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Manish Nai

Galerie Karsten Greve AG St. Moritz

August 22 - December 13, 2014
Opening: Friday, August 22, 2014, 5 - 8 pm
in presence of the artist
With painting as its point of departure, Manish Nai, born 1980 in Gujarat, India, developed his practice into a unique form in which he pasted gunny cloth onto canvas and created increasingly complex patterns in the fabric by cutting out bits of the warp. These early experiments revitalized the field of abstraction in an era when the figure dominated Indian art. After nearly a decade spent refining his work in jute and canvas, Manish began experimenting with illusionistic murals, photography, and sculpture. The murals appeared from a distance like they were etched into the wall, though they were, in fact, entirely two-dimensional. Drawing inspiration from the blistered facades of his hometown, Mumbai, he transformed that unsightly source material into something exquisite.
Manish’s photographs zoom in on clumsily made drains with grey patches, brown streaks and gravelly seams, relating carelessly slapped-on cement to the critically esteemed gestural brushwork of abstract expressionism. He discovers accidental beauty in a city where it sometimes seems beauty can emerge only by accident. As with his illusionistic murals, these photographs are feats of sublimation.
Over the past year, Manish has concentrated his lens on large hoardings as they appear in the fallow period between one advertisement coming down and another going up. During the current economic slowdown, many billboards stay un-utilised for long periods of time, providing plenty of opportunities for the artist’s enquiring camera. Typical of India, the blankness of these hoardings is never absolute. There might be a crease or a fold at one corner revealing a burst of colour underneath; or a pattern incompletely obliterated, showing through the white overlayer. As with his images of gutters, Manish relates the not-quite-empty hoardings with the history of abstract painting. Both series of photographs encourage us to look closely not only at elements of the displayed image, but at the city and world outside: to curate our personal landscape, as it were.
In the rich, blue burlap wall sculpture the artist has added a new feature, twisting the fabric in places before compressing it, in order to introduce anomalies, like knots in a tree trunk. The precise shape these finally take, like the exact pattern of folds and crevices that the cloth adopts under pressure, is uncertain. There’s always an element of surprise when the sculpture is released from the mould; and the long period of desiccation required before it is ready to be displayed can lead to further unpredictable changes.
Among other galleries, Manish Nai has had solo exhibitions at Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke, Mumbai, Galerie Karsten Greve, Cologne, and Galerie Gebr. Lehmann, Berlin.  His works will be presented at the Kochi-Muziris Biennale opening December 12, 2014 in Kochi, Kerala.  Nai is a recipient of the Pollock-Krasner Foundation Award, New York, 2004-2005 and the 2014 ROSL Visual Arts Scholarship, UK. The artist lives and works in Mumbai.

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