N S Harsha is known for paintings, installations and sculptures that are passages to highly detailed microcosms —what he likes to call ‘bird’s eye views’— of life. An enigmatic sculpture by Harsha, Matter (2014) depicts a monkey holding close a roundular object with one of its hands while pointing towards the sky with the other.
This is not the first time that monkeys have appeared in the artist’s work. His 2013 public sculptural installation at Berlin’s Auguststrasse 10, Tamasha, showed a group of langurs that had taken possession of the building. In a scene reminiscent of several cities in India with a ‘monkey menace’, the animals perched on the building or hung from rails, their endlessly long tails forming a net over its façade. Drawing from local German myths about ‘rat kings’ —rats with conjoined tails that are said to be omens of impending plagues— Harsha depicted some members of this monkey mob with their tails joined together, rendering these foreign presences, harbingers of chaos, simultaneously exotic and unsettling. All members of the invading monkey mob had their fingers pointed towards the sky as if in warning.
If Tamasha depicted a collective with all its inherent entanglements, Matter condenses the same imagery to its bare minimum– a lone, sage-like monkey who is perhaps pointing us towards the mysteries of universe. According to Harsha, “This work formed from the depths of speechlessness.”