“I have been thinking about how history plays an important part in re-defining and re-designing our present. I am interested in representing my reality, and for me reality is like a barber’s purifying stone left in water, the water is murky even when it looks clear. ‘Someday is today’is not just about discrimination based on colour, it is about caste, language, clothing, lifestyles - not just in society, but also the kind of discrimination I and my fellow artists face occasionally within Bombay’s art scene. A couple of works in this show come out of my personal experience of discrimination.” - Nikhil Raunak
The charcoal drawing, 'We were having fun but now we are scared.', is a drawing about two young Bombay-based artists who were stopped from entering an art space because the person at the door did not think they belonged." - NR
The set of images above are three of the 46 images that compose the exhibition. The first, ‘Black Power Salute’, began a substantial and powerful body of works. It is a drawing of the iconic protest salute of two African-American athletes on the podium after winning in the 1968 Olympics, raising their arms in defiant black-gloved fists. The second image from a series of performative photographs, is shot on Mahatma Gandhi Road in Bombay, mimics the Salute, to deftly bring it into conversation with the politics of caste and the Dalit Panther Movement within India. The gesture also hollows-out the surety of familiar public monuments and institutions in the city.
The last, of a script, is one of Nikhil Raunak's several invented typography for English, and is the last subtitle of a video work about language, the efficacy of articulation, and ultimately about in-equal opportunities that arise from inequally-valued ways of sharing an artistic thought. Visually intuitive, his works place themselves within an artistic and cultural history - and a diverse one - that in this exhibition span from the anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko in South Africa in his drawing ‘The Landscape of Peterson’ to the satirical substitution of a Chinese panda (whose Latin name translates as ‘black and white cat-foot’) for the black cat in Manet’s Olympia.
- text Zasha Colah
Nikhil Raunak, about 5 years ago, found himself in the JJ School of art. He was there to study, undecided as to what his future held. The decision to become an artist was opposed by his father, who saw it as a profession of privilege, something a soldier’s son could not afford. His father had chosen a life in the army when men as young as 16 were recruited to fight an aggression by China in 1962. He asked his son to leave his home. Nikhil, finding his relationship with his father authoritarian, began working in restaurants and through the support of his sister was able to pay his fees and rent for school. But this introduction to the city, was not uncommon to the many he met in his art school. He was now a migrant from the impoverished state of Bihar in a city that had come to be dependent on his fellow Biharis, but still unwelcoming of their migrant presence. Though discrimination in the city was not ethnicity specific. It was divided many times over, by class and caste, and also geography. Most students in the JJ School of Art looked forward to working as assistants in artist studios, assisting on Bollywood sets, or working as commercial artists or art school teachers. A career as an independent artist was hindered by a certain pessimism. The academic syllabus, and a few teachers encouraged students to act as craftsmen, working on commissions rather than pursuing careers.
A career was hindered if one did not speak English, and English as a language had been discouraged by regional governments, hindering an entire generation’s ability in the language. There are few translations into vernacular languages of texts on art history. The access to language is often dependent on one’s caste and class, and the ‘Art Scene’ becomes a platform of this discrimination by not accommodating artists from divergent backgrounds which is natural in a country like India. Nikhil speaks of his own personal experience with disarming honesty. He extends the narrative of his disinclusion, extending its story to discuss disinclusion far from himself, in time and place.
There are very few legitimate reasons to not exhibit art practice from Nagaland or Kashmir in contemporary India or not have West African curators in France. Exactly 50 years - 28th of August 1963 , since Martin Luther King Jr.’s ‘’I Have a Dream’’ speech, Nikhil Raunak attempts to create a certain visual vocabulary based on historical images to initiate a certain possibility of a Black Arts Movement in India.
- text Sumesh Sharma
Nikhil Raunak (b. 1988) completed his graduation and masters in painting and printmaking from Sir JJ School of Art, Bombay in 2013, combining various mediums, and continuously challenging the boundaries between printmaking, sculpture, installation, painting, video and performative photography.
He initially stepped out of the 2-dimensional expectations of a painting or print, by using elements of origami. Later, he turned his prints into free-standing sculptures with the help of wax molds. He has rendered portraiture theatrical by building symbolically on situations in art history and biography - a theme that runs through much of his college writing, which has been consistently outstanding.
Select group exhibitions in 2012-13 include, ‘Arranging chairs for Ai Weiwei’ 2012, ‘Shunya’ 2012, ‘I C U JEST’ at the Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2012, ‘L’exigence de la saudade’ at Kadist Art Foundation Paris 2013, and the ‘IInd Transnational Pavillion’ at the 55th Venice Biennale 2013. Nikhil Raunak has been associated with Clark House Initiative since its inception and together with other artists founded the Shunya Collective in 2011. This is his first solo exhibition.
Nikhil Raunak lives and works in Bombay.