Of the pandemic and other miseries

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Artist Ranjan Kaul's latest exhibition at India Habitat Centre.

Artist Ranjan Kaul is presenting his fourth solo exhibition titled ‘Ringside View’ that tells the story of contemporary times through the painter’s eyes at Open Palm Court Gallery, India Habitat Centre, New Delhi (on till November 18).

Ranjan Kaul continues to evolve his nuanced oeuvre that chronicles and portrays quotidian life by infusing it with drama, colour and emotion.

He portrays real-life stories not merely as an active participant, but as an empathetic and perceptive observer.

In this exhibition, he showcases not only the time of the pandemic but the pre-and post-pandemic periods as well. The plight of migrant labourers, who travelled thousands of kilometres from the metropolis to their homes and are now back — once again in search of a livelihood. He has depicted them through a series of artworks like ‘Flight to Survival’ and ‘Rootless’, and their life on the footpath as in ‘Home and Supper’. In his work ‘An Arm and a Leg for a Job’, migrant labourers have been shown in post-pandemic times sitting vacantly in the big city, jobless, lost, defeated.

During the lockdown, cars gathered dust, salons downed their shutters. While ‘Shine’ comments on the futility of the fascination with material want, ‘Beauty’ draws attention to the growing obsession with the outward self. ‘Beauty’ also looks at how the real persona is morphing into a virtual, false entity with the widespread use of social media – the reflection in the mirror is a new reality, while the ‘real’ is reduced to a mere shadow.

With the virus redefining physical spaces, ‘Ringside’ depicts the transformation in human behaviour – with people on a short fuse, a minor road accident leading to a major skirmish while onlookers watch the incident. Issues related to women safety on deserted streets with the easing of lockdown restrictions are another concern that kindles the artist’s imagination in ‘Twilight Zone’. ‘Holding On’ portrays the resilience of women in the face of tribulations.

Lockdown has led to group isolation and people’s disconnection with the world outside the bubble. In ‘Cocktail Party’, an evening of high-society gathering is depicted with palpable tension in the air, even as the people inside are unaware of being watched from the window. The work is also a comment on the increasing invasions of privacy. The post-pandemic series, ‘Fragmented’, depicts the grave fallout on the human psyche and mental health.

The curatorial advisor for the exhibition is Aakshat Sinha.

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