As his new exhibition, The Infinite Episode, opens in Paris tomorrow, Jitish Kallat shares why two of his seminal works from 2009 are also part of this showcase, the success stories from the Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2014 that he curated and unveiling a 55-feet wide permanent sculpture in Austria next month
Q. The Infinite Episode is your second solo exhibition in Paris, the first being in 2013. What does showcasing in Paris mean to you?
A. Paris is the quintessential historic art city, so there is a special delight in exhibiting here. On September 5, all Parisian galleries simultaneously open exhibitions after the summer break, so the art scene has a renewed energy at this time.
Jitish Kallat in his studio with the graphite drawings, Wind Study (The Hour of the Day of the Month of the Season), in the background
Q. What is your new exhibition about?
A. The Infinite Episode is the coming together of various strands of work. I'm exhibiting a set of new drawings titled Wind Study (The Hour of the Day of the Month of the Season). I begin these works with a graphite drawing, over which I lay an inflammable fluid that I set aflame, one line at a time. The movement of wind at the moment of combustion determines the direction in which the emergent fumes leave their mark on the surface of the paper. I often think of these drawings as a conversation between wind and fire. Formally speaking, the drawings are loosely reminiscent of unknown neural networks, constellations or sacred geometries. The themes of time, sustenance, sleep, along with an interplay of scales and proximities, and evocations of the celestial recur throughout the exhibition. The seven-part lenticular photographic work titled Sightings D9M4Y2015, are close details of the surfaces of fruits, as well as their visual negative image seen within the same frame. Viewed up-close, the fruit's surface and its inverse begin to appear like telescopic snapshots of cosmic supernova explosions witnessed on the surface of a fruit. The sculpture titled, The Infinite Episode, is an assembly of 10 sleeping vertebrates — a cosmic dormitory, wherein their bodily sizes are equalised in their state of sleep.
Q. What was the idea behind creating a mix of drawings, sculptures, photo-pieces as well as a video for this exhibition?
A. I always work on various pieces at the same time, and these are not directed by the medium but by the ideas I'm exploring. My exhibitions often reflect the simultaneity of processes that go on in the studio… For instance, as a part of the exhibition, I'm exhibiting Flowchart, a repository of working drawings, watercolours, tea-washes, gouaches and sculptural elements, placed in a hexagonal vitrine. In the single-channel video, Infinitum (here after here), 30 rotis morph with the waxing and waning images of the moon, connecting notions of the body, sustenance, the astral and the sky.
A projection from the single channel video, Infinitum (here after here), 2014.Pic courtesy/Galerie Daniel Templon, Paris/Jitish Kallat
Q. Why did you incorporate two of your earlier works, Annexation (a sculpture) and Forensic Trail of the Grand Banquet (a video) dating back to 2009, in this exhibition?
A. Galerie Daniel Templon (in Paris, where the exhibition will take place) has two spaces and my exhibitions continue across both venues. Annexation and Forensic Trail of the Grand Banquet will be exhibited in the smaller space as they are closely linked to the recent pieces in The Infinite Episode. In many ways, Sightings D9M4Y2015 is an outcome from Forensic Trail of the Grand Banquet where numerous X-ray scans of food becomes a journey through a cosmic field.
Q. Do you believe that when you are presenting to an international audience, there is more scope for experimentation?
A. One's level of experimentation is linked to shifts in one's vision and the energy in the studio at any given point, and not with the nationality of one's audience.
A close up from the seven-part lenticular photographic work, Sightings D9M4Y2015. Pic courtesy/Galerie Daniel Templon, Paris/Jitish Kallat
Q. What's next for you?
A. Currently, I have another ongoing solo at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the museum in Sydney. On October 11, a 55-feet wide permanent sculpture of mine will be unveiled in Austria. Next month, I'll also be exhibiting at Aurora in Dallas followed by a public lecture at San Francisco Asian Art Museum on October 17. There are several other shows in the months leading to my solo in Mumbai, which will open in January after a gap of five years.
The Infinite Episode will be on view at Galerie Daniel Templon, Paris, from September 5 to October 31.
I'm thrilled that it has received the kind of local reception as well as international attention it did. Various participating artists such as Madhusudhanan at the Venice Biennale and Unnikrishnan at the Sharjah Biennale have had direct opportunities that emerged out of the work they showed at the biennale, which to me was really rewarding.