Akar Prakar‘s new exhibition space is showing works by artist Manish Pushkale mysterious new works seem to have been shaped from skins of light, subtle tissues of alternate translucence and opacity that shimmer before us, hinting at pellucid depths. For a moment, we forget that we are looking at two-dimensional works mounted on a wall. It appears, instead, that we are gazing down into the waters of a river or lake, at the action of gentle currents and lightly disturbed alluvial sediments, or the memories of water.
As writer Ranjit Hoskote writes – “At the core of Pushkale’s subtly nuanced art is a quest for what I would describe as the lamina, a membrane that mediates between above and below, self and other, terrestrial here and magical there. A membrane that could take the form of a wash on paper, a thin layer of cloth, a tinge of colour, a touch of light speckled on shadows.
With lamina go two other persuasive and memorable effects. I call the first one lumen – the suffusion of light. I call the second one limen – the threshold. Under the sign of lumen, Pushkale enacts a lyrical delicacy. He transforms luminosity into a palpable material, which breathes as colours and the pauses between colours. Light, in his handling, is no longer the scorching tropical glare that bears down on us. Rather, it becomes diffuse, refracted, cloudy, and submarine. Under the sign of limen, the artist organises a crossing between one medium and another, one process of making and another. In these watercolours, Pushkale has used the brush very sparingly. His method in this body of work is far closer to that of the serigraph print-maker. He envelops the paper in wet muslin, and leaves the colour on it until it has dried fully. When the muslin is removed, the work stands revealed as an imprint, in its jewel-like intensity. The textures of cloth, the layering of chromatic strata, all impart to these watercolours a collage-like richness.
Some of Pushkale’s works in this suite of watercolours include, as though they were relics of a lost narrative, letters and numbers used in manual transfer-based printing. Long superseded by technological shifts, these letters suggest a vanished life of labour and publication, when mind, eye, hand and text were linked in one physical continuum, rather than being spectral and remotely connected as they are now. Fragments of words, numerals displaced from their contexts, they challenge us to decipher them. Are these missives from the past, or signals from the future, that have come to us in code? Or do they, perhaps, annotate the artist’s chosen approach, that of abstraction? Perhaps the artist is suggesting, here, that the opposite of abstraction is not the figure or the object, as many believe, but language. The abstractionist’s work proceeds without recourse to words. It resists interpretation. It is the sublime reef on which the ship of language is broken. And yet, as with Manish Pushkale’s art, it also provokes us to return to the arena of speech and writing with our sight renewed, teases us back towards communication.”