In the realm of contemporary art, there are those who paint pictures, and then there are artists like Matthew Krishanu, who weave intricate narratives, emotions, and questions within their canvases. His latest exhibition, On A Limb, is a captivating journey into the world of complex power dynamics and the delicate dance between memory and imagination. Krishanu transforms the familiar into the surreal and evokes a sense of intimate vulnerability through his subjects.
At first glance, Krishanu's work appears serene, capturing seemingly carefree moments in time. Boy on Branch, a captivating painting from the collection, portrays a young boy, perhaps around eight years old, perched precariously on a skeletal tree. The image is bathed in muted colors, evoking the earthy tones of soil, foliage, and trees. Thinly applied paint lends a casual, almost effortless quality to the scene, inviting us to ponder the boy's back story.
Krishanu's art deftly merges landscape and portraiture, offering subtle commentary on the ways in which power operates within people and places. Each of his works carries a hidden political undercurrent, concealed beneath the layers of paint. His canvases, often created using acrylic and oil paint over several weeks, showcase a striking balance between meticulous detail and abstract expression.
The artist's mastery lies in his ability to transform everyday moments into profound reflections on life and identity. Athough Krishanu spent most of his time studying art in London, many of his paintings draw inspiration from family photographs, harking back to his childhood days in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and his visits to India. These memories serve as a foundation, yet the final compositions emerge as amalgams of recollection and a artistic interpretation. In Agra Fort (View), Krishanu's late wife's silhouette mirrors the sky in a window frame, while Two Boys in a Tree sees the boys' legs mirroring the tree branch that supports them. Krishanu's art thrives on echoes and refrains, weaving a complex tapestry of emotions, landscapes, and narratives.
In Sari and Dungarees, we encounter a middle-aged White woman in a sari, flanked by two young boys. The relationship between these figures remains elusive, as their body language hints at unspoken tensions. Krishanu's paintings are rife with such nuances, exploring the dynamics of power, gaze, and control. The seemingly light-hearted scenes often conceal an undercurrent of unease and anticipation.
The vulnerability in human experiences takes center stage in Two Boys on a Cliff and Boy in Tunnel, where adventurous children navigate treacherous terrain against cavernous backdrops. The contrast between youthful exuberance and the unforgiving wilderness evokes a profound sense of fragility. Krishanu's Banyan paintings further amplify this theme, with towering trees overwhelming the small figures of the boys.
The paintings Agra (Water) and Agra (Water View) strip the scenes down to their essence, framing figures against painterly washes that represent land, sea, and air. These empty spaces beckon viewers to insert themselves into the narrative, provoking existential contemplation. Krishanu's art exists on the precipice of material and metaphorical boundaries, evoking the moment before a fall, the mouth of a cave, and the interplay between representation and abstraction.
The exhibition's title, On A Limb, draws from an idiom dating back to 19th-century America, signifying risk and vulnerability. Krishanu's art embraces this concept, capturing the delicate dance between humanity and the natural world. It transcends time, from the fleeting moments of childhood to the enduring geological epochs, offering viewers a glimpse into the timeless interplay of fragility and strength.
On A Limb: A Matthew Krishanu Exhibition
Venue: Jhaveri Contemporary Art Gallery
Address: 3rd Floor, Devidas Mansion, B K Boman Behram Marg, Apollo Bandar, Colaba, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400001
On view till: September 9, 2023
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