Aji V N transforms everyday earthly imagery into phantasmagorical visions. Made in charcoal and water colour, his brooding landscapes could be from the Earth’s primordial past. Until one observes signs of small habitations tucked away in them, these panoramic vistas can also evoke visions of an apocalyptic future or scenes from distant planetary surfaces we are yet to encounter.
Born in Kerala, Aji has lived and worked in Rotterdam for the last 10 years. Topographical features from his coastal home state are a recognisable presence in his paintings, including the untitled suite of works exhibited at the Biennale. But these meld seamlessly into hybrid, mysterious vistas which lie suspended between the different worlds that the artist inhabits, including the teeming forest that is his imagination.
With their delicate play of light and shadow, these works can sometimes seem as if they are fleeting visions, like mist hanging in the air. But a closer look reveals them to be more like rain clouds: Dark and intensely concentrated, pregnant with hidden meanings. In one of his charcoal paintings, Untitled – II (2014) on view at the Biennale, a crater appears amidst a palm-fringed landscape nestled over calm seas. It is a discovery that suddenly charges the scene with dark foreboding, transforming the clouds above into spectres of a nuclear explosion.