For artist Praneet Soi patterns and images, not unlike birds, have a tendency to migrate, and it is this realisation over his decades-long artistic career that he has explored in his new exhibition.
The show titled, “Migrations” underway at the Vadehra Art Gallery here in a way seems to converge the artist's lived experiences in different parts of the world and his most memorable impressions of these places into this one exhibition space.
His impressions of the time spent with the craftsmen in Srinagar share the same frame as the olive tree that he spotted in Palestine during a road trip in 2019, and the image of the tomb of the Sufi Saint Bulbul Shah in Srinagar is juxtaposed over a painting of the plants in his backyard in the Netherlands.
Attuned to migration, Soi oscillated between the Netherlands and Kolkata. His family, originally from Lahore, moved to Bengal during the partition of the country in 1947. Over the course of the last decade the artist has been working with craftsmen of Srinagar, and he was a student in the United States when the events of 9/11 unfolded.
“For me migration works in the sense of how as an artist or as a painter images and patterns migrate…like the patterns you see in this part of the world, you might end up seeing in the Middle East as well. And that’s because people travelled over trade routes, today images travel over the internet. So, this kind of movement of images is interesting to me,” he says.
While working with motifs gleaned from Srinagar’s rich Sufi culture, the theme of a bird appeared. This motif reappears throughout the exhibition.
The bird motif is at the centre of a large canvas titled, “The Bull-Bull and the Olive Tree” that shows branches of an ancient olive tree said to have been planted by Romans in Sebastia (Palestine). The tree frames the bird motif, that of a bulbul within which a view of the city of Srinagar is inserted.
The work is part of an entire body of work on display that consists of paintings on canvas, created in the artist’s studio in Amsterdam and while in residency at the Luceberthuis in Bergen-Binnen in North Holland.
It also includes ceramic tiles that were painted and drawn upon by Soi at a ceramic atelier in the region of Le Maupas in Sussey (France). He used his time in rural Burgundy (France) to work en plein-air, allowing his hand primacy in the images that were etched out in ceramic pencils, wash like under-glazes and deep over-glazes upon the tiles.
“As a painter the thought process that you have, and the images that you work with also migrate. Like an image that you do in one way in one place on a canvas, may make you travel to another medium, like over here to the ceramic works. And then that process of painting that image in a different way with a different medium creates changes and those changes are made to change the image. So as a painter those translations are interesting,” Soi said.
Also, part of the show are two photographic images from Soi’s archive, including the olive tree branches, used as reference within this body of work.
The show will continue till December 31.