What is the connection between ‘thought’ and ‘matter’? And what lies beyond them?

Artist Raju Sutar attempts to address these complex questions through a large mixed-media art show he has curated as a collateral project of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale. The independent exhibition that runs parallel to the 108-day contemporary art festival, features five Pune-based artists, including Sutar.

The project is based on a discovery made by late American neuroscientist-pharmacologist Candace Beebe Pert famously referred to as the ‘Explorer of the Brain’. According to the curator, Dr Pert’s research established a link between what we think, feel and what is happening in human bodies. 

“She proved that thought actually creates a type of chemical protein in the brain. In reality, it’s a piece of matter,” says the 48-year-old Sutar.

Through the exhibition, the artist-curator initiates a dialogue between discoveries around thought/matter and different forms of contemporary art. “If thought is also a matter, where do ideas of conceptual art and other contemporary expressions stand? How does it work on our minds? In fact, I am interested in finding what is not thought,” says Sutar, who works in both traditional as well as digital art forms.

Besides Sutar, the other participating artists are Kathak-trained contemporary dancer Hrishikesh Pawar, Rajesh Kulkarni who has showcased a large clay-based work, painter Sandip Sonawane and Vaishali Oak, who works with fabrics. Each artist has presented a unique interpretation of the collateral’s theme, which is titled ‘Thought is also a Matter’.

The collateral, mounted in Fort Kochi’s Jew Town area, deploys a wide range of mediums that call out the viewer’s attention because of their large scale and innovative art production. These include various life-size paintings by Sonawane and Sutar, who use a lot of geometrical forms, patterns and flat colours to decode ‘thought’.

Sonawane, 53, speaking about his acrylic works that show different geometrical shapes, says, “Three lines are used to create a triangle while four lines can make a square. The idea is to break down the thoughts in a similar way.”

Oak’s colourful fabric assemblages, on the other hand, use the metaphor of ‘seeds of thoughts’ to dwell on the show’s theme with striking designs, layers and patterns. 

Installation view of Rajesh Kulkarni’s mixed-media work as part of biennale collateral (‘Thought is also a Matter’) in Fort Kochi | Kochi Biennale Foundation

At the far end of the collateral venue, Kulkarni’s monumental site-specific installation explores the process of thoughts coming and going. Exhibiting numerous objects made out of terracotta, which have been tied together through ropes, the installation (titled ‘Thought’) creates a sense of something suspended in time.

Another site-specific artwork, by Pawar, is a performance-narrative of postures and gestures that re-imagine the connection between body, the thought generated by it, and matter. The live installation work has been described by the artist as a playground of thoughts, caught in an endless circle.

“The work creates a library of personalities, while living a metaphor of turmoil and conflict of the surroundings affecting the present thought,” said 36-year-old Pawar, who is the founder of the Centre of Contemporary Dance in Pune. 

The collateral is an extension of another parallel project, also curated by Sutar, during the previous edition of the biennale. Titled ‘Roots/Routes’, the 2016 collateral also involved a number of Pune artists, who questioned the concept of ‘cutting-edge art’, while revisiting Indian roots in their art.

Featured image: Gallery view of biennale collateral (‘Thought is also a Matter’) in Fort Kochi | Kochi Biennale Foundation

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