Confined at home, like most others, during the COVID-induced lockdowns, artist Indrapramit Roy decided to document the times in the form of a visual diary, where he began to weave together words and drawings in what he christened “Quarantine Drawings”.
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Associate Professor in the Painting Department at Faculty of Fine Arts, MS University, Baroda, Roy says, “When the lockdown was first announced in March 2020, I found myself in a peculiar situation. Suddenly, life had come to a standstill. I had a lot of time at hand and it seemed like a rare luxury to be able to spend the whole day in the studio at a time when there was bad news coming each day… I initially thought of making one work a day, which is how the ‘Quarantine Diary’ started.”
The observations also led to larger works, culminating in the exhibition titled “Soliloquy” that was recently held at Threshold Art Gallery in the Capital. “All paintings are, in some sense, soliloquies. They are inner dialogues that are manifested. The unprecedented hardship of people around me during the lockdown – the helplessness, the surfeit of bad news coming from all sides and my relatively privileged existence with a roof above my head and food on my plate and perhaps no less importantly the luxury of time at my disposal — I wondered, shuddered, questioned and pondered. It has been a continuous process,” says Roy, 58.
The set of over 50 works made during the last two years largely depict the artist‘s ponderings during the period, influenced by uncertainty and also “misinformation masquerading as news”. Depicting an under construction building, the set of works titled The Ordinary Lies, for instance, portray how the usual “markers of our development paradigm” altered during the pandemic, with construction as a metaphor.
Having exhibited across the world, from Berlin to Bangkok, London to New York, in a career spanning three decades, the lockdown also propelled the artist to look at some of his earlier works, including photographs and drawings of cacti that he had made during a visit to the El Paso border in the Mexican city of Juarez many years ago. The immediate trigger was another trip, around eight months before the pandemic, to Kevadia Colony in Vadodara that’s populated by cacti. Finding beauty in their inherent geometry, he has painted them in muted colours and with sharp needle-like thorns. “Cacti in their myriad shapes and sizes are a veritable showcase of nature’s perfect geometry and design but they also embody the principle of attraction and repulsion in equal measure,” notes Roy.
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