First published in “Room Without a Window, India Art Fair, 2012, Prajakta Potnis, Solo Project Booth : S - 4”, The Guild Art Gallery, catalogue. Copyright: Zasha Colah and The Guild.

Fixtures of a bare room, the lights, wires, wall sockets, cracks, water stains, floor tiles, window frames, fans, or more often, only their empty hooks in the center of ceilings - typically what one stops noticing once furniture enters a room, are the elements the artist chooses to paint in minute architectural detail, as containers of volume, as a means of describing a single life. In her present exhibition, Prajakta Potnis returns to themes of her early works, made while at the Sir JJ School of Art where she was a student from 1995 to 2002. In those works, which she describes as grey, or colourless, she began to think that colour was a distraction; as was the figurative - turning instead to painting the still-life. She has said about this turn, “the inclusion of a figure immediately starts narrating, the object says things in a more mysterious way.”

The curtain is the one feature of a room that the artist has most made her own over successive configurations of association. In her works, the curtain may be placed floating at the height of the window, only to turn, during the action of painting, or rendering, into something else - an asbestos roof, where the folds take the solid curves of corrugated sheets. Adding frills along the edging of a room’s otherwise static walls, the walls themselves come to appear soft, turn fabric-like, like curtains.

Many of the artist’s installations have arisen from actualising earlier paintings and drawings, and thereby stumbling into another range of association. In actual rooms, she has added curtain frills to the skirting of long lengths of wall, optically melting their solid surfaces into folds. Or the frills placed along walls with ornamental molding on white walls come to resemble the outline of cake icing. Equally a single curtain engulfs a wall in certain works, to look like the elaborate curtains of the theater.

The image of the curtain is heavy with personal reference. Two influences come together most potently in these present works: the theatre productions she remembers watching while growing up, Marathi nataks, with rich ornamental theatre curtains and realistic sets; and an early and emphatic passion for the work of historical surrealism, as in the work of Rene Magritte, which has remnants still in the calm surfaces of the artist’s work, so quietly able to capture fluid horrors. The theatre of the surrealists, was in marked difference to the sets of the Marathi theatre productions which she so frequently watched. The curtain, with its inherent sense of mystery, opens out into boxes of space that are not always equally so.

Over the years, and returning to paint these grey interiors, small changes in the view from the window, are subtly discussed by the artist, as the city changes, anxious about how the stresses from the outside enter and comes to press upon the individual. Densely associative psychological elements are contained in small minute objects - the cardboard fragility of stability. The installation knitting sleep about unraveled time, and the labour of weaving, has associations of disturbed dreaming, of memories of bedwetting - something of the body’s reaction that is beyond control, fibrous growths, of things that weave and grow within one, dense cocoons, that become traps. The room’s balanced stability in which nothing seems to happen, are the sites of drama and action of a psychological density. The breakdown of an individual, a psychological ripping at the seams, with its quiet everyday horror - a sound of tearing the artist can hear, and tries to extinguish with her paintings.

First published in “Room Without a Window, India Art Fair, 2012, Prajakta Potnis, Solo Project Booth : S - 4”, The Guild Art Gallery, catalogue. Copyright: Zasha Colah and The Guild.

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