"Exposing the Source" The Paintings of Nalini Malani

Nalini Malani, one of India's leading contemporary artists, gets to showcase her works in a solo show at The Peabody Essex Museum. Her works are being presented under the title 'Exposing the Source: The Paintings of Nalini Malani'.

The exhibition features paintings and watercolors that include powerful imagery of women's inner lives, of India's vital urban culture. These are approximately 40 works in oil, acrylic, watercolor, and mixed media, as well as video installations by Nalini Malani, known for her politically charged work.

The paintings in this show are drawn largely from the Peabody Essex Museum's Chester and Davida Herwitz Collection, considered one of the most important collections of contemporary Indian art outside of Asia. Malani's powerful, dream-like imagery straddles issues of individual, social, and political identity. The lives of women, the predicaments of gender, and the struggle for voice and power are prominent features of these works. Ancient Greek and Hindu epics, and modern European drama, give additional subtext to her complex, layered surfaces.

'Nalini Malani probes beneath surface appearances to locate essential truths of the human condition. She draws from within herself to expose the depths of human emotion - love, hate, fear, lust, pleasure, aggression, pain,' mentions Susan Bean, curator of South Asian and Korean Art, in the introduction to the exhibition. The artist's video and film works are an expansion of her practices in drawing and painting and in her multimedia installations she often utilizes her own drawings as projected animations.

Using texts that have been generated through the memories of people who are often ignored or marginalized in the cataloguing of history, the artist uses her art to draw attention to 'other' stories, with a focus on the universal and human aspects of conflict. 'I believe, despite all her interest in state-of-the-art media, she is primarily a painter, and we will have representative selection of her paintings for the serious, thoughtful viewer,' the curator mentions in an introductory note. The artist is also busy seeking new forms of expression, using cylinders, mirrors, motors, lights to create new artistic statements.

'Exposing the Source' is organized along several themes, including 'Woman's Room', a potent body of work that interprets women's experiences and roles as an allegory for our time; 'Undercurrents', paintings that look at the underlying realities of urban life and the consequences of man-made ecological disasters; and 'Stories Retold', in which Malani reinterprets classic epic narratives and modern drama to reveal universal, yet elusive, aspects of the human experience. As in much of Malani's work, she presents these stories from the viewpoint of powerful women, for example, Radha and Sita, major figures in Indian mythological tales.

Born in Karachi, Pakistan in 1946 and currently residing in Mumbai, her work has since been shown at important exhibitions around the world, including the 2005 Venice Biennale; the 2005 show Edge of Desire: Recent Art in India at the Asia Society and the Queens Museum in New York; the 2003 Istanbul Biennale; and a solo show at The New Museum in New York in 2002. In 2007, Malani will have an international traveling solo show starting at the Museum of Modern Art in Dublin.

Malani, born in Karachi just a year before independence, depicts the trauma of the partition in some of her works. For example, in one of her paintings, 'On Secularism', a nude figure carries a bare-chested man with a wrap around his waist, away from what appears to be a Hindu-Muslim clash, with grim figures around.

Malani is also known internationally for her media- and performance-based installations. Two of her videos are included in this exhibition: Stains (animation, video'DVD, with audio, 2002), in which the artist's partially transparent, unsettled shapes take on new meaning through the immediacy of film; and Unity in Diversity (video'DVD, with audio, 2003). 'Hamletmachine,' a reworking of a play by a German playwright, with which she made her solo museum debut in the U.S., is a 20-minute video installation.

'Exposing the Source: The Paintings of Nalini Malani' show opens later this month at the Peabody Essex Museum in New York and will remain on view as an ongoing exhibition from the museum's permanent collection.

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