basis. It morphed into another set after a couple of months called Quarantine Drawings. In-between there were larger works. The Ordinary Lies, for instance, was triggered by the silence that enveloped the markers of our development paradigm – construction. The frenzy of the relentless occupation of the greens around us came to a grinding halt mid motion. Minus all the bee-hive activity of humdrum construction the stentorian skeleton became a monument to absurdity.

All along we were being fed a steady diet of misinformation masquerading as news, a narrative designed to distract our already shrinking capacity to focus on the significant, on things of import. It seems a new issue-a-day is invented to keep us from focusing on the essentials. The deluge of trivia that occupy the mind space is really astounding!

In the midst of it all I chanced upon a set of photos  and drawings I did a while ago in a local cactus garden where a plethora of cacti of different genera and species were on display. A large mural with the cacti theme was to be executed but they wanted the portraits of our political masters in the midst of the cacti! – completely missing the irony. Cacti in their myriad shapes and sizes are a veritable showcase of nature’s perfect geometry and design but they also embody the principle of attraction and repulsion in equal measure. I recalled the Mexican city of Juarez seen through a bunch of agaves at the El Paso border many years ago. The works eponymous with the title of this show were born.

All works in this show were done between 2020 and 2022.

Venue

Threshold Art Gallery

C-221 Sarvodaya Enclave,

New delhi – 110017

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