For and Against Narrative:

For and Against Narrative: A Review

Written by Monica Arora

As in a debate being conducted to discuss, assess, and dissect the pros and cons of a pertinent issue, the latest exhibition at Defence Colony’s prestigious Vadehra Art Gallery is entitled For and Against Narrative. Artist Praneet Soi deploys myriad media to depict a link in contemporary socio-political scenarios and his own experiences of having explored various stays and residencies in different continents, across different nations.


Title   : Still Life

Medium  : Acrylic  & silverpoint on linen

Size    : 31.5” x 31.5”

Year    : 2016

For instance, his residency at the Mondriaan Foundation’s Pompgemaal Atelier in Huisduinen, earlier in 2016 inspired Soi to use silverpoint, which denotes “the return of the landscape to his oeuvre.” Interestingly, “the process of silverpoint is irreversible and forces the hand to respond to the vista in a very particular way.”

Title   : Ashraf Ghani Outlines his Vision

Medium  : Acrylic , charcoal & chalk pencil on canvas

Size    : 47” x 47”

Year    : 2016

Ashraf Ghani outlines his Vision, is a very defining charcoal upon canvas, featuring current Afghan President and is juxtaposed with written excerpts from a speech he delivered in the US in 2015. Interestingly, Praneet was a Smithsonian Scholar at the Sackler and Freer Galleries in Washington DC at the same time, studying ancient Islamic paintings. Most of his works reflect a trajectory between his political and socio-economic influences and his artistic inspirations during the time he was exposed to a particular thought, personality or idea.

Title   : September

Medium  : Acrylic  & oil on canvas

Size    : 41.5” x 41.5”

Year    : 2016

Besides landscapes, the displayed art comprises of larger canvases with partially coloured portions interspersed with bland, black and white narratives, such as the twin canvas Still- Life and September.

The miniatures and the larger pieces are like a micro and a macro inspection of the thoughts and ideas being explored by the artist and rendered simultaneously that compel the viewer to understand the context in a holistic manner.

I had the chance to conduct an online interview with this immensely sensitive artist and reproduced below is the Q & A

1. With roots in India and residence in Amsterdam, how have the cultural diversities impacted you as a person and as an artist?

As I move between cultures I find myself constantly translating my cultural landscape, or my references in an effort to articulate my practice-

2. 9/11; unrest in Middle East, Afghanistan, and son on have inspired several miniature paintings. Besides, the one-room Calcutta workshops in Kumartuli have also led to not just miniatures but also workshops and video installations. How do socio-political issues find such a strong narrative in your art?

This is the effect of studying in an art school such as that of MSU Baroda. I was often struck by my conversations with my teachers, such as Vasudevan Akkitham , Suresh BV Natraj Sharma, Jyoti Bhatt (to name a few) who made us reflect on what exactly we were choosing as subject matter. If you can define your spectrum of interest, the work attains a political tone. One does not necessarily have to depict political subject matter.

3. As per your website, “Soi used the time spent in Kashmir to explore the disappearing traces of Sufi culture and the related migration, over the course of history, of ancient patterns and forms from Iran into the sub-continent.” In the wake of current unrest in the Valley, do you think that artists could be a voice of hope and reason amongst the pandemonium?

Every support structure that can be provided to the cultural environment there must be made available immediately. The years of unrest and the current period have eroded culture in the area and this damage is permanent. In the absence of institutions and invested people, the cultural environment is becoming sparse. In other words, there is no space to dream.

4. Please tell us more about the “drawing-machines” that you have designed and how do they facilitate artist-audience interactions?

The drawing machines were designed to encourage people to draw. They project images upon the wall and these images can be traced over, creating drawings. Its also fun to wheel these machines across the room and watch the projections float across the walls and distort.

5. Your latest show with ‘Vadehra Art Gallery’ seems to juxtapose influences from myriad cultures and diverse techniques, besides bringing to fore contemporary socio-cultural and political issues. Could you tell us something interesting about this show?

The show is meant to bring together disparate bodies of works and disparate mediums and as well, a variety of subject matter. It is also based upon reflections made in the past few years, working on projects and residencies in different lands. Most importantly for me is the fact that I have focused on making as important to my practice the need to depict the landscape as the more explicitly political subject matter. Hence the title, For and Against Narrative. It is for the viewer to decide if a thread links these works.

6. You are participating in the Kochi Biennale and other shows in India in the forthcoming months. What are your expectations, particularly from the Kochi Biennale?

I will be using the biennale as a space to create sculptural work on site in the pepper hall garden, based upon maquettes that I have been working upon in my studio. This will be finished in time for the opening in December. Then, over the course of the biennale I will be exploring the coir industry and this exploration will result in a video , to be shown towards the end of the biennale. In the meantime, the office space at Aspin wall will become a work station where the drawings, clips and other material collected for the video will be displayed.


Title   : Victor Sebastian

Medium  : Acrylic on canvas

Size    : 39.5” x 78.5”

Year    : 2016

Exhibition Dates: 04 October – 15 October 2016, Venue: Vadehra Art Gallery, D-53 Defence Colony, New Delhi 110024