on Indian contemporary art by Swapna Vora
by Swapna Vora
September 07, 2007
on the small image for full screen image with captions.)
Prema Murthy knows the
intersection between what is handmade and what is hi tech or digital is
not always precise. 'Fuzzy logic', she calls one of her creations. She refers
to states of mind and brings memories of movements and altered geological,
primitive forms and crystals. From space and energy, material is derived
and this story goes back even further into our heads, to the lines of our
thoughts which possibly create everything. She wanted to focus on line,
a singing, soaring line and step away from color. She said more constraints,
rather than total liberty, can often make the exploration of art deeper.
Her pictures on the wall show modern, if conventional, placing of pictures,
like a controlled scatter of framed prints on an uneven, brick wall. It
is not dramatic and an artist at the PS 1 museum said, somewhat fancifully,
it brings memories of a constellation.
Fig. 1 |
wool sculpture is really two-dimensional drawings translated into a three-dimensional
space installation. This simple and yet intricate structure of black wool
yarn brings thoughts of crystals and geodes extended outside the given space.
This installation, Fuzzy Logic, explores lines in space. She wanted to explore
the concept of minimal, rather than abundant or even adequate and for her
that meant lines, black, no color, no sound. Her installation is made of
simple black wool, a few staples and knots and is very space specific: especially
managed just for this room. It is ephemeral and will be taken down after
the show is over. The stretched wool lines of her structure extend a little
outside the door and a little boy trips on it…. It looks like crystal
and resembles the slender man-made towers created through the centuries.
Delicate it is like a spider's web, this sketch of the worldwide web of
our collective thoughts. Skinny skeins of black wool stretch into space,
a cat's cradle. Black wool is knotted simply at intervals forming a playful,
simple structure which reminds one of outerspace, the interior of a crystal
with many squares, triangles perhaps representing the wires which connect
our lives to ourselves, to others, to space itself. They pierce the wall
and spill outside the delineated room.
scattered on the white walls, are called 'Unfolding, Dark Matter series,
Emotional precision, Breaking the grid, Collide and quiver'. These prints
are perhaps related to the mysterious processes of our bodies, our veins,
our nerves and the prints are black on white, white on black. Is this
a depiction of our nerves or our aura? Is that hair? The square and the
circle are there. Pictures of black and white near the museum's distressed
floor, tattered ceiling and redone walls offer a lyrical language. There
are free floating thoughts of lines, the worldwide web, fishnet stockings,
fish, our depleted oceans. The children scamper around her installation
and one remembers the nursery rhyme, Will you walk into my parlor?
Then, her prints
too look like delicate hand drawn lines but are actually computer generated,
using several software programs and could extend into infinity. A growing
pattern of galactic lines, and delicate, digital drawings reflect on the
nearby wool crystal installation. These tiny circles are doorways into
a world of lines beyond, they are perhaps the portals of outer space,
the entry into tiny worlds, or perhaps just glimpses into microscopes.
One sees other worlds made of lines, there are hints of space fiction,
new galaxies and our ultimate mystery: the delicate tracery of human thought.
media is a collective sound, movement and graphics. Prema wanted to pare
down and go into a minimal space as asked whatever had to be said, could
it be said with less? She finally focused simply on the least: just form
and line and thought about networks and electronic nets. She is interested
in identity, the nature of what makes me 'me' and not someone else, how
something is itself. These pictures are an exterior show of our inner
identity, showing the networks of our lives, perhaps also the spider's
web of creation that the earth's aborigines sometimes discuss. And so
she says, we are networked, our thoughts are outside of ourselves, our
What does she dream of? Constant change, she replies. This computer child
has pull-down menus, websites and electronics in her dreams. She says
she started with design work and advertising to make money and then did
her own explorations. Today, given space by delighted art directors and
curators in many museums and galleries, she makes these prints and installations:
sometimes ephemeral, often with simple material.
Prema has offered some comments
in her internet exhibits on pornography: no vociferous denunciation but
rather a subtle observation of slavery. This mostly male desired phenomena,
is often a shady, shifty work of abuse, where torture parades as erotica.
True erotica, delicious, naughty, playful, secret is alas all too rare.
Meanwhile slavery is passed off as erotic and Prema speaks on pornography,
a word which means the depiction of slaves, the bonded laborer, the unfree.
(Porno: slave, graph: depiction). Everyone loves erotica but pornography
is a mean depiction of someone's power over someone else, a victim is
always involved. A victim who is usually weak, without clothes or protection
and is abused and beaten for the 'entertainment' it gives someone else.
Pornography then is a comment on unkindness and distress and since this
is always intermingled by its directors with images of beautiful, often
unbelievably beautiful, people, the mind can get confused. Prema refers
to this in her website. She refers too to everyone's fascination with
bindi, that colorful dot that Hindu women and others, sometimes even men,
sport on their foreheads.
She informs me that she is
American by birth, has spent a year in her parents' Indian homeland and
has learned the art of kalaripattu , the ancient south Indian art of self-defense
specifically designed for women. She is a pretty, gleaming woman and reflects
her years devoted to physical exercise and yoga alongside her ventures
PS 1, a branch of New York's
MOMA offered Prema space for an installation made specifically for its
rooms and the curators were pleased with her technological approach while
using low tech material. Prema uses black and white, a lack of color.
For her, black is not simple and we spoke of the seven essential shades
of black, often seen very clearly in Chinese paintings. Her work intertwines
science fiction, cosmology and infinity and evokes something simple, like
a cat playing with wool, with everyday black yarn.
The broken ceiling, the uneven floors, the stark bricks of PS 1 make one
smile. The curator explained that an earlier artist had dug up the floor
before they could explain to him that, if they had known, they would have
given him a different sort of floor. Anyway, she added, everyone seems
to like this uneven simple floor, the slightly rough ceiling and some
visitors even like the 'schoolish' appearance of this erstwhile school.
Murthy was born in 1969.
She studied at Austin, Texas and then did her MFA at Goldsmiths
She has exhibited in the US and at the Reina Sofia Museum, Madrid,
The Generali Foundation, Vienna, The National Gallery, Capetown,
The India Habitat Centre, New Delhi, the Queens Museum, The New
Museum of Contemporary Art, New York. She is a co founder of Fakeshop,
included in the 2000 Whitney Biennial. Her work on pornography may
be seen on the internet. This current show of prints and a wool
installation was at PS 1, Queens, New York, which specializes in
contemporary international art. It was sponsored by Marguerite and
on Indian contemporary art by Swapna Vora