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Anant Joshi analyzes fast changing urban culture
Anant Joshi has often arrived at his dynamic creative expression from intriguing forms and spaces, which he opts to construct or sculpt. In his drawings and paintings, the artist employs carefully selected toys. He breaks them apart, and paints over, to re-contextualize, involving a process of de-construction and subsequent re-construction within his own artistic space and context.

When the artist unveiled a series of six large paintings in his first NY exhibition show ‘Kiss Me-Kill Me, Push Me-Pull Me’ at Talwar Gallery, this particular aspect of his work was amply illustrated by New York Times art critic Holland Cotter. The critic mentioned: “Asian cities are changing fast. They are going up and coming down at about equal frenzied speed. Urban culture - flooded with global goods and media - is changing too. Inevitably, such transformations have a big impact on art and are the subjects of work by Anant Joshi.”

In each painting, Mumbai - or an abstract version of it - sat like a jumble of building blocks on the horizon. Falling across the city was the long shadow of a tiny winged female figure in the foreground, its form based on Barbie-like plastic dolls made in China and sold in India. The mirrored, shadowbox-style sculptural pieces were assembled from hundreds of miniature Chinese toys that the he painted in bright candy colors and pasted edge to edge onto block-like supports. Blindingly lighted, endlessly reflected, encrusted with tiny detached heads and limbs, weapons and cars, the sculptures were monuments to consumerist chaos.

He even creates mini-dioramas with packing materials (thermocol, boxes and crates), and then throws light off of these staged ‘backdrops’, thus casting shadows and silhouettes, often inducing ideas for his creative output. These often act as the impetus for a concept or a form to emerge, largely inspired by the changing in social morals that prompt the artist to ‘co-operate with the demands of these constantly evolving and modifying diaromas.

Anant Joshi, born in 1969 in Nagpur, Maharashtra, did his B.F.A. and M.F.A. (Painting) from Sir J.J. School of Art. The artist has featured in major shows like 'City- New Perspectives from India' at the House of World Cultures, Berlin, and has received several prestigious awards including 'Bendre Husain scholarship' and Bombay Art Society Award. He was selected for Rijksakademie, Amsterdam in 2002-03, and also won the prestigious 'Prix De Rome' Award, Amsterdam. Recently he featured in shows at National Museum of Contemporary Art, Korea; Essl Museum, Klosterneuberg, Wien, Austria; and ‘Chalo! India: A New Era of Indian Art’, at Tokyo based Mori Museum.

Among his other recent important projects are ‘May Look Closer Than They Appear’ in collaboration with Willem Baars Art Consultancy (2008), and ‘Nostrum – Towing Left Turning Right’, Kashi Art Gallery, Kochi (2007). He participated at the India-centric art and culture festival ' - New Perspectives from India' launched by The House of World Cultures, Berlin in 2003. The never-ending search for one's own identity as provoked by experiencing alien surroundings formed the core of his multimedia work ‘Black to Play and Draw’.

In ‘Navel: One and the Many’, one of his significant body of works hosted at Chemould Prescott, Mumbai (2007), hybrid creatures, bulbous minaret-like ceramic forms, and the sharp razor-blade screen, came together in ‘a dramatic theatre of public/private protest’. The curatorial note stated: “Today, with TV and print media playing an active role of mediating between the private, the personal and the public experience, these hybrid notions of belonging are zoomed in to the scale of haziness or at times radiating the consciousness to the level of isolating the private to the domain of public spheres. The multi-layered/sensory-filled works try to generate experiences, which hit at the deep, dark, violence of the mundane acceptance of our individualistic schizophrenic everyday urban lives.”

His ‘May Look Closer…’ was exhibited in the 9th edition of Art Rotterdam, Netherlands, in 2008 courtesy Chemould. A set of 2 triptychs and 4 canvasses painted with gold, collaged upon with cutouts of virtual buildings, were embellished with gold leaf. The cutouts of these virtual buildings were representations of ‘ideal homes', reflecting the urbanity of our own daily lives. On the other hand, the free standing sculptures were juxtaposed as opposite reflections to these ornamented and bejeweled paintings. This was in continuation of his art practice, involving the usage of the playful - interposed with the urban sinister- the ongoing conversation of employing the found within the made object.

At a broader level, Anant Joshi opts to tackle themes, such as mass-scale migration, mediated images of bodies in collective social/political protest actions and cultural/economic processes, which tend to mark and define the quality of human life.