Apposite | Opposite

Chemould Prescott Road and Chatterjee and Lal, two Mumbai based galleries, are collaborating once again to host Pakistan’s most celebrated contemporary artist, Rashid Rana, in the city. The galleries also co-presented a booth featuring Rana’s new work at the India Art Fair in New Delhi earlier this year. This solo show comes after a hiatus of four years and is the most ambitious show yet, spread across two galleries, featuring new pieces in a variety of media that Rana works in: video, sculpture, photo-montages and photo-sculptures.

Rana developed a trademark style early in his career wherein he created photographic mosaics composed of small, unique pictures. This style and the relationship between the whole image and its component parts remain at the crux of Rana’s artistic practice. In his new photo-sculptures, a deliberate pixelation of the image leads the viewer to meditate on the fragments and the whole, and the process by which the artist creates meaning out of seemingly disparate elements.

The highlight of ‘Apposite I Opposite’ is the large sculpture titled ‘Desperately Seeking Paradise II’. This large triangular vortex seems to be composed of shards of mirror from one angle, and photos that mimic a skyline of a western city from another; but a close look reveals that it is entirely composed of small images of construction sites in Lahore. The in and out texture of the surface, the surprise of seeing oneself reflected in a work of art, and the details in the images make this piece unsettling, yet playfully delightful.

Carrying the idea of pixelation further, Rana now introduces it in his video works. He animates Rembrandt’s 1632 painting the ‘The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp’, pixelating and un-pixelating the iconic masterpiece making the familiar seem strange. In this photo-mosaic video, Rana develops his interest in creating tension between the presentation of a macro-image whose constituent parts are composed from thumbnails that generally destabilize the initial reading of the work. His ‘What Lies Between Flesh And Blood’ series immediately brings to mind the works of Mark Rothko. The larger image seems a serene and calm abstract work, but when one looks at the parts that it is composed of, one is destabilized by the crude images of blood and skin.

The undoubted delight of the show however is Rana’s new photo-sculptures. While from afar they seem true representations of various household objects, these sculptures turn the two dimensional into three. With photography being such an integral part of our lives, we constantly convert the three dimensional object into a two dimensional image, and Rana here converts that back into an object. The re-representation of the original object of reference takes place faithfully, even to the extent of the lighting conditions mimicking those apparent at the moment the objects were initially photographed.

As Quddus Mirza writes “In Rana’s body of work art history, contemporary art, visual urban culture and mundane things are made to contribute in the creation of an alternate reality that unfolds formal as well as conceptual concerns, always joined in seamless schema. The flatness of the pictorial plane and ideas of three-dimensionality are explored in Rana’s works through both static visuals and, also, time-based works. Likewise the distance between an object and its representation is reduced in his photo sculptures, wherein the image corresponds to actual form.”

“Concepts such as originality, ethnicity and authenticity are explored, exposed, sometimes even exploded, through these works: they rely upon the language of our times, existing like photographs of our imagination and videos of our dreams.”

Apposite I Opposite is on view till the 26th of May 2012 at Chemould Prescott Road and Chatterjee and Lal, Mumbai.

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