To home page





March '07

art gallery
New Delhi

Curated by
Johny ML

Close up


A Lunch Box at the Scaffolding

JohnyML takes a quick look at the works of the young painter and video artist Pratul Dash who is going to have his solo exhibition at the Palette Art Gallery, New Delhi on 10 January 2007.

The latest suite of paintings by Pratul Dash, which are to be presented in a Solo Show titled ‘From the Higher Grounds’ at the Palette Art Gallery, New Delhi mark out a new journey for the artist. Pratul Dash has been in the art scene for almost a decade now and he has been developing his paintings and video works based on his experiences as a man displaced from his homeland and thrown to the din of an urban space, where he negotiate his existence as a migrant and a rightful citizen. His journey from Orissa to New Delhi determines the selection of his images and the urban reality that has become a second nature for him by now decides the aesthetical moorings of his creative process. In the words of the artist, “these works specifically talk about my life as an observant migrant who associates and dissociates with and from the events around him.”

The works done during Pratul’s formative years exemplified his existential dilemmas in a sharper way. He made his self portrait in various postures, at times going to the levels of contortionism. These portraits were seen against the backdrop of barren lands and abandoned city scapes. The sparsely inhabited cities become a metaphor for him to emphasize his angst as a lonely man who traverses through un-chartered paths. The egg shaped forms, or melting ice forms blown up beyond the point of reality gagged his portraits that forced him into a struggle of muteness. He vocalized his concerns through these mute and mutant images.

A still from the performance

His sustained interest in postmodern theories and various articulations of these has taken Pratul Dash to make a lot of works on paper also. His water colours deal with the particularities of an urban space; especially the displacement of the self and body in relationship with the animal imageries that are seen quite unnatural in the naturalness of the urban aloofness. The animals that abundantly come to play a dominant role in the pictorial renditions of Pratul Dash underline the unnatural existence of the human beings within the alienated modern and post modern urban locales.

A series of paintings on contortionism has helped Pratul to bring in his observations on the dilemma of contemporary lives. Also the recent video works that he had done when he was in Italy and later in New Delhi show his engagement with the spaces of commodities and commodification. Extensive footages of malls and mannequins are edited skillfully to create a hyper reality that corresponds to the erotic and ethical instincts of the consumer man. These videos function as a field of retrospection and introspection rather than an active critique on accentuated consumerism.

One of the latest video works that Pratul has specially prepared for his major solo exhibition shows the artist in his native village in Orissa. He is seen in an act of tying himself with a thread, which could be a sacred thread that demarcates his caste position, around his head and face. The violent action with which he ties himself turns his face into a distorted mass and the untying of the thread leaves a mesh of markings on the skin. It looks like a body drawing, using body as the medium and surface. Like a Chris Burden or Vito Acconci he inflicts pain on himself to eke out a meaning of affection, infliction and restoration.

Pratul in his concept note on this work states: “One might get a strange sense of relief as the performance unwinds and the distorted image of the face gains balance. What remain are the marks of the string’s path of punishment and an extremity of detachment and peace in the end. It is a kind of come back for me in my native land.” This coming back (of a not so prodigal son) is substantiated by further enactment of the same action in artificial situations, edited and incorporated into the main body of the video work.

The recent set of paintings has scaffolding as a predominant imagery. Scaffolding, for the artist is an interim space between path and destination. The construction sites that have become a daily reality for the urban people emphasize human progression as well as the dilemmas involved in it. Pratul does not seem to talk about the problems of the worker in these scaffoldings as his orientation is more of existential/aesthetical than sociological. However, in one of the works, one could see a tiffin carrier kept precariously at the corner of a high rise scaffolding. An automatic association of the image with labor and lunch is quite poignant in this work.


Home About us Contact