Mumbai - a city of dreams and dream weavers - faced some of the darkest nights in July of 2006. A series of seven bomb blasts tore a suburban commuter train during peak hours, taking the lives of hundreds of innocent citizens, a heinous act of terrorism that left the city wounded and bleeding for months.
TV Santhosh, a Mumbaikar, cannot find a reason for such reprehensible acts of terrorism and hatred that plague the world today. In conversation with the artist he explains his need to understand, to analyze, to decode the seemingly indecipherable that has led him to believe that the hatred, the war, the killings are perhaps due to some error that was committed in ancient times.
A man in uniform, a railway policeman, is the single, central figure in the composition. Paradoxically enough, his job is to protect the train and its passengers. However, his lone presence suggests that he is the only survivor and surveyor of the bloodbath. This figure creates an awkward and false sense of security in the midst of the blazing train and the viewer scans through the image frantically with the hopes of finding some signs of life. Burning areas of the train add a luminous glow to this horrific scene - as the fire, deceptively rhythmic and playful, spreads across the train. The circular orange marks are like bulls-eyes - targets achieved. Yet, in the midst of terror there is hope, as the fire envelopes the entire scene something new is born from it.
Rendered in his signature style, in Tracing an Ancient Error (lot 516), the artist has turned a positive photographic image from the media into its negative. He deliberately eliminated specific details, allowing the subject to take on a much grander scale, addressing the universal concerns of war, terrorism and violence. However, this painting is perhaps one of the very few works that depicts the artist's reaction to his immediate surroundings. This seminal work depicting the Mumbai train blast expresses the horror of the situation faced by every Mumbaikar. It is the artist's way of grappling with the anxiety, uncertainty and suffering so close to home; painting it as if putting a closure to the incident.