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Artist Profile3
Prajakta Potnis probes the interior and exterior spaces
Prajakta Potnis’s work tends to evolve on acknowledgement and appreciation of the restricted private space like the interior of a typical middle-class house where ‘feminine’ colors and objects seem to embellish the interior spaces. It though, often serves as a starting point for a more complex search and deeper observations. The artist builds a paradoxical situation around existing human habitation wherein walls are a metaphor of the closely guarded human territories. She subtly creates notations of the disregard and fragility inherent in everyday situations through and within them.

In her installations and painted images, she exhibits an interest in the differences and the similarities, as perceived between human skin and urban walls by her. The idea is to generate curiosity for both boundaries between the outer and the inner space of human nature and manmade constructions.

Living in a city calls for a tough outer shell in order to tackle life’s challenges and literal, material shelter of four walls. Like the human skin, walls stand at the boundary between interior and exterior space. Both being vulnerable, the artist pays attention to wounds, disruptions and scars, giving a new perspective of seemingly familiar surroundings.

She began analyzing her own skin and then proceeded to scrutinize the texture and function of real walls, ones that circumscribe as well as protect the inner space. Once the walls start to crumble in her canvases, they create an entirely different space, leading us to a sometimes startling, new world.

Inspired by the familiar objects and landscapes, Prajakta Potnis transforms the realities drawn from everyday life into coded dreams, creating a make-believe world she depicts as 'a fairy tale suspended in reality’. She imparts a new dimension to it by inserting fictitious characters with a curious identity of their own, exposing the fragility of desire and the impractical romanticism of dreams.

The artist stands out for her ability to rediscover instead of merely restating and documenting a piece of reality. She explains, “The are of my work breeds between the intimate world of an individual and the vast world outside separated only by a wall. It resides within the four walls of a household where one’s life grows/ decays, wherein the ‘still’ walls transform as a veil and also as organic separations between the inside and the outside world. The images echo a certain kind of numbness felt in everyday living.”

Ever since her school days at Holy Cross Convent in Thane, Prajakta Potnis yearned to be an artist. Her art teacher encouraged her and she decided to join the Sir J.J. School of Arts where she completed her M.F.A. in painting. The promising youngster won several accolades and awards, including the INLAKS Fine Arts Award (2003–04), Camlin Award, Sir J. J. School of Art (2002); Scholarship for Young Artist, Human Resource Development, Department of Culture (2001–03); Late Dinanath Mangeshkar Award and S.B. Palshikar Award, Sir J. J. School of Art (2001, 2000); and Arts Society of India Award, Mumbai (1997).

Among her significant solo shows are ‘Membranes and Margins’, The Guild Gallery, Mumbai (2007); ‘Membranes and Margins II’, Singapore Art Fair Mumbai (2007); and ‘Walls–In– Between’, The Guild (2006), apart from noteworthy group exhibitions, including the recent one at The Guild; ‘Living off the Grid’, Anant Art Center, New Delhi (2009); ‘Here and Now: Young voices from India, Grosvenor Vadehra, London (2007); ‘Soft Spoken’, The Bombay Art Gallery, Mumbai (2007); ‘Reading Paint’, Gallery Soulflower, Bangkok (2007); ‘Some Blind Alleys’, Anant Art, Delhi (2007); ‘Mumbai Metronomes’, Art and Soul Gallery, Mumbai (2007); ‘Urban Smiles’, Project 88, Mumbai (2007); ‘Paper Flute’, The Espace Gallery, Delhi (2006); ‘Anticipation’, Galerie Mirchandani+Steinruecke, Mumbai (2005); and ‘Bombay*17’, Bombay Art Gallery & Kashi Art Gallery, Cochin (2004). She participated at the Contemporary Istanbul art Fair in 2007.

At ‘Home’, a group show hosted at the Travancore Palace, Delhi (2009), the minimal site-specific environment created by Prajakta Potnis carried forward her ongoing concerns in a lyrical way. Here she looked to build on an earlier work – a skirting made of a white frill – and objects of daily usage in most middle-class homes like a tube light and an electric mosquito repellant plug. Her project drew attention to ‘the disregard experienced in everyday living; to echo the complex psychological character/attitude of people living within the four walls of a house or a city.’

In essence, her work tends to oscillate between ornamentation and aggravation. It echoes a pursuit that may deceptively invade the human psyche, which eludes margins of passivity and recreation.