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JITISH KALLAT (B. 1974)
JITISH KALLAT (B. 1974)

Universal Recipient

Details
JITISH KALLAT (B. 1974)
Universal Recipient
dated, inscribed and titled '2008-09 JITISH KALLAT UNIVERSAL RECIPIENT' (on the reverse)
acrylic on canvas with bronze sculpture supports
98¼ x 68 in. (249 x 172.7 cm.)

Lot Essay

Jitish Kallat's series of Universal Recipient paintings continues his exploration of his home town, Mumbai. Kallat is drawn to individuals that are often downtrodden or even dispossessed: for example, his earlier Dawn Chorus series saw the artist depict images of street urchins. However, rather than realize these children in their specific environment, or evince any sense of their reduced circumstances, Kallat seemed to celebrate their resilience and enterprising spirit.

The present series sees Kallat engage with another group of Mumbai residents, security guards. These figures, older now, are the street urchins as adults - who take their responsibility as a guard very seriously, reflected in the painting by their probing gaze and stoic mien. The Universal Recipient paintings depict the security guards often seen minding residential premises in the suburbs of Mumbai, quietly observing urban life in the sprawling Indian metropolis. Their pensive features seem to encapsulate Kallat's description of them as raconteurs of Mumbai's inner secrets.

In both series, however, Kallat is consistent in his formulaic means of execution, and it is this programmatic approach to the painted surface, and the paintings' ultimate display, that elevates each individual work as well as the series as a whole. Here, Kallat draws upon a pop-like graphic energy that pushes the figure out of the pictorial space. The head, hair and shoulders are always thrust to the front of the picture plane, occupying nearly all of its axis, and this, coupled with the use of a brightly-colored striated background, means the 'sitter' literally confronts, even embraces the viewer. Their amplified representation, however, allows the viewer the opportunity to examine easily and closely Kallat's painterly style and technique.

The figure's features are painted in a manner which draws attention to their facsimile; as if Kallat does not want to individualize each figure into a personality, but to engender each image as a trope and situate himself to better express a certain, generic feeling of the city as a whole. Their hair is always a painted collage: a frenzied, labyrinthine map of people and moving vehicles, as if to create a portrait of the extraordinary energy of the city of Mumbai and its vast population. On top of each surface we find passages akin to splatters of paint which, upon close reflection, are meticulously executed, so that Kallat is always reminding us that we are not looking at a portrait or a likeness, but a painted surface. This questions any sense of verisimilitude the viewer may invest in to the work and its painted subject. In the same way, he also questions our ability and desire to sanction the work as a painting in itself through the use of two bronze sculptures as supports for the work, so that the painting literally leans against the wall. These bronze mounts are recreated from the wall adornments found in Mumbai's Victoria Terminus train station - itself the perfect place to sit and experience the turbulence of Mumbai's chaos, energy and, ultimately, its dynamic people. As such, Kallat's Universal Recipient series represents a taxonomic approach to the semantics and mechanics of his painting as well as part of a jigsaw that attempts to conjure the color and energy of this vibrant city.
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