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Home / Art and Culture / In his first solo show in almost 10 yrs, Bose Krishnamachari turns the lens on us

In his first solo show in almost 10 yrs, Bose Krishnamachari turns the lens on us

The Mirror Sees Best in the Dark employs the extremes of minimalism and maximalism, the artist says, to confront the increasingly extreme discourses that shape our consciousness.

art-and-culture Updated: Jan 02, 2020 14:47 IST
Riddhi Doshi
Riddhi Doshi
Hindustan Times
The Mirror Sees Best in the Dark will run until March at the Emami art gallery in Kolkata.
The Mirror Sees Best in the Dark will run until March at the Emami art gallery in Kolkata.

Artist and curator Bose Krishnamachari, 56, put his personal practice aside in 2010, to co-found and help curate India’s only art biennale, the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, a not-for-profit event that has showcased the work of hundreds of artists from around the world and been attended by lakhs of people.

This show, The Mirror Sees Best in the Dark, his comeback event, was meant to be held last year, but even that had to be put off. Now, it’s finally here, at the Emami art gallery in Kolkata. The show will run until March.

The seven large installations, conceptualised and created over two years, use materials ranging from stone to paper, graphite, ceramic and glass, stressing Bose’s belief that art is an amalgamation of different practices — performative, architectural, digital and others.

He has employed the extremes of minimalism and maximalism, he says, to confront the increasingly extreme discourses that shape our consciousness. “In Bose’s handling, these discourses crystallise around keywords that then become slogans, deployed in the witch hunts and debased debates that characterise a polarised society. Bose explores the thresholds at which potentially unifying concepts like nationalism can become unhealthy obsessions, dividing the world into Us and Them, injecting toxicity into collective life,” says cultural theorist Ranjit Hoskote, in his descriptive note on the exhibition.

On a large graphite stone, the work titled 10 Words inscribes ten words — capitalism, fascism, narcissism, nationalism and others — in English and Braille. In Obsession – 1 (above), Bose uses light and space to create a sanctum sanctorum for the same words, placing each in a carved, gilded frame.
On a large graphite stone, the work titled 10 Words inscribes ten words — capitalism, fascism, narcissism, nationalism and others — in English and Braille. In Obsession – 1 (above), Bose uses light and space to create a sanctum sanctorum for the same words, placing each in a carved, gilded frame.

“My life is all about extremes,” Bose, 56, says; chaos and peace, the Onam sadhya and the minimalist idli. “These extremes have always appealed to me as an artist. And now there are new extremes of narcissism, chauvinism, capitalism, technology. These have drastically reshaped my life and our times, and I think about that very often.”

Words are powerful icons in his exhibition. On a large graphite stone, the work titled 10 Words inscribes ten words — religion, capitalism, fascism, narcissism and others — on the hard surface, in English and Braille.

Elsewhere, in a work titled Obsession – 1, Bose uses light and space to create a dramatic sanctum sanctorum for the same words, each framed in an elaborately carved, gilded teakwood frame placed in a large gallery covered in gilt wallpaper. “Today, we obsess about these words, are addicted to and overpowered by either our own or someone else’s obsession. It’s important to keep some distance from any kind of obsessions or else it can be dangerous for us and society,” says Bose.

In 9 Rasas and One Soft Cut (above), carved teak panels are reflected in a mirror, below which is placed a saw — a reminder of the perils of veneration turned to obsession.
In 9 Rasas and One Soft Cut (above), carved teak panels are reflected in a mirror, below which is placed a saw — a reminder of the perils of veneration turned to obsession.

The thought continues in the title work, The Mirror Sees Best in the Dark. Bose uses the mirror, the ultimate symbol of reflection, to urge people to reflect. This work consists of nine large, non-reflective glass panes of different colours, framed in teak wood and placed in a straight line. In the centre of eight of the panes are mirrors; in the ninth, just a round cavity.

The number nine in this work and the use of numbers in all the others is part of his conceptualisation. “Numbers are used in most religious rites — 10 Commandments or 41 days of rituals or 30 days of fasting — to emphasis something or glorify something,” Bose says.