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Artist Profile1
Navin Thomas’s enchanting creative journey
The choice of materials for a creative mind is akin to a boundless journey with many turns and twists– each having a unique character. Time and effort spent on exploring them invariably presents with myriad possibilities and fascinating processes of understanding. There’s a sense of mutual give and take once work starts getting conceptualized. The materials on their own guide the artist and reveal for themselves ways of using them. It’s an open-ended quest with no definitive conclusions.

Working tirelessly and seamlessly over a prolonged period of time with different materials allow a thorough understanding, through the mind as well as the body. Navin Thomas’s working processes reveal the intriguing aspects of a creative sojourn. He is known to be an artist always keen to experiment.

For example, at an unconventional residency program organized by KHOJ art organization, he was one of the sound artists invited to experiment with their medium. Driven by a visual world, a whole new world of sensorium was opened up in front of viewers. Other than his preoccupation with voice culture, automation, and sleep cycles, the artist is known to keenly explore the mesmerizing sound worlds of different organisms.

Earlier this year, at ‘Immersions - The White Cube Project’ by Anant Art Gallery, New Delhi, he etched on black glass, and highlighted the pre-eminent role of computer and television screens in our day-to-day lives. In his work, the reflective black void of the sleeping screen held virtual world of possible interactions and resultant experiences. On the other hand, for one of his recent creations Navin Thomas made use of found twigs, steel sphere, salvaged electronics, furniture, used sheets, live crickets and mousetraps.

Born in 1974 in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, the artist has done a diploma in graphic design and holds a diploma in cinematography from Karnataka Film and Technical Training Centre, Bangalore. Among his recent solo exhibitions are 'sound asleep', Gallery SKE, Bangalore and Project88, Mumbai (2006); 'Auto In', and 'In Transit', Gallery SKE, Bangalore (2005, 2004). His work forms part of group exhibitions like 'RE ASIA - Avatar, Asia's Narrators', Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, and 'Mechanisms of Motion', Anant Art Gallery, Delhi. Among the workshops and residencies he has attended are the Mattress Factory in 2007 and AFFA, winter artist residency program, Paris (2006).

The urge to experiment was again visible in ‘Analytical Engine’, an exhibition curated by Heidi Fichtner at Kolkata’s gallery Bose Pacia earlier this year. The participating artists included Rohini Devasher, Anita Dube, Kiran Subbaiah and Navin Thomas, among others. Along with them he launched into an experimental journey through neo art mediums, conceptually grounding his works based on sound component. He devised sound designing into art material. It led itself to a process of interrogation of the proven tenets of art history and the apparent irreproachability of history.

To put his off-beat work in a broader context, an essay by writer Zehra Jumabhoy on Frieze website deserves a mention here. It pointed how Bangalore’s burgeoning economy has done more than providing artists with fodder for fun. In this context, Navin Thomas agrees that the boom has proved to be a boon for ‘object art’. The artist, who has made his share of ‘object art’, was mentioned as turning his attention to other less commercial projects, including an endeavor to hatch a bird in a cage populated by mechanical birds programmed to react to sound, in order to observe how the ‘speech’ patterns of the live animal would be affected by the interaction. Interestingly, members of the public could see the work’s progress.

As is evident, Navin Thomas often thrives on the sudden element of surprise in order to arrive at something unexpected and keep the viewers engaged with his work. The deliberate merging of exterior stimuli with inner thoughts is a strategy he employs to achieve this result. The methodology sums up the spirit of his enriching creative journey thus far.