EFFIGIES OF TURBULENT YESTERDAYS

February 28, 2013

 

Feature by Sathyanand  Mohan

The genre of the landscape can be understood, among other things, as a product of the encounter between the pastoral imagination and the aspirations of an emergent landed gentry, whose relationship to their property is often the ostensible subject matter of the paintings. Apart from whatever aesthetic qualities that these works might have, they allude to a history of dispossession of jointly held resources, - largely through the private enclosure of open fields that had been farmed collectively by the peasantry over centuries, - a history that remains invisible in the paintings themselves.  In a similar way, the equestrian portrait can be seen as a figuration of power. It's relative rarity is perhaps the result of generic conventions that tied it to an essentially commemorative purpose, but coupled with the fact that in the history of portraiture it is the powerful who have until recently had the privilege of being represented, one can see that it functioned almost exclusively in the service of ruling elite in establishing and extending their authority over their subjects. In painting, the equestrian figure is also implicated in conquest, as he traverses a landscape that he metaphorically colonizes or administers and which became (or was) his fiefdom, acquired and maintained more often than not through the exercise of illegitimate power.

These iconographic conventions are here stood on their head (or lack thereof). In 'Effigies of Turbulent Yesterdays' we have a clash of different linguistic registers, with the powerful mimetic realism of the equestrian portrait meeting head on the schematized fountain of blood that springs from it, whose sources one can trace to miniature painting as well as comic book illustration. If the King is the Head of the State, then a decapitated monument is both a ludicrous and pitiful spectacle, - an act of iconoclasm which, like all forms of subversion attempts not to destroy it, but to turn it into an inverted representation of itself, or in this case, into an anti-monument that lays bare the disavowed histories of violence that sustain it, and by extension all such iconographies of power. The King famously has two bodies, a physical one that will eventually be subject to infirmity and death, and a symbolic one which metonymically stands in for the body politic and which continues to extend its dominion, by coercion or consent through the accoutrements of power. This act of symbolic regicide thus exemplifies the truth of every iconoclastic gesture, - the recognition that every contestation of power starts with the destruction of the images through which it's authority continues to be exercised and reproduced,  - and thereby indicates the limits of sovereign power itself.

Born in Kerala, T.V. Santhosh obtained his graduate degree in painting from Santiniketan and Masters degree in Sculpture from M. S. University, Vadodara. Santhosh’s works have been shown widely in Museums and Biennales. Some of the museum shows include: WAR ZONE – Indian Contemporary Art, ARTEMONS CONTEMPORARY,  Das Kunstmuseum, Austria;  Critical Mass: Contemporary Art from India, curated by Tami Katz-Freiman and  Rotem Ruff, Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Israel,2012; 11th Havanna Biennial, 2012; INDIA- LADO A LADO, curated by Tereza de Arruda, SESC  Belenzinho Sao Paulo, Brazil 2012; India, curated by Pieter Tjabbes and Tereza de Arruda, Centro Cultural Banco do  Brasil in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 2011; 4th Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art, Rewriting Worlds, curated by Peter Weibel, 2011; In Transition New Art from India, Surrey Museum of Art, Canada, 2011; Collectors’ Stage: Asian Contemporary Art from Private Collections, Singapore Art Museum, Singapore, 2011; Crossroads: India Escalate, Prague Biennale 5, 2011; Empire Strikes Back, The Saatchi Gallery, London, 2010; The Silk Road, New Chinese, Indian and Middle Eastern Art from The Saatchi Gallery at Tri Postal, Lille, France, 2010; Vancouver Biennale curated by Barry Mowatt, 2010; Dark Materials curated by David Thorp, G S K Contemporary show, at Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2009; India Xianzai, MOCA, Shanghai, China, 2009; Passage to India, Part II: New Indian Art from the Frank Cohen Collection, at Initial Access, Wolverhampton, UK, 2009; Aftershock, Conflict, Violence and Resolution in Contemporary Art,  Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, UEA Norwich, 2007; Continuity and Transformation, Museum show promoted by Provincia di Milano, Italy, 2007. His solo shows include The Land, Nature Morte, Berlin in collaboration with The Guild, Mumbai, 2011; Burning Flags, Aicon Gallery, London in collaboration with The Guild, 2010; Blood and Spit, Jackshainman Gallery in collaboration with The Guild, 2009; Living with a Wound, Grosvenor Vadehra, London in collaboration with The Guild, 2009; A Room to Pray at Avanthay Contemporary, Zurich, in collaboration with The Guild, Mumbai, 2008; Countdown, Nature Morte, Delhi in collaboration with The Guild, Mumbai, 2008 and many more.

This work was exhibited by The Guildat the India Art Fair 2013.