Indian Art – Pravat’s Blueprint for a Changing World

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Untitled - M.Pravat

Untitled – M.Pravat

From Today I have No Future

‘From Today I have No Future’ – A solo show by M. Pravat at Aicon Gallery in Manhattan is almost a blueprint for loss, life and living – it is about streetscapes and mindscapes, of memories and the past but also about re-imagination, and new layerings added to the scaffolding of what we remember.

Did it all happen or is that just how we remember it?

It is also about absences and presences.

Pravat, who lives in New Delhi was expected in New York for the opening of the show but could not make it there at the last minute; but such is our inter-connected global world now, he was able to get on Whatsapp with the curator Andrew Shea in Manhattan, and together they were able to ghostwalk the galleries and lay the show in Aicon from  across two continents. Even by being absent, Pravat was definitely a shadowy presence at the opening. I too was able to interview him via a video-call in our tech-savvy world.

 

Untitled - M.Pravat

Untitled – M.Pravat

 

Time and Memory, A changing Landscape

Projjal Dutta, a partner at Aicon, is himself an architect, and was excited to be showing Pravat’s work for the first time in New York:  “The exhibition has been over a year in the making and we wanted to make sure the works presented would resonate with New Yorkers, who are dealing with the same kind of gentrification and almost unbelievably paced urban reconstruction going on in places like Delhi and Mumbai,” he noted. “Pravat’s work is asking what effect the careening pace of this physical process might be having on us internally, in terms of memory and shared cultural heritage. I think it’s an issue anyone living in an urban area today can identify with and may want to think more deeply about.”

Although Pravat has used his imagination on renderings taken from the Internet, such is the universality of his multimedia works that many New Yorkers can recognize their own internal musings in it. As Shea notes: “Reaction to the show has been very positive, especially when we engage with gallery visitors and talk about the changing face of New York and how the same thing is happening around the world. People seem to understand the concept of how memory can disintegrate in the face of the surrounding landscape becoming nearly unrecognizable from year to year at this point.”

M. pravat - untitled (F)

M. pravat – untitled (F)

Yet, as Pravat confessed to me, he is no architect – he is only mimicking an architect. “It may look like an architectural drawing but I only have visual understanding – from practical elements to impractical elements – there is no mathematics involved.”  In Zurich in fact, he did a residency with an architectural firm, using his notebook doodling and scribbling as his construction materials. At this new exhibition there are 23 small pieces created from the basics of random online photographs and as he explains, “I torture them basically – scribbling, scratching and putting acid on them. There is no plasticity between my mind and my heart – they are just trying to collaborate together– chemicals and melting happen – I formally maintain these drawings and then I spoil them.”

Why does he do that? Pravat, who is so fluent with his hands, struggles to explain it in words: “It is my inside desire, something I’m trying to explore through this – I cannot talk, I cannot write, I cannot establish myself – all this stuff, it always disturbs me. I don’t make house, I don’t make anything, I don’t know anything – all this disturbs me. So I make this structure very consciously – and then suddenly I seem to erase it all, destroy it. It’s a complete abstract understanding.”

M. Pravat - untitled (A)

M. Pravat – untitled (A)

While Viewers often seem to decipher the past and memories in his work, Pravat puts a different spin on it: “It is not something I remember – it’s very much imaginary.  It is how can I fill the void, how can I establish this architectural element through my view-finder?  It is not historical – it’s in the present.  I’m a visualiser and I am watching my movie – I don’t know the mechanism behind it.”

Would his seemingly very in-depth blueprints make any sense to an architect? He says, “Many architects love my work but there’s no mathematics in it. I’m just imagining this building, like water – the softness is from my side, I can give it form – it’s so elastic that you can make it into anything. That’s the contradiction between an architect and a non-architect. My desire is to make something and at the same time to destroy it too.  So it is construction – and deconstruction.”

Pravat, who graduated from M.S. University in Baroda, has had several group and solo shows in India and abroad. Currently he is working on some elaborate projects, including on slate, the latest series which will be shown at Nature Morte.  He often uses Camel blue fountain pen ink – something which is fast disappearing in our digital world. He says, “I spoil one white paper and use a lot of ink and I get very inspired and happy. As an artist, I cannot change anything but I can change myself. I’m trying to say something and you may understand it or not.”

(This article first appeared in the Sunday magazine of the Hindu newspaper)

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Lavina Melwani is a New York-based journalist who writes for several international publications. [email protected] & @lassiwithlavina Sign up for the free newsletter to get your dose of Lassi!

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