Sameer Kulavoor’s practice encompasses his unique observations of spaces, structures and geographies. These nuanced compositions, featuring sequential drawings and reverse painted transparent sheets, underscore his affinity towards cities and their multi-layered identities. In this exhibition, architecture is once again the main protagonist. The city in question is an unnamed, ubiquitous entity. A place where design and architecture are born out of responsiveness and resourcefulness rather than a result of extensive detailed pre-planning. Here, sophisticated design principles are thrown to the wind and built structures are mutating beings, growing and adapting to the needs and aspirations of the lives lived within.
The title ‘Edifice Complex’ is borrowed from a phrase coined by Behn Cervantes, a Filipino activist writing in the time of the autocrat Ferdinand Marcos. It references the phenomenon where individuals, organisations, or governments become obsessed with building grandiose structures to give an impression of power, status or progress, often at the expense of more pressing needs. Kulavoor's works explore this theme, particularly in the context of post-independence aspirations taking the shape of structures built in "tier-one" and "tier-two" towns across India. In these new post-modern structures, he found a distinct visual language that reminded him of the works of the Milan based group, Memphis Milano - a rambunctious counter to the seriousness of Bauhaus and Modernism, Incidentally, Ettore Sottsass, the founding member of the group was, in fact, inspired by his visits to Tiruvannamalai, India in the sixties and seventies- before he founded Memphis Milano in the nineteen eighties.
The exhibition presents a body of work across six series. With Drawn Timelapses, a series of sequential drawings that are presented in tandem with a video, Kulavoor reflects on the idea of condensed time, with structures being in a constant state of flux. Here, the artist shares a zoomed-in experience of elements that form complex city structures and their temporal progression. Each drawing on a single page is created in relation to the one that came before it, thus developing a moving image. Discomfort (2022) (a series initiated during the first Covid-19 lockdown and part of his previous solo - You Are All Caught Up), looks at the basic shape of a home morphing from one uncomfortable form to another - examining its transformation through time – physically as well as through lived experience.
Kulavoor has also experimented with reverse painting with acrylic and oil markers on glass sheets for the first time in the series Dense City, Tech Park, Retrofits and Outside The Gated Community - a reminder of the ubiquitous glass sheet cladding, enveloping several new structures. The works point to the transformation of these structures from opaque mirrors of their surroundings during the day to transparent windows at night.
Displayed in TARQ’s new home, this body of work places urban structures firmly in the foreground transferring the focus from the people that inhabit the city to the city itself.
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