The city of Mumbai and its teeming environs appear as both a foreground and backdrop in a variety of Jitish Kallat's post-millennial works, effectively serving as his muse as much as the stylised 'Pop'-infused figures and subject matter that he depicts. Describing his previous Rickshawpolis series, Kallat notes, "K [they] are vast collision portraits of the thumping, claustrophobic city-street; part of my persistent project to find fresh ways to register the life I see around. Cars, buses, scooters, cycles, cats, cows and humans collide and coalesce to form mega-explosions. These optical jerks caused by the high decibel of daily action can also be read as distorted reflections of a city seen on the dented body of an automobile. The painting itself is mounted on bronze sculptures, re-creations of gargoyles that are found atop the 120 year old Victoria Terminus Building in the centre of Mumbai. The gargoyle, herein symbolizing the figure of the bystander artist self, has been a daily witness to this constant calamity of the street running into itself." (-Interview with Jitish Kallat, www.mattersofart.com/lead7.html, e-zine)
Universal Recipient I (Lot 505) sustains the sense of urban cacophony as a theme Kallat had developed in prior works but also brings to the forefront the poignancy of the human struggle for survival in this Darwinian environment. Using irony by depicting security guards in uniforms with full regalia fit for a general, these impoverished sentries are often itinerant workers, coming from India's villages with greater aspirations as they guard many of Mumbai's wealthiest enclaves.
Our immediate surroundings often continue to resonate in our heads. This residual hum becomes pronounced pandemonium in over-populated cities such as Mumbai and what one experiences is the synchronized amplification of all the ingredients of life.
The paintings of city dwellers carrying a crumbling cascade of stories on their heads becomes double portraits: a simultaneous portrait of the city and its inhabitant. The pieces emerge from the belly of strife as experienced in the metropolis but attempt to address the universal and somewhat classic themes of survival and mortality.
To me, almost every one of us is a raconteur of the world's secrets, because each one of us possesses a unique world view. And yet some social groups are fascinating because of the roles they play or the perception they invite due to their appearance. The security guards standing at the gates might have a stern aura, mainly due to their professional uniform, however they work for long twelve hour shifts and are often underpaid. Many of them are migrants who have just come into the city. Mostly seated at the gate, minding the thin membrane of separation from the street, which is the location of their occupation, they develop what I might call a 'gate's-eye-view' of the city. (Jitish Kallat in conversation with Nina Miall, Jitish Kallat: Universal Recipient, Haunch of Venison, 2008, p. 52-53).