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Artist Profile1
City as his site and source provides Justin Ponmany with inspiration
Locating his subject matter in Mumbai’s neglected alleyways, Justin Ponmany brings to fore the life’s brutality in a country divided by class differences and the resultant Darwinian theory of survival that acts as the basis of one’s existence.

His creations largely owe their origin to the dynamic cityscape undergoing a constant metamorphosis, presenting its inhabitants a new set of challenges, and keeping them on their toes. To remain grounded in a city defined by flux, to put it bluntly, implies constant reinvention and adaptation of self. The artist digs into the turmoil of the city life in this context, to seek inspiration and motivation for his painterly act.

Justin Ponmany ably captures the struggles of the ordinary beings through a contemporary and astute aesthetic. The street is oft-repeated metaphor for panning out self-images of a commuter in transit or trapped in a traffic jam, marking a moment of repose; a temporary rupture of the pervasive speed, shaping the world by sheer force. He interprets living values to depict the changing cultural climate and also to project the city-state - the skyline and structures, with inbuilt plastic cables and wires.

The artist even opts to distress surfaces of his canvases, creating gritty portraits drawn from day-to-day life. He prefers to work on and with definite documentary evidence contained in the print media and photographic images. As part of his painterly processes, the same undergoes many upgrades. Employing unconventional media and methods, he ably conveys his artistic concerns.

Using photo images as a basis of his work, he imbues the surfaces with resin, plastic, printer’s ink, holograms and salt to conceive his typically rugged stylistic effects. He also makes use of traditional acrylic paint, charcoal and smoke. The slick holographic media often coats the canvas, purposely sanded and worn away, akin to the scarred urban landscape of India.

As evident in one of his recent series of works, Justin Ponmany has been striving to explore the dynamic relationship between the subjects and the viewer. The conscious structuring of his compositions makes the work interactive, often giving the feel that the viewer is being watched and followed by the picture itself.

Born in Kerala in 1974, the artist has made Mumbai his site and source for constantly working around the self and the mass, space and environment that points to the urban depressed, lack and also the politics of lack. The artist did his B.F.A. in painting from Sir J.J. School of Art. He has had a number of solo shows apart from participating in various prestigious exhibitions in India and internationally.

He was the 2003 runner up for Bose Pacia Prize in contemporary art category. The gallery presented an exhibition of his painting, photography and drawings on paper, entitled ‘Who's Keeping Score’ in 2007. Providing an insight into his working processes, a curatorial note mentioned: “Justin Ponmany's art alludes to the paradox of the post-modern moment. In this era of chaotic confusion any individual experience is profoundly intimate and un-shareable. However, it may also be revealed to the world at large owing to enormous technological advances. It’s the struggle between these two forces that propel his art.

“His appealing aesthetic is a bewildering blend of the grittiness of everyday communication modes and technologies and protocols of iteration (coupled) with the lyricism of a meditation on soul, self, time, place, survival and decay. Keen on gauging the impact of the Internet on personal as well as geographical borders, the concept of collapsing borders underscores his artistic quest.”

Justin Ponmany’s photographic portraits feature various denizens of the city. The idea is to explore the human body as landscape. The human form is depicted simultaneously as a portrait and directional map; the head treated as a globe, opening up like a map as it gets sheered from the two ends of its axis. The portrait is stretched to the four corners of the plane with maximum pictorial data divested for perusal that simultaneously extradites contours and borderlines of identity.

"My work is spurred on by the sudden moment of truth when everything around collapses and only the threadbare nakedness of the weaving remains," he has once mentioned. At a broader level, it reflects genuine social consciousness that is identifiable, albeit subtly rendered.