Aicon Gallery, New York’s leading venue for Modern and Contemporary South Asian Art, is pleased to present a solo exhibition of Rajan Krishnan’s most recent series of works, Ancestry – an extension of his past two projects, Enroute (2006) and Memoir (2007).
These large-scale paintings represent a visualized homage to cultures in transition, as the artist revisits his birthplace, only to discover that the river that once thrived there, sustaining and inspiring the communities around it, now appears devastated and devoid of its past vivacity. The golden sand and placid shimmering currents of the artist’s memory are no more – instead, dark debris, crumbling structures and stark shrubbery have replaced the luscious foliage and life-giving waters of the past.
Ancestry presents a panorama of fifteen portrait-like paintings of individual elements from the landscape surrounding the river, all rendered against a foreboding grey backdrop with neither background nor foreground, focusing our attention directly upon the artist’s chosen subjects and settings. Masterful details are contrasted by the darkly flattened milieu, dreamingly devoid of time and its effects, yet ethereally stirred by ongoing sensations of serenity and chaos. Thus, these images visualize the transitional geography, culture and iconography of this riverside terrain, and the impacted visual journey of the artist’s retun to his birthplace.
The vast panorama of the exhausted riverbed is seen in There Was a River There…, a monumental and imposing painting of what Krishnan once viewed as one of the most legendary and beautiful rivers in southern India. In the collective memory of the region – and indeed that of the artist – the Nila River represents more than just a river. For generations its waterways shaped the culture and lives of those in South Malabar, and more specifically the artist’s birthplace of Kerala. The river itself served as a lifeline to a vast region, providing literal and cultural sustenance to the countless cities and villages spaning its length – from the Western Ghats, to the Arabian Sea. Yet, the bleak contemporary existence to which this once powerful icon of India’s cultural and natural history has been diminished leaves Krishnan’s images – like the river itself – stranded somewhere between between memory and actuality; between our shared perceptions of the past and the tangible yet continually shifting realities of our present and future.