Shakekthu Shalpaka: A Solo by Manjunath Kamath
January 29, 2024 – February 16, 2024
Artworks in Exhibition
Gallery Espace is pleased to announce ‘Shakekthu Salpaka,’ a solo exhibition of recent sculptures and paintings by Manjunath Kamath. The exhibition will be held at the Centre for Contemporary Art, Bikaner House in late January, coinciding with the 2024 edition of India Art Fair.
The exhibition will comprise a body of towering terracotta sculptures and large paintings conceived by the artist in response to the exhibition venue’s distinctive neo-classical architecture, characterized by high ceilings and arched doorways. Complex, layered, and many faceted, they signal the bold ambitiousness of an artist at the height of his powers.
Shakekthu Salpaka is a nonce word coined by Kamath as a parody of the names of kings and heroes found in Indian mythology or history. The title hints at and sets the tone conceptually for the artist’s sly, tongue-in-cheek take on history, and how it is a jumble of facts that are known and verifiable, with conjecture, misinformation and sometimes, pure lies.
The patchwork “skin” of Kamath’s sculptures and paintings enact this idea – a radical statement in the present times – bringing together fragments of sculptures, paintings, architecture, furniture, murals, upholstery, ceramics from different geographies and time periods. These are scattered across the surface of the paintings – a hand here, a foot there, the curve of a cheek or a portion of a bird – like a mosaic or jigsaw puzzle, with missing pieces that the artist seems to invite viewers to make sense of, find meaning and a story. Kamath’s terracotta sculptures on display at Bikaner House have the same fragmentary quality; they appear broken with missing parts, or as a composite of bits and pieces drawn from different periods and regions – one foot in wooden clogs and the other wearing sandals. There’s 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.
The works also reflect another of Kamath’s fascinations – time and its effect on material culture, connected also to his interest in history and archaeology. The erasures and distortions that nature causes over time – the effacement of murals and paintings by moisture or mildew, the disfiguration of sculptures by white ants, and so on – are for Kamath an integral part of the aesthetic effect of an old object and he recreates it in his artworks through a painstakingly layered process that involves applying colour and scraping or rubbing it off, sometimes as many as 50 times.
Text comes into Kamath’s work in a big way semiotic turn