Curated By Ranjit Hoskote
Dec 21, 2019 – Mar 08, 2020

How fast can sound travel through graphite, copper, steel, or stone? Very fast, and with considerable resonance, in the hands of an ingenious, versatile and socially engaged artist like Krishnamachari Bose, who relays through his work a powerful commitment to effecting transformation in the political and cultural contexts of the historical moment. Bose’s practice has been vibrantly hybrid, spanning art-making as well as institution-building. As an artist, he has engaged with diverse media, ranging from painting to the installation and the social sculpture. If certain chromatic preoccupations have travelled with him over a period of three decades, so have certain emphases on informal pedagogy, the library, and the space of mutual intellectual and affective nourishment between artists and audiences. During the early 1990s, an entire generation of Bombay artists, then students or recent graduates, benefited from the suitcases full of books that Bose would bring back from his foreign travels. Through a project like LaVA, a giant reading room dedicated to the visual arts and art history, Bose reached out to draw potential viewers into a space of education that was welcoming rather than alienating. Through the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, Bose realised his vision for a festival of the arts that would meld the local, national and international art scenes into a new, dynamic and unpredictable constellation.

In his current body of work, ‘The Mirror Sees Best in the Dark’, Bose returns triumphantly to art-making. In these marvellous experiments with form and material – in which he shuttles among word, image and assemblage, between an austere minimalism and an opulent maximalism – he confronts 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. What we see in Bose’s recent works is a portrait of what we have done to ourselves today, at the level of the individual, the community, the religious group, the nation-state. Sometimes, this portrait is manifestly clear, as in the works where he uses a traditional Kerala metal mirror. Sometimes, as when he uses Braille in his graphite works, we may have to decode the portrait. The seriousness of the artist’s intent communicates itself through playfulness as well as sombre irony. The sighted can sometimes miss the obvious truth, while the visually challenged can read it with precision. The times are dark, and Bose’s mirror is designed to see – and reveal – better in such conditions.

Ranjit Hoskote
Poet, Curator and Cultural Theorist


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