BODIES IN SPACE
Puneet is a storyteller who tells his stories through visual imagery. In ' Bodies in Space ' he takes two vertical grids embellishing them with images and sculptures of a split head. Its about individual space and behaviour. It is all compartmentalized like in a closet. "
In the body of work titled " Pink " the narration leads to other levels of complexity and meaning. The Colour Pink, Behavioural Pink, Nazi Pink, Gay Pink?
This work is about emotional space, mental space and social space. The Metrosexual man is supposed to be the 'barrier man' The accent is on moving to an international space from the indian space The images of Shiva and Hanuman are symbolic of mythological Gods. '' As a child I was fascinated by the story of the Monkey God his playfulness, his loyalty, his kindness, his helpfulness."
In '' Énsnare" a delicate and dramatic installation made of a thin wire like mesh cascades from the ceiling bathed in light casting intriguing shadows against the wall.Five of them are like a metaphor for the five wailing sisters superimpose on one another. The form is very sensual with so much texturing, and so delicate looking that it appears fragile and can break in a minute. ' In our lives too what takes so long to make or do can break or disintergrate in a minute. Regarding the shadows, we carry our shadow with us.Your things move with you. Your shadow becomes your otherself... your alter ego. It is always there'
" Tying up in Knots" an installation though made of ropes has been developed into a 12ft independent structure for visual representation free of mediumistic considerations. skeleton hangs inside it creating a spatial enclave of its own. For sheer drama this is magnificent and like a cat leaping into the darkness, the image leaps back into a self transforming animation. The frayed edges of the ropes sweeping the floor are symbolic of roots. " Its like rooting yourself. You are rooted in something. We place ourselves as flowing, being fluid but actually we are rooted. Rooted in tradition, rooted culturally, rooted with familial ties." With the skeleton suspended, we realize that the mirror image is the perception of the alter ego. You try to understand your body. You are associated with whats around you. When you die, your soul moves on.
Bernadette da Cunha
EXHIBITION BY PUNEET KAUSHIK
Your shadow becomes your other self, your alter ego it is always there.
Puneet Kaushik exhibits his work after a lapse of four years – a considerable length of time in which he has continued to work with his journey with the psychic self. In these images he exposes the body in situations that are daring and at the edge – projecting the self in its fractured, multiple identities – with images that are inside and outside the self/the box. This is how the title to the show becomes so apt to his ideas and expression.
While the body is represented with tactile qualities, it is the psychic self that is revealed in its many manifestations. Compressed into box glass closets are minute replicas of the human torso, infinitely rich and nuanced in expression, the miracle of being and becoming. These glass closets surmount each other to introduce Bodies in Space.
The boxes are constructed so that reflections become essential – as though these were closets of memory and introspection into the self. You look in through a little door swinging inwards into a private space, the private self that is being invaded and torn apart... In another you discover the rubber doll (borrowed from his daughter) with its torso split and halved to suggest a split identity. The beautiful head of a boy angel lies in one glass box, a split head is propped within another box. Outside this box is four other head propped against one side – do they represent the inside and the outside self? Likewise, in another glass box Garuda’s wings are split with one wing inside and the other wing outside the box – defeating thus the potential of flight.
Kaushik travels all over India to source his materials from many locations and to work with craftspeople. He works with terracotta and papier-mâché and rubber and painted glass eyes in his Bodies in Space. Then he works with acrylic and water color on photo prints to project himself in a series of nine titled Pink.
The series of Pink I and Pink II are among the most sensational, autobiographical and poignant notes on the self. That he takes his own body as model is crucial to this endeavor. In response to my query he comments:
.. Because Pink is beyond boundaries… It alludes to the gay pink, it alludes to the Nazi soldiers, the pink color is symbolic of Aids… Pink embodies the free spirit – to have pink in my veins!
He suspends himself then against space, in a heroic flying leap like Hanuman with his shadow thrown on the floor. He is seated in the yogic tantric pose seen from the rear view, with a tiger rug like Shiva that is however stained pink. His body is repeated five times aligned against each other, reflecting on not one but multiple identities. As the bodies stretch backward in chakrasana, the background is fissured with a rope cord breaking.
Finally, in the third set of images Puneet constructs with iron mesh in his figures titled In Conversation. Five images, life size but without heads, stand together to hold a commanding presence as though this scene were being enacted on stage. The wire mesh simulates the line on paper like a drawing or an etching, but it is three dimensional. Their shadows are thrown against the walls and on the floor, suspending the figures in space. Cobwebs are traced within the figures, spinning out narratives of fantasy like the wheel of life, enveloping the bodies and trapping them. To complete the spectacle are the heads in pink velvet, placed on the ground, animated with open mouths and an orgy of sentences tripping out like ribbons !
With these different expressions Puneet experiments and pursues his trajectory of the psychic self that were to be found in his earlier exhibitions. In these new images there is the self and the shadow, the inner and the outer self... There is poignancy here, and satire; there is the imagination and the real; there is the sensation of being trapped within closet spaces and mesh wire, and the freedom of Hanuman to fly out.
Bending the Wire: Beyond the Linear
Retracing a personal, albeit broadened art historical constellation, provokes
concordance whilst stimulating discourse. Just how personal or visceral through
aesthetic and technical processes constitute the key methods by which artists extend
their boundaries. The epidermal periphery, perhaps cast poetically as the picture
frame or reflection of Puneet Kaushik’s earlier fecund installation works (Emotional
Sacs, for example) bestirs memories and fragile context of the body-mind dialectic.
The distinctive way in which these pieces are made is one of the causes of their
In Kaushik’s own musings on his recent multi-media oeuvres, he states
that to”scratch the surface of a suave individual and there lays a hundred
lives unanswered, unattended…” Herein, sounds his forging of an idiosyncratic
lexicon. For almost two decades, his weavings and juxtapositions of blood and
handmade paper, canvas and steel, glass and fibres, pins and needles depict an
evolutionary path of his personal vision. Herald an iconic, graphic vocabulary
which is a blend of traditional, iconographic and boundary-breaking mythology.
Simultaneously, just adherent to the surface, once again this is a double-entendre;
there hovers a gender-bending examination per depicted motifs.
Peripheries: An ongoing Visual Incarnation
From the Embryo series (2001-2003) to his probing sprouting and germination
works, Kaushik probes his conception of space. Osmosis gave way to symbiosis,
further involving the viewer as an inherent accomplice in such a web of life, a dance
of genesis or chrysalis. His visual voice transforms medium and metaphor, per his
personal deployment of materials and architectonic environs, almost a reconfiguring
of the placenta and the placebo. His resulting cultural objects trace the organic, now
weaving between secretions and excretions, the inner and outer, the multiple sheaths
of the seen and unseen corporal existence. Ponder the surface texture of the rubber
latex female torsos, woven with leaves, string, candle wicks, hung within an armoire,
like disposable skins, culling to mind the tattooed epidermis of Japanese yakuza
which reside in the afterlife in museum drawers.
Rubber further appears in other forms, gloves of his hands, slippers of his feet,
suspended as if effigies, with his tools (brushes, paint and for teeth) of his trade
hanging below. Another series weaves faux fur through perforated un-stretched
canvas, continuing his work on paper, reminiscent of previous work on animal skin,
its surface decorated with beads which seem alive as if egg casings.
Installation/ as nomenclature for a specific form of art came into use fairly recently;
its first use as documented by the OED was in 1969. It was coined in this context
in reference to a form of art that had arguably existed since prehistory but was
not regarded as a discrete category until the mid-twentieth century. Allan Kaprow
(American painter, assemblagist, and pioneer in performance art, 1927-2006) used
the term Environment in 1958 (Kaprow, Assemblage, Environments and Happenings,
1966) to describe his transformed indoor spaces; this later joined such terms as project
art and contemporary art.� Essentially, installation/environmental art takes into
account the viewer’s entire sensory experience, rather than floating framed points of
focus on a neutral wall or displaying isolated objects (literally) on a pedestal. This
leaves space and time as its only dimensional constants. This implies dissolution of
the line between art and life. Kaprow noted that if we bypass art and take nature itself
as a model or point of departure, we may be able to devise a different kind of art out
of the sensory stuff of ordinary life. (Ibid.)
Similarly, the shared experience of ritual and historical cultural nexus comes alive.
The contextual consideration of each work resonates with the elements of existence.
Light and colour, physical and ephemeral layers of being integrate the metaphors
(pujas, Native American, Amish, Zen, Frieda Kahlo) and such idiosyncratic selection
of materials (including encaustic and layers of paint)
Synonyms abound. Space and The Temporal Sense in the Artist’s corpus play a
fundamental role. The powerful energy of the organic is traced through its embrace
and return to an essence of the material, its primordial significance. These pieces
begin to take on their own entities, becoming more narrative, as an unfolding of art
and science, so like human relationships. Kaushik ask us to reconsider our being,
our sexuality, our connection with your basic self. Such questions are not easy, not
necessarily comfortable. He writes that “the medium is an anecdote of alter ego.”
Integration of Metaphors and Materials
Kaushik, also queries the inter-relationship tra such form and matter, throughout
his inherent re-looping narratives, of his own conjugal embarkation, through
mythological narratives derived from Hindu imagery, onto more recent abstract
configurations. Perhaps by these metaphors, the artist seeks to reconnect the
increasingly modern-day dislocations, often wrought by the technical, yet ironically
based on the exact scientific theorems which enhance this organic/inorganic
embrace…just as the fact that the contemporary artist/creator and society obstinately
differentiate between science and art, whereas the parallels, visuals and principles
quest in seemingly consonant ways.
Tracing the Organic
Furthermore, the transformative energy and power of art to affect and effect resonates
through the energy basis of the conscious, sub- and un-conscious pathways. As yet,
now there are alterations, a re-blending of palette, heightened spirals, calligraphic
interlacing of energy and a realised utilisation of abstract and concrete imagery
extended through portals of space, across the picture plane and strung and hung as if
from the sky’s rafters.
He has reached a state of increased freedom, marked by an embrace of the fecund,
creative ecstasy, expanses of fused tonality, and corporal abstraction, through which
his decried trajectories of energy and colour move. The inside cavity embraces us
all. That which denies objectification confronts and colours the wall; here within and
without expression achieves a non-dual state.
The Tibetan presence is a strongly felt one in California. That so many people today from all over the world know of the Tibetan political and social predicament, and can identify with the symbols of their culture, speaks of the universal nature of loss, identity, and longing for an idealized past. Whether in India or California one can identify immediately when viewing Puneet Kaushik’s installations of veiled hangings, which resemble both prayer flags and also the long white scarves, offered to Tibetan lamas.
I mention both California and India, because Puneet, like so many South Asians is a man of two worlds, of East and West ,of the traditional and the contemporary, of the spiritually inclined and the secular world. Entering into his installations of Tibetan style hangings evokes a sense of remembrance, of lives once lived, of ancestral longings. The sounds of Buddhist chanting, bells and horns, together with the fragrance of sandalwood incense further enhance this sense of otherworldliness. In the post modem art world such references by a western artist would be considered hollow, in Puneet’s hands his works resonate with reality because he is South Asian, questioning his inner psychic and sexual life, and his sense of drifting and rootless ness when away from India.
Much identity art has been criticized as psychologically therapeutic, an argument that is valid, yet Puneet’s work strikes a deeper chord. The multiple prints of the seated Buddha, stamped over and over again on the floating scarves or prayer flags, recall the endless repetition of mantras, as a way towards ultimate enlightenment and inner peace. The prints also recall the endlessly repetitive motions in constructing a sacred mandala painting. It is the process that becomes, the aesthetic vision, the work of art.
One of the most popular legends of the Buddha when he was in Sravasti tells of him miraculously appearing tens of thousands of times. this legend has inspired artists from Ajanta to Dunhaung to paint and carve multiple tiny images of the Buddha. Tibetan artists have carved mantric syllables and used them to print the constancy of this vision onto prayer flags hung from temple and chorten roofs. This repetition is hinted at in Puneet’s installation; yet the consistency in traditional renderings has been replaced here by the uneven placement of the images, with some of the hangings left completely blank, suggesting a search that is continuing, and a prayer unanswered.
The interactive nature of Puneet’s work requires the viewer to walk through the flags, to experience the sounds and fragrances, to suspend belief momentarily, and to become immersed in personal reverie.
Mills College, California
The Embryo series (2001-2003), conceived, ignited, realized spirit, spans a period of that ephemeral existence forcibly known as ‘time’. Its incarnation, inception, and evolution, witness per its four phases, all interconnected and ever-changing, bespeaks the aspiration, fears, desires, and beguilements of bhoga, roga, and yoga.
“From seeing nothing to becoming pregnant,” Kaushik speaks an eternal, albeit limited definition of causative procreation. Beyond male and female, The Embryo provokes and questions such limiting definitions. Fecundity His rajput heritage colors in powerful hues of red and blue; as his inspiration for elastic fertility draws nourishment from da Vinci’s use of blue.
just as leaves move with passing winds, so do the emotions evoke, pulling skeins of his red chords, a musical, surreal panoply that transcends and embraces all facets of life. Resonant, ambi-sexual, utilization of his own blood upon handmade paper with tiny effigies defies pure aesthetics. Embryonic stages visualize Prakriti and Purusha. From where, what point does life begin? Of, The Embryo, connects, reminds reverberates with subtleness; it strives to empower and resound much further. Perhaps – beyond any language, that is written, spoken, sung, or known, that of the primordial calling like a raga, qawwalli or gregarian chants the eternal music of these pieces transcends interpretation.
‘GERMINATING’ INTRICATE WEBS
DR. ASHRAFI S. BHAGAT
Puneet Kaushik the Delhi based artist, recently showcased his installation art in an exhibition titled “Germinations” at Apparao Galleries, Chennai. Having studied, lived and worked at Berkeley in California, USA for almost a decade, he returned home to Delhi with sentiments and nostalgia of sinking roots within his cultural milieu. Gallery goers habituated to looking at art on walls or on pedestals, in this exhibition, had to turn the gaze at the ceiling where variety of objects crafted out of pure stainless steel fine wires were hung. Playing with his crafted sculpted forms was the hide and seek of light that created parallel linear drawings on the walls by its shadowed effect. The experience intrigued and yet fascinated at the artist’s craftiness, in attempting to create an integrated aesthetic experience; dynamically increasing an interactive engagement with his works.
His installations are three dimensional sculptures that negate normative definition. The works are either crocheted or woven with very fine steel wire mesh. As an expansive versatile medium it is premised on the condition of interaction, stimulating dialogues or another response with the spectator. Along with other forms of three dimensional art, Installation gained momentum in late 1960s after the crisis of modernism, when painting lost its position at the centre of contemporary art to be replaced by a multiplicity of three-dimensional practices as performance, installations, assemblages, and process art. Puneet in his installations successfully has been driven by a single idea or concept, injecting an element of exploration, with materials offering their own guiding agency; and in this respect he marks a posture of difference.
The concept of ‘Germination’ foregrounds sinking roots and is a liminal phenomenon - a beginning of a journey which breaks the rigors of silence for change and transformation. The metaphor indicates germination or externalization of inner energies both positive and negative. And the visualization of such abstract feelings is threaded through engagement with the medium of installation and using craft processes, which also enables Puneet to foreground tradition; via contemporary materials as pure steel. In his works, the sense of presence and the body in relation to human experience is investigated. The body per se is subverted but the intervention with it is to explore his concept which involves the process of life; which his art metaphorically redefines. For instance, in “Dislocated Roots”, the crocheted forms with long lengths of steel wire hang from the ceiling, which with the juxtaposed intertwining play of cast shadows of light create an enigma, the mystery of the ‘self’ as it goes through thorny and problematic conditions when uprooted from its comfort zone and forced to take roots elsewhere. His many forms have emerged through his experiences by looking at the latter in a holistic manner in order to recognise it as a process that bridge individuals and the world. According to Merleau-Ponty, the human body is an expressive space which contributes to the significance of personal actions. The body is also the origin of expressive movement, and is a medium for perception of the world. Bodily experience gives perception a meaning beyond that established simply by thought.
This sense of expressive body spatiality has been worked through by Puneet with his material. Phenomenologically, his sculpted crocheted form, invites spectators to touch, feel and hence create dialogue with it. That his forms are not dense; rather contain interlocking spaces, with a particular silence found in the spaces between forms creating a dialectics of visual pattern, wrought by the craft process of weaving and crochet. As a matter of fact he has given a figurative form to an abstract concept as “Germination” and has carried it forth with élan.
Works variously titled as “Bricolage”, gesture towards the genetic coding within individuals, or in terms of his master concept ‘germination’ literally seeds, hung as grouped and bunched rounded shapes in shades of pink. Heightening the effect further was the concealed light within it. “Tying up the Knots”, is a glance towards casting away of inherent ego or negative traits of character, which is materially indicated as the casting away of the skin, a finely constructed wire mesh that heaps on the floor, while the human form or the ‘real self’ shows through from under it. “Symbiosis” conceptually represents the web of life - a tenaciously constructed web metonymically extending to express fragility of experiences that require resilience and obstinate adamancy to counter it. Other works include “Germination”, “Ensnare”, “Take it or Leave it”, exemplifying the various posturing in life literally and symbolically.
All his installations are thoughtfully conceived and executed, premised largely on his personal experiences and engaging with craft forms that he has seen across India while on his travels in Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Uttar Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir. His works are not insularly created, rather it his empirical experiences derived from within his cultural milieu that has allowed him to forge such a conceptual approach marked by an intensity of purpose that undergirds his visualization through process, materials and technique [craft forms].
To create three dimensional works purely on the strength of woven crafted forms and from grey steel, unaided by the sensuousness of colour, yet it holds well, primarily on its conceptual strength. Puneet has been working on this concept for the past three or four years and his work is physical and labour intensive.
Exhibited at the show were also his sketch books that bore vignettes of his creative process. The interactivity between the pages of the sketch book was driven by the same idea of webbing, creating windows by cutting out areas of the paper so that when the page is leafed over the painted sketch from the previous page will be offered as a strategic form glimpsed through the cut window/s giving the effect of germination itself.
Marking on the Wall
When Puneet mentioned his love of desert spaces of voids expanding to infinity until you discern a numinous sign-Of striations, makings on sand s the wind blows through them. Of images related to death and rebirth. Of migrations of people, passages through time of delirious happiness when you chance upon a splash of blue waters or a deep pink lotus, a prayer wheel or clothes on a line dancing with joy.
All thee make seeing infinitely richer signs resonating with energy.
You delve below the surfaces of walls which dissolve-revealing new layers of sensate feeling, of volatile thoughts which come band go, of impressions of beckoning from the past…Words inscribed like graffiti cannot contain these feelings that are textured with sand gel and embossed on paper and block printed with love.
Excavations Memories are imprinted sometimes with the tangible form of yellow desk (now eaten by termites) fierce folk icons from Mathura of Kali or Shiva, cows coming home at sunset, uprooting the earth turning gold at the hour of dusk. Hands in blood red gridded into a pattern , shredding memories of ancient rites. And that occasional tree, uprooted beside a sign for a fall out shelter lets you in on a growing desire to come home again.
Autobiography . The house you live in numbered and sealed. Your twin brother and antithesis rendered upside down or face to face, other items of taboo.
Strips of identity. A vision pushed close, too close for comfort, with no horizon or perspective where no line separates earth from sky-a hap tic vision described by Deleuzes as befitting the nomadic peoples negotiating a language of signs. As you said “the person who surrenders first is the winner.”
No longer something remote, but abstractions of life itself.
Kaushik's body of work are aesthetic and material dimensions of extractions, accumulation, territorialization, condensations and fractures underlying the visible reality of urban life. They are neo-expressionist, collages of kalaidescope materials and techniques - wire mesh, paint, beadwork, carpet craft, line drawings and organic dyes that bring to the surface histories of tension that exist just beneath the ordinariness of everyday lived humanity.