By Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum
Curated by Tasneem Zakaria Mehta [May 14 - July 25, 2017]
Tile as Archive (detail) (2016) by Praneet SoiDr. Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum
'Notes on Labour' presents Praneet Soi's work, created over periods of extensive engagement with artisans in Kolkata, Srinagar in India, and Guangzhou in China.
The exhibition was curated by Tasneem Zakaria Mehta.
These collaborations have resulted in unique works that profoundly change the equations between the artist and the artisan, between what is recognised as fine art or seen as mere skill or craftsmanship. It addresses questions that are at the heart of the Museum’s invitation to artists to interrogate its history, which effaced records of the many artisans who produced the extraordinary works in the Museum.
Soi has been deeply engaged in exploring the process of creation that goes beyond the conceptual to encompass the corporeal, sharing a great interest in unfolding issues surrounding the politics of labour.
Notes on Labour (2017) by Praneet SoiDr. Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum
Notes on Labour
The Industrial Arts Gallery on the ground floor of the Museum presented a newly commissioned mural. A specially designed curvilinear wall echoed the curvature of the tympanum, a defining feature of the Museum.
The mural presented the painted concave surface to viewers as they entered the Museum, becoming a canvas, which pays homage to the craftsman.
The convex surface behind becomes the studio wall which showcases the collaborative method used by the artist with working-notes and sketches taped informally to its surface.
Made on site, the painted motifs reflect his engagement with illustrations by Lockwood Kipling.
Kumartuli Printer (2011) by Praneet SoiDr. Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum
The gallery featured three artworks - a slide projection (Kumartuli Printer), an animation clip (Kumartuli Ball-Maker), and a diptych (Kumartuli Diptych), dedicated to Kumartuli, a workshop in north Kolkata where Soi began his ongoing series on Labour.
Soi dedicated this installation to Kumartuli where craftsmen specialised in making religious clay effigies had abandoned their skills in search of employment.
Resulting from Soi's observations, this work presented a short animated clip of a labourer at work in Kumartuli.
Intricately painted diptych pictured a miniature of the machinery used within these workshops.
Tile as Archive (2016) by Praneet SoiDr. Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum
Tile as Archive
This installation was dedicated to Soi’s continuing engagement with the atelier of the craftsman Fayaz Jan in Srinagar.
A hundred handmade and painted papier-mâché tiles were arranged in a square measuring 300 x 300 cm. Keeping in mind that knowledge of patterns and designs the craftsmen use are passed on orally, Soi conceptualised this work as an archive of the patterns, borders and floral tropes used within their compositions.
An illustration from Da Vinci’s Codex Atlanticus was drawn on the wall by Soi in response to his interaction with Kashmiri craftsmen. The diagram explained the optical phenomena of anamorphosis.
Guangzhou (2015) by Praneet SoiDr. Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum
This installation was dedicated to works Soi created with a porcelain craftsman in Guangzhou, Old Canton in China.
The hand-painted tiles created within the Hui Porcelain Studio in Haizhu district uses historic Qing dynasty patterns along with images that Soi brought with him from Kashmir.
Working with the Chinese craftsmen over a period of a month and a half, Soi accumulated a wealth of material in the form of sketches, research notes, ancient Chinese texts on aesthetics, media clippings and video collages.
Astatic Machine (2011) by Praneet SoiDr. Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum
The Origins of Mumbai Gallery was transformed into an interactive environment housing Soi’s Astatic Machines.
Designed to communicate the artist’s studio methodology to a larger audience, these are drawing machines inspired by Paul Klee’s Pedagogical Sketchbook. Kipling’s sketches from Journal of Indian Art and Industry, which are housed in the Museum, were interspersed with imagery.
Viewers were encouraged to place the acetates upon the projectors and trace them out with chalk, layering the images to make their own compositions, modifying and remaking the colonial aesthetic legacy.
Praneet Soi (b. 1971) lives in Amsterdam and Kolkata. Soi’s works reside in important collections in Europe and India. These include the permanent collections of the Van Abbe Museum, Eindhoven; Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, New Delhi; The Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin and the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam. In 2011, Soi was one of four artists representing India at the Indian Pavilion in Venice.
All artworks courtesy: Praneet Soi from the exhibition, ‘Notes on Labour' at the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum, Mumbai ( 13 May 2017 – 25 July 2017 )