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Artist Profile3
Exploring his ‘other’ self
“Though I use myself as a model, my emphasis is not on physicality. It’s not a mere representation of the self. These are not his self-portraits but the images of the self confronting the inner self.”

The above remarks by artist Abir Karmarkar reveal the thought behind his compositions that incorporate an unconventional subject matter. His photo realist images appear sharp and edgy, sensual and satirical. They can get as real as a picture, and simultaneously as phantasmagorical as a quirky creation.

Abir Karmarkar’s subject matter moves closer to the reality, drifting away from it simultaneously. His innovative technique yields an imaginary, awe-inspiring autobiography on the canvas. The artist creates a virtual reality, a sort of parallel world, to explore his ‘other’ self, and convey/question certain prevailing concepts and notions in context of sexuality that he finds odd and unjustifiable.

Born in 1977 in Siliguri, he first studied at Rabindra Bharati University, Kolkata. He completed his M.A. (Painting) from Faculty of Fine Arts, M. S. University, Baroda, in 2003. He was awarded a Gold medal. He narrates, “After my formal education was over, I spent over a year honing my artistic skills. I experimented with various forms and mediums.” He felt most at ease with realism. The artist photographed himself in various poses and from various angles, to use the images as a reference, as a starting point for his art.

His debut exhibit titled ‘From my photo album’ was held at Mumbai’s Museum Art Gallery in 2005. Gallery Heike Curtze, Berlin also hosted a solo of his works. A new series of his works ‘Within the Walls’ will be on view in New Delhi and in Mumbai (Gallery Espace, New Delhi - October 1 – 21, 2008; Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke, Mumbai - November 8 – 22, 2008)

Abir karmarkar’s core artistic concern is to depict flesh in all its materiality and corporeality. The artist pays immense attention to aspects like detailing, color and lighting in his creations. They portray a different shade of sexuality with a touch of eroticism and intimacy.

For instance, the artist portrays a female character- dressed in an appealing black dress and tights - with an inviting look; her luscious lips adding to her sensuousness. Another canvas is centered around the protagonists, simply sprawled out on a decadent velvet sofa, lolling, or all set to strut for a fantasy-filled fashion show. The settings, predominantly urbane, are drawn from bourgeois world of fashion and flashy high life.

He elaborates, “To some extent, I dramatize the core concept, but the idea is to dig to the root of it, instead of providing a shallow representation. The presentation is part real, part fictional, part autobiographical in nature. But one really cannot demarcate the boundaries!”

He does not wish to associate his artistic concept with popular tags like ubersexual and metrosexual. He finds such terminology restrictive and redundant, at the best. He treats his canvases more as an exploration into a fantasized world where he can touch, feel, as well as explore his own body with which he is the most familiar. Hence, he employs and projects himself as the model and the protagonist of his works.

Abir karmarkar invariably paints his own self as an androgynous double like a split image of him - both as a man and a woman. An amalgamation of photographic and painterly techniques, they show his alternative ego - the feminine being hidden within me - as he notes.

Looking to blur boundaries between the masculine and feminine, he questions prevailing notions of sexuality. Elaborating on this particular aspect of his creative process, he mentions, “I extensively use readymade or found images. Composition and content both are crucial, albeit the challenge is more at a conceptual level.”

He reveals, “It’s a kind of performance that I indulge in. I am projecting my artistic aspirations on to myself, using myself as a medium.” According to the artist, it’s a self-image, not a self-portrait as he looks to freeze on the canvas a moment, a milestone in his artistic journey. He is neither passing any message nor propagating any ideology. The artist merely articulates his viewpoint through his works.

Abir karmarkar concludes, “As an artist, I am more concerned with enhancing the visual, conceptual quality of my works.”