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Labour paeans: Praneet Soi’s new show blends art, craft, old and new

A new art exhibition at the Bhau Daji Lad museum is a result of the artist’s two-year association with craftsmen in Kolkata, Kashmir and China.

mumbai Updated: May 22, 2017 13:13 IST
Rachel Lopez
Rachel Lopez
Hindustan Times
Praneet Soi,Tasneem Mehta,Bhau Daji Lad
In Notes On Labour, artist Praneet Soi engages with objects from Mumbai’s Bhau Daji Lad museum, to create new works that celebrate India’s unsung craftsmen. (Satyabrata Tripathy / HT Photo)
Notes On Labour
  • WHAT: Works by Praneet Soi, curated by Tasneem Mehta
  • WHERE: Bhau Daji Lad museum, Byculla, Mumbai
  • WHEN: May 13 to July 25 (Wednesdays closed)
  • Museum entry fee is Rs 10

Every few months, the Bhau Daji Lad museum opens up its collections to a contemporary artist, encouraging them to see 19th century decorative objects not as relics of the past, but as a way to reimagine the present.

In 2011, LN Tallur took over the space, spreading out blocks of an incomplete model elephant to honour the Elephanta Island statue now on the museum grounds. In 2015, Thukral & Tagra turned the BDL into a gaming arena. The museum’s Ganjifa playing cards were the inspiration for board games, its old map of Bombay found a new life as a ping-pong table.

This time, Praneet Soi shows Notes On Labour, new works that emerged from his two-year engagement with artisans in Kolkata, Srinagar and Guangzhou in China.

A gigantic installation, an arrangement of papier-mâché tiles, depicts patterns typical of Kashmiri craftsmen. (Satyabrata Tripathy/ HT Photo)

It’s a good fit, says Tasneem Mehta, the museum’s honorary director and the curator of the show. “Unlike previous artists, Praneet has worked on the idea of craftsmanship and the unsung skilled artisan. His work deals with the idea of production, which is really the founding idea of the museum.”

One work, a slideshow, depicts a Kolkata printer at work, his repetitive movements eventually printing Soi’s photos of the printer himself at work. A gigantic installation, an arrangement of papier-mâché tiles, depicts patterns typical of Kashmiri craftsmen. The intricate works are rarely documented but seem at home in the museum, which has a small collection of lacquerware from Kashmir.

Detail from the curved mural installed at the entrance the Bhau Daji Lad museum in Byculla, as part of Praneet Soi’s show, Notes Of Labour. (Satyabrata Tripathy/ HT Photos)

Soi also installs a massive mural at the entrance. “It’s curved to resonate with the museum’s architecture, specifically its tympanum,” says Soi, referring to the half-circle shape created by the roof.

Soi’s Astatic Machines, wheeled slide projectors from previous shows, make an appearance here. They project transparencies of patterns by Kipling, the artist Paul Klee, and himself. There’s a black wall too, so visitors can play artist by chalking out designs and architectural shapes based on the projections.

First Published: May 12, 2017 22:07 IST