A political canvas
Artist Praneet Soi translates his interest in the world and politics into thought-provoking art exhibitions
An important turning point in my life came when I joined the Faculty of Fine Arts, MSU, Baroda, in 1990 for a Bachelor’s degree in painting. It was an important moment for me as it was to shape my career in the coming years. But even more influential was the effect of the Masters programme that I did between 1994 and 1996. It was during this time that I became more focused as the faculty was phenomenal. My teachers, people like Vasudevan Akkitham, Nataraj Sharma and B.V. Suresh, influenced me hugely. They pushed all the students to have a vision and create a perspective. And this push gave me the strength to move towards finding something which was more personal in art. This is something that I have followed in my work to this day.
Getting a scholarship to study at the University of California in San Diego, where I did my second Masters in Visual Arts, too, was a milestone in my life. I met the French documentary filmmaker Jean-Pierre Gorin who was teaching filmmaking at the university. He pointed out to me that the act of making collage-like paintings could be utilised to portray a fragmenting world.
I was a student in San Diego between 1999 and 2001 and that’s when the attack on the Twin Towers happened. The incident had repercussions the world over and as an artist, especially one who was interested in the world and politics, the attack and the imagery that it evoked influenced me greatly. Witnessing the world moving slowly away from reason made me realise the importance of diversity and multiplicity.
I have tried to articulate this vision through my newest exhibition, For and Against Narrative. In this sense, this show is another important turning point for me. The paintings in this exhibition do not follow the conventional sense of a series. The show, when viewed as a whole, is filled with many contradictory displays.
There are seemingly idyllic landscapes from the Netherlands made by using the age-old silver point technique (used by Leonardo da Vinci once) as well as more explicitly political works, such as a hand-drawing in charcoal of Ashraf Ghani, the president of Afghanistan. Such disparity in subject matter, medium and style is done intentionally. I want the viewer to find the commonalities, if indeed they exist. The disparity is to make the viewer ask why I have done what I have done.
As told to Saimi Sattar