A silent ruin recalls an untitled Mohamedi, but the whimsical elements are Sood’s own: a water glass under a tangerine sun, a bare tree in the sky, a small cloaked figure at the edge of a cliff.
Talwar Gallery, New Delhi is excited to present In thin air, a solo exhibition of work by Kartik Sood, the artist’s debut at Talwar. Created over the course of the past four years, the works In thin air address a reality that has become particularly acute in recent months: the harrowing, if sometimes wonderous unpredictability of the human condition. The individual is at the center of Sood’s work, appearing across the paintings, collages, video installations, and assemblages in the exhibition: at times a traveler-figure, venturing out into the unknown, at other times stilled in a state of waiting or contemplation. In all cases, however, the individual strives to make sense of his relationship with his surroundings, which often dwarf or envelop him––dramatizing the dilemma of living within a complex, sometimes paralyzing social and political structure. In a series of mixed media works, for example, Sood stages a series of encounters among a cast of fragmented, half-visible figures, who meet in the barest of landscapes––foregrounding the web of thin but vital threads that connect but also ensnare them.
"My painting witnesses the mystery of life passing by; man, wanting to depart, is standing in a dreamlike landscape. Life is not bothered and flows like a river of dreams."
The moving image works completed over several months of Sood’s quarantine, capture the strange mixture of doom and banality that attended much of the past year. A cast of ghostly figures dancing, floating, still - are choreographed appearing and disappearing alongside the otherworldly tones of the soundscape composed by the artist. Like the work that gives the exhibition its name––Life is fluid explores the mutability of the individual body, as it passes between life and other states––Sood’s work lays starkly bare the conditions uniting humanity, but also insists that these include not only fragility but also powers of love, communion, and the creation of beauty.
Sood’s work takes the complexity of lived experience as its primary site of interrogation, probing beneath the surface of the everyday to reveal the unseen, or half-seen, forces that pulse within and through any given moment. Spectral presences gain visible form in Sood’s multi- and trans-media practice; his painted landscapes often take on surreal tone of legends or myths, and the incorporation of performance allows the body’s primal relationship to rhythm to enter the work. In each case, Sood foregrounds elements that are at work, at times in conflict, within any human life, even if subconsciously––instinct as well as reason; belief as well as perception; intuition, empathy, and even what might be called magic. Informed by his upbringing in the hills of Shimla, in Himachal Pradesh, where the artist describes silence, stillness, and a capacity for wonder as interwoven into daily life, Sood’s work often seems to create atmosphere more than discrete thought––the mood created by a shadowy silhouette in a doorway, the tang of homesickness brought by a bite of familiar food, the pall of moonglow on a half-remembered face.
"Sood foregrounds elements that are at work, at times in conflict, within any human life, even if subconsciously––instinct as well as reason; belief as well as perception; intuition, empathy, and even what might be called magic."
Although a distinctive painterly sensibility runs through each Sood’s works––quiet, unhurried, absorbing––his oeuvre refuses categorization, often disregarding the limitations of genre or medium. Using, and often mixing, the materials and processes that will best allow him to create the shade of feeling he is after, Sood demonstrates both the technical training he gained while studying at the renowned Faculty of Fine Arts at Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, as well as an insatiable curiosity that keeps him from being satisfied by the mastery of any single method. In a similar way, his work resists the demands of linearity or narrative rationality; often weaving the stories and perspectives of others into his art, aiming to amplify, rather than narrow, the voices at play in his works. His practice offers us an opening into a conversation already begun, a mystery not yet solved, rather than a finalized work for inspection––inviting us to engage in an ongoing dialogue and interrogation, both of ourselves and our world.
"Using, and often mixing, the materials and processes, Sood's oeuvre refuses categorization, often disregarding the limitations of genre or medium."
Kartik Sood was born in 1986 in Shimla, India and received a Bachelor’s in Fine Arts in Painting from the College of Art, New Delhi (2008). After completing post-graduate work in Painting at the Faculty of Fine Arts, M.S.U, Baroda (2010) where he was awarded the Nasreen Mohamedi Scholarship, Kartik continued to further his learning and practice at artist residencies. He was selected for the Gasworks International Studios Residency (2014), London and awarded the Pro Helvetica Residency (2014) and IAAB Studios (2014) in Basel, Switzerland. In 2017 he was selected for project at NTU Center for Contemporary Art in Singapore where he focused on the issue of cultural coexistence in the nation through engagement with local theatre actors, adding performing art to his expanding practice. Kartik’s works have also been presented at the 1st Yinchuan Biennale, and in collaboration with Kadist Art Foundation and Khoj in 2016. His moving image work “Untitled” received the award for the best film “Cutting Edge Category”, at the 2012 Scotland University Film Festival.
He currently lives and works between New Delhi and Shimla, India.