Jitish Kallat explores the interrelation between the cosmic and the earthly

For art lovers, Dubai-based Ishara Art Foundation has staged a magnificent treat in the form of ‘Order of Magnitude’ by Jitish Kallat, among one of India’s most exposed contemporary artists.

Being the artist’s first major solo exhibition in West Asia and the Levant makes it very special – an ideal opportunity to see his new works including paintings, multimedia installations, drawings and site-specific interventions – at your fingertips .

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The general theme of “Order of Magnitude” is “the interrelation between the cosmic and the terrestrial”.

Along with the artworks, Jitish sets up a site-specific intervention titled “NES-W” featuring a working compass in the gallery floor, anchoring the Ishara Foundation on Al Serkal Avenue in Al Quoz, Dubai, in as a planetary surveying device as well as aligning the location with unseen force fields.

Jitish masterfully expresses his contemplation at the individual level and finds “global connectivity” with the universal, planetary and extraterrestrial dimensions.

Jitish Kallat (2022). (Photo by Anile Rane/Iris Dreams).

The main work – “Integer Studies” (Drawings from Life) – is a series of paintings that resulted from a year-long exercise by the artist during the 2021 COVID-19 pandemic in what may be called a “self-imposed residence”. ‘ in his workshop.

8) Jitish Kallat, Integer Studies (Life Drawings) (2021).  Graphite and watercolor pencil, tinted gesso, organic eraser on Bienfang grid paper, 29.2 x 35.9 cm each.  (Image courtesy of the artist).

8) Jitish Kallat, Integer Studies (Life Drawings) (2021). Graphite and watercolor pencil, tinted gesso, organic eraser on Bienfang grid paper, 29.2 x 35.9 cm each. (Image courtesy of the artist).

Jitish made a daily drawing based on three sets of numbers: the estimated world population, the number of new births, and the number of deaths at the time the work was created. The various shapes based on these three numbers were made using graphite, watercolor pencil and gesso. The abstract works that manifest themselves as part of the daily “ritual” have a poignant symmetry: they are both graphic and pictorial, and evoke existential angst by raising questions about extinction and evolution.

8) Jitish Kallat, Integer Studies (Life Drawings) (2021).  Graphite and watercolor pencil, tinted gesso, organic eraser on Bienfang grid paper, 29.2 x 35.9 cm each.  (Image courtesy of the artist).

8) Jitish Kallat, Integer Studies (Life Drawings) (2021). Graphite and watercolor pencil, tinted gesso, organic eraser on Bienfang grid paper, 29.2 x 35.9 cm each. (Image courtesy of the artist).

The display traverses the exhibition space, resembling both the horizon and the equator, and brings out the emotional and evocative aspects of Jitish’s work.

Jitish Kallat, Installation view of Integer Studies (Drawings from Life) (2021) at Ishara Art Foundation.  Graphite and watercolor pencil, tinted gesso, organic eraser on Bienfang grid paper, 29.2 x 35.9 cm each.  Image courtesy of the artist and the Ishara Art Foundation.  (Photography by Ismail Noor / See Things).

Jitish Kallat, Installation view of Integer Studies (Drawings from Life) (2021) at Ishara Art Foundation. Graphite and watercolor pencil, tinted gesso, organic eraser on Bienfang grid paper, 29.2 x 35.9 cm each. Image courtesy of the artist and the Ishara Art Foundation. (Photography by Ismail Noor / See Things).

Alongside “Integer Studies” is the mural “Postulates of a Restless Ray” which takes the form of Albers’ conical projection of the Earth. The work is presented as a cross-sectional grid (in watercolor pencil) which opens the globe onto a flat plane. The approach here is not cartographic, but an exploration of planetary geography. “Signs and speculations” gather there, evoking botanical, suboceanic, celestial and geological formations.

1) Installation view of 'Jitish Kallat: Order of Magnitude' at Ishara Art Foundation, 2022. Image courtesy of the artist and the Ishara Art Foundation.  (Photograph by Ismail Noor/Seeing Things).

1) Installation view of ‘Jitish Kallat: Order of Magnitude’ at Ishara Art Foundation, 2022. Image courtesy of the artist and the Ishara Art Foundation. (Photograph by Ismail Noor/Seeing Things).

‘Postulates from a Restless Radius’ is an exploratory abstraction of shapes that suggest signatures of growth and entropy.

In the center of the gallery, four double-sided and multiscopic photographic works entitled “Epicycles”. The genesis of these works began in 2020 at the start of the pandemic, in the form of a hand-drawn diary painstakingly capturing the minute changes in Jitish’s studio – even the cracks forming on the walls, the sheet falling and a tree stem. This happened during his 15-day isolation in his studio after returning to Mumbai from the United States. These daily observations were then combined with archival images of common humanity captured by photographers around the world for the famous 1955 Family of Man exhibition held at New York’s MoMA. On the back are images of his “Integer Studies” drawings. Meticulously composed on a lenticular surface, the figures represented appear and disappear as one moves through the work, giving a very complex portrait of time in its transience and ephemeral.

Jitish Kallat, installation view of 'Epicycles' (2021) at Ishara Art Foundation.  Double-sided multi-layered print on 20 LPI lenticular lens, teak wood, 226.1 x 132.1 x 61 cm.  Image courtesy of the artist and the Ishara Art Foundation.  (Photography by Ismail Noor / See Things).

Jitish Kallat, installation view of ‘Epicycles’ (2021) at Ishara Art Foundation. Double-sided multi-layered print on 20 LPI lenticular lens, teak wood, 226.1 x 132.1 x 61 cm. Image courtesy of the artist and the Ishara Art Foundation. (Photography by Ismail Noor / See Things).

At Ishara’s mezzanine, we are drawn into a new iteration of Jitish’s immersive installation “Covering Letter” (terranum nuncius). Here, images from the Golden Records that traveled on NASA’s Voyager 1 and 2 space mission in 1977 rest on shelves along two opposite walls. Placed inside programmed LED frames, 116 parallax prints flicker at a breath-like cadence. They summarize a summary of life on Earth, including scientific, anatomical and cosmological diagrams as well as its flora, fauna and architecture.

Permeating the exhibition space are the sounds of greeting to the universe that were on the Golden Records in 55 languages. The two Travelers, as they travel through space, are now estimated to be over 22 billion miles from Earth, and Jitish’s work is a reminder of an epic presentation of “our” world to another unknown. .

Jitish Kallat, Installation view of Covering Letter (terranum nuncius) (2018-2021) at Ishara Art Foundation.  116 stereoscopic parallax prints on Plexiglas, programmed LED panels, wooden frames, shelves and bench, 4-horn speakers, video projection, variable dimensions.  Image courtesy of the artist and the Ishara Art Foundation.  (Photo by Ismail Noor/See Things).

Jitish Kallat, Installation view of Covering Letter (terranum nuncius) (2018-2021) at Ishara Art Foundation. 116 stereoscopic parallax prints on Plexiglas, programmed LED panels, wooden frames, shelves and bench, 4-horn speakers, video projection, variable dimensions. Image courtesy of the artist and the Ishara Art Foundation. (Photo by Ismail Noor/See Things).

As we find ourselves in a deeply divided world, Jitish brings these images and reverberations to the fore for a collective meditation on ourselves as residents of one planet, where the “other” is an “intergalactic alien ” unknown.

The installation takes on a melancholic tone as Jitish projects a map of 14 pulsars – the return address listed on the Records – in front of a doomsday clock-shaped bench.

The symbolic clock offered by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists is reset every year, representing our growing proximity to a hypothetical man-made global catastrophe expected to strike at midnight.

Jitish, of course, has a considerable body of work behind him, and this exhibition at Ishara would be the perfect opportunity to better understand his brilliant and thought-provoking oeuvre and become familiar with the themes and techniques that resonate through his works and hold them together.

Jitish Kallat, Detailed View of Cover Letter (t erranum nuncius) (2018 - 2021).

Jitish Kallat, Detailed View of Cover Letter (t erranum nuncius) (2018 – 2021).

His work, while emanating from the present, refers to a mythical era, and conversely reminding us of the need to come and go in time and space while trying to capture the cosmic cycles that underlie our existence. As Jitish himself asserted, his art is always trying to constantly change the axis and viewing angles so to speak.

Jitish Kallat, Detailed View of Cover Letter (t erranum nuncius) (2018 - 2021).

Jitish Kallat, Detailed View of Cover Letter (t erranum nuncius) (2018 – 2021).

In the essay titled “Drawing Breath,” by Amal Khalaf, Director of Programs at Cubitt & Civic Curator at the Serpentine Galleries, notes: “What time is it on the world clock? On this planet which is getting poorer, extracting itself, changing faster than we can foresee, where and how do we find ourselves? In ecological or interstellar time? Where, on an algorithmic timeline, is now? How are we in ourselves? How do we find ways to metabolize this loss to give meaning and sow seeds in the soil of our mourning? What references, what scaffoldings hold us back?

“Jitish Kallat’s practice transports us through orders of magnitude, in bodies of work that transport us through time and space, from the cellular to the celestial.

Smita Prabhakar, Founder of Ishara Art Foundation, speaking to Al Arabiya English, said, “With Jitish’s show, Ishara cements her commitment to South Asian art practices that are thought-provoking, relevant for the moment and artistically sound and world-class. We are indeed proud and honored to have hosted this first exhibition of Jitish in the Middle East and the Levant and thank everyone for their support.

As Ishara’s seventh exhibition, this exhibition reinforces the Foundation’s commitment to presenting museum-quality exhibitions of pioneering voices in contemporary art.

‘Order of Magnitude’ is open until July 1, 2022.

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