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Understanding life through art

Jitish Kallat creates 753-part photographic work, tracking the 22,000-odd moons his late father saw during his lifetime.

art and culture Updated: Mar 23, 2011 15:42 IST
Shweta Mehta

It’s been three years since Jitish Kallat last displayed his works in the city. The artist has ongoing exhibits at prestigious venues abroad, but what explains his absence is the two years he took to put together three parallel projects for his new show, Stations of a Pause. More importantly, nearly a year was spent mulling over whether to develop one of his works, Epilogue, which draws inspiration from the life of his deceased father, KS Kutty.

“It was two years in the making, one year of which was spent in not making it. For very long, I had resisted because I wondered about the autobiographical element and how the memory of my father would come through,” explains Kallat. Epilogue is a sequel to Conditions Apply, his 2004 project, which showed seven phases of the moon at first glimpse. Closer inspection showed every moon to be a progressively eaten roti, thus simultaneously depicting a waning moon and a shrinking meal. Time, hope and deprivation were the themes then.

A paintingFor Epilogue, he reconfigured the phases as a lunar cycle, again morphing it with the image of the roti, which starts resembling brackets as the moon wanes. To Kallat, they represented nothingness and his theme evolved into one of fullness and emptiness and birth and death. It led him to believe that it had become about his father’s life in some ways.

“I mapped his lifetime in a way that I could look at every moon he saw,” says Kallat, who tracked the 22,000-odd moons that his father must have seen during his 62 years, resulting in 753 photographs, one to represent each lunar month. Among the other works is a video called Forensic Trail of the Grand Banquet. Silent and played in reverse, it shows numerous celestial bodies coming towards the viewer. Closer inspection reveals each element to be an X-ray of a food item. The final project is a series of five paintings through Kallat’s memory of his father’s life. But he dismisses any suggestions that the show is a tribute to his father. “It’s far deeper than that. Epilogue is thinking about life through my father’s life,” he signs off.