Manjunath Kamath works in diverse mediums – painting, drawing, digital art and terracotta. His art draws from diverse cultural references – the sculptures, frescos and carvings in temples, churches and basadis (Jain temples) around where he grew up in south Karnataka; the richly-clad figures in Yakshagana plays; stories and myths from the Indian epics; the paintings of Raja Ravi Varma, and further afield, Michelangelo and Rembrandt; Persian and Indian miniatures; the arabesque patterns from Middle Eastern architecture; motifs from Victorian upholstery and Chinese ceramics. Kamath has made a careful study of traditional (classical/religious) iconography, and his works reflect his understanding of the way elements of a culture, such as styles and conventions of depicting figures in painting or sculpture, or patterns and motifs, travel across time and geography, altering even as they retain the impress of their origins. Kamath is fascinated by time and its impact, especially the erasures and distortions it causes on material culture, and he reproduces it on his canvases through a painstakingly layered process.
Kamath uses a fragmented imagery to stage these seamless encounters, the surface fractured into segments from paintings or sculptures – a hand here, a foot there, the curve of a cheek or a portion of a bird – melded with geometric patterns, gilded textile prints, or the decorations on a cupola. It’s like a mosaic or a jigsaw puzzle, with missing pieces, and the artist seems invites viewers to find meaning, a story. There’s a playfulness here and a quirkiness that are the signature of Kamath’s practice. But underlying it is a larger, more serious point – a consciousness of the common roots and the interconnectedness of cultures – a message very relevant in today’s political climate.
Born in 1972 in Mangalore (Karnataka, south India), studied art at the Chamarajendra Academy of Visual Arts, Mysore and later the School of Art & Design at the University of Wales Institute, Cardiff, United Kingdom. He is represented by Gallery Espace and has had numerous shows in museums, galleries and fairs in India and internationally. Among these were a solo ‘As Far As I Know’ at the Scad Museum of Art, Savannah, Georgia in 2015, and a solo titled ‘Archival Erasures’ at Abu Dhabi Art 2019. Kamath’s works are present in several private and public collections, among them the Detroit Museum of Art and The Art Institute of Chicago in the US, Museum of Sacred Art in Belgium, and the Kiran Nadar Museum of Modern Art and National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi.
Kamath lives and works in New Delhi.