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Artist Profile1
Baiju Parthan's awe-inspiring practice traverses multi-faceted realms
Trained in diverse streams like botany, painting, illustration, engineering, computer science, and even comparative mythology, Baiju Parthan's awe-inspiring artistic scope inhabits multi-faceted realms. He has deftly created a unique vocabulary based on the intriguing usage of symbols and archaic imagery.

Baiju Parthan's work tries to seek existential reconciliation with the perceived intangibility of the intriguing information age. His practice essentially revolves around the omnipresent theme of the intersection between the areas of collective imagination, the material world, as well as the non-material digital sphere. He constructs highly compelling mythic imagery mostly in black, with shades of blues and greens. The parchment brown background creates an illusion of some secretive magical cult’s medieval manuscript.

Born in Kerala in 1956, he studied Painting (Bachelor of Fine Arts) at Goa College of Art (1978-83) and then received a Master's degree in Philosophy from The Mumbai University. A Postgraduate Diploma in comparative mythology and hid degree in botany provide ample hint of his inquisitive mind. These diverse elements inform his thoughtful work that all retain a cohesive almost narrative touch in spite of their disparate origins.

He has stated: “The different themes or subjects I have studied at various points in my life are out of the need understand why I am I here, and what I am doing. And as such they have become part of my life and my art. I think those things have become lens through which I look at reality and that gets reflected in my art quite naturally. At least, it appears natural to me.”

His selected solo exhibitions are ‘Liquid Memory + Rant’, New Media Installation, Vadehra Art Gallery, Delhi (2007); ‘Source Code’, courtesy Art Musings at Museum Art Gallery, Mumbai (2006); and ‘Vapour’, New Media Prints, The Guild, Mumbai (2005). Among his selected group shows last year are 'Size Matters or Does it?', Latitude 28, Delhi (2010); 'Living of the Grid', Anant Art Centre, Delhi; 'Retrieval Systems', India Habitat Centre; Art Alive Gallery, Delhi; 'Sacred and Secular', India Fine Art, Mumbai; 'Harvest 09: Part II', Arushi Arts, Delhi; 'Progressive to Altermodern', Grosvenor Gallery, London; 'Zip Files', Tao Art Gallery, Mumbai; 'Forging Narratives in South Asian Contemporary Art', Aicon Gallery, New York

Baiju Parthan's latest series of work ‘MILLJUNCTION’ at Aicon Gallery marked his first solo in New York. The collection of paintings and photo works was a multimedia bricolage of the artist’s astonishing scholastic and professional background. His palette of black, white and sepia tones recalled the iconic vintage Bollywood posters of his youth, and the photo-realistic tradition of the 1960-70s. However, these images, superimposed with ASCII (the American Standard Code for Information Interchange), became icons of a different sort. He changed the originally developed as telegraphic code to an existential commentary, and asked, "What is the significance of mythic vocabulary, when modern icons are nothing but virtual symbols of themselves?"

To put it in his words, he sees virtualization and gradual relocation of our day-to-day activities from the realm of the real into virtual data space as the most important signifier or marker that identifies the present historic moment. The attempt in these ASCII code paintings is to capture this particular marker and also re-assert the physicality of the photographic image …

Emphasizing the dynamic nature of his practice, a curatorial note mentioned: “Citing Sartre's book L'age de Raison, Jungian psychoanalysis, Joan Miró and the Surrealist Manifesto, as well as traditional Indian mysticism as sources of inspiration, the artist creates his very own rich, contemporary mythic language in a search for meaning.” According to art critic Ranjit Hoskote, the unique artistic language holds secret signals for us, directives pointing to virtual universes that begin at the threshold of the everyday reality we know, threads into hidden archives of continuity.

According to the artist, with the photograph gradually turning into a virtual entity, the physicality of painting has become more attractive to him as an artist. He adds, “I feel the physicality of the painted image is becoming an important or the only counterpoint to the fact that the photograph of today (our primary source of images) is a virtual object captured on a digital camera and uploaded onto an online album or to a hard disc where it lives as bits and bytes, till invoked onto a computer screen."