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Exploring Vulnerability & Echoes in Matthew Krishanu's latest exhibition at Jhaveri Contemporary

Matthew Krishanu brings to you, along with Jhaveri Comtemporary an exhibition that ties in memories that were woven in time. The title of Krishanu's exhibition, "On a Limb," harks back to an idiom rooted in vulnerability. His paintings explore the delicate balance between safety and risk, capturing moments suspended between certainty and uncertainty. These works not only delve into the relationship between figures and their surroundings but also contemplate the passage of time, ranging from fleeting moments to deep geological epochs.

In Matthew Krishanu’s recent painting, "Boy on Branch" (2023), a young boy, perhaps around eight years old, finds himself perched atop a skeletal tree. The horned branches frame his crouched figure, lending an air of intimacy to the artwork. The landscape, portrayed with muted washes of color, hints at soil, foliage, and trees. The paint application is delicate, creating a casual atmosphere that captures a seemingly carefree moment suspended in time. Yet, beneath the surface, questions linger. Who is this boy posing for? Where is this place? How fragile is the branch, and when might the boy's innocent pose turn into an unfortunate fall?

This painting encapsulates Krishanu’s signature style, merging landscape and portraiture to convey a deeper narrative. His works often portray young Brown boys playing in open fields, juxtaposed with White Europeans in a Bengali setting. These seemingly serene scenes harbor subtle explorations of power dynamics within people and places. Krishanu's art radiates a concealed political undercurrent that ripples just beneath the painted surface.

The technique behind these artworks involves layers of acrylic and oil paint, each layer contributing to a concise yet richly textured final composition. Krishanu's brushwork shifts from mimetic to abstract, skillfully transitioning from concrete depictions to symbolic representations. From mimicking tree bark to capturing the tactile contrast of skin against the rock, the artist's brush navigates through a myriad of painterly questions. Many of his pieces draw inspiration from family photographs taken during his upbringing in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and visits to India. These snapshots serve as a foundation for the imaginative transformation that occurs during the artistic process. The final paintings blend recollections and experiences, morphing into an unreliable yet deeply personal archive. In "Agra Fort (View)" (2023), a woman's silhouette is mirrored in a window frame against the sky – an homage to Krishanu's late wife.

Similarly, "Two Boys in a Tree" (2023) portrays boys with legs intertwined, echoing the shape of the tree branch that supports them. These visual repetitions resonate thematically and formally, blurring the boundary between human figures and the landscapes they inhabit. Krishanu's art dwells in echoes and refrains, where the body and environment mirror each other perpetually. Through this interplay, he captures the often unnoticed politics that weave through bodies and land. The act of looking and being seen holds profound significance in his art, reflecting an intricate power play between subjects.

In "Sari and Dungarees" (2023), a White woman in a sari stands flanked by two boys. Their body language evokes questions about their relationship and the context of the image. Krishanu crafts an uneasy power dynamic between the figures, revealing subconscious influences on their interactions. Despite their seemingly innocuous demeanor, an undercurrent of tension and anticipation charges these scenes.

Krishanu's exploration of vulnerability continues in works like "Boy in Tunnel" and "Two Boys on a Cliff" (both 2023), where children explore caves and cliffs, their exuberance juxtaposed against the ominous backdrops. Nature, in these paintings, cocoon and challenge the young adventurers, their fragility palpable against the monumental surroundings. "Agra (Water)" and "Agra (Water View)" (2023) accentuate the theme of human fragility. Figures stand at the edges of compositions, framed by painterly washes representing land, sea, and air. This emptiness invites the viewer's interpretation, creating a palpable existential atmosphere that blurs material and metaphorical thresholds.

In Matthew Krishanu's paintings, vulnerability becomes a narrative thread, binding figures to landscapes and evoking powerful echoes that resonate beyond the canvas. Through layers of paint and the interplay of image and metaphor, he crafts a visual language that engages both the eye and the mind, inviting viewers to contemplate the profound intricacies of human experience. You too can take a stroll into his world by visiting Jhaveri Contemporary, Colaba, Mumbai. On view from August 3- September 8, 2023.

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