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Artist Profile2
An artistic agenda shaped by mystical arts, philosophy, mythology and technology
Baiju Parthan’s overriding concern as an artist is to minutely and assiduously reflect the changes that occur around him, and also to generate fresh metaphors and symbols that have the potential to expand the range of meanings that we can wrestle out of life and reality.

His fascination for technology, blended with his passion for mythology is palpable in his practice. The artist views them as symbiotic, as he thinks both mythology and technology feed off each other. He is in constant search of metaphors that can seamlessly be translated into artistic symbols. While studying mythology, he could study different systems and locate motifs like the hero myth and creation. Also being, a hardcore science fiction junkie, Baiju Parthan could see the whole thing from a different perspective, starting to find parallels in these worlds. In fact, he enjoys the whole aspect of technology since it dramatically shifts perceptions, and allows us to extend our own selves in novel ways into the immediate environ.

Coming from a Marxian background with well defined ideological thoughts to conform to social norms, he happened to meet a group of thinkers, to realize for the first time that he had a choice. This confrontation completely changed him, as he was exposed to a not-so-mainstream, mind-bending literature that loosened up his ideas of the world around. He was also interested in sculpture, mythology and anthropological studies, all enhancing his artistic growth. In the process, the restless artist created his own reality.

According to him, reality is what you tend to make of it, and it’s up to you to extract the kind of meaning from it, based on your perceptual framework’s peculiarities. You look at the world on basis of who and what you are! While learning Western art history, as part of the curriculum, he was disillusioned that one had to have of British or Western origin to be counted as an artist of substance. Hence he started becoming realist, and the journey ahead for him was all about exploration.

Born in Kerala in 1956, Baiju Parthan studied Painting at Goa College of Art from 1978-83 and has received a Master's degree in Philosophy from The Mumbai University. He has featured in several major group and solo exhibitions in India and worldwide, comprising Galerie Christian Hosp, Austria; Anant Gallery, Delhi; Aicon Gallery, NY; and the Ninth Asian Bienniale, Dhaka in 1999. He essentially works with 3D graphics that are linked with aspects of animation and virtual reality. He has grasped programming with a scripted language in 3D procedural animation, Python.

The direction of his art took another twist after the artist got hooked to philosophy - the understanding of the self as perceived in the western and eastern ways of thinking. How you create art is defined by the way the self is organized. His quest to create is more to do with knowledge “Every new bit of knowledge is never undone, he believes, and tries and transforms himself through learning…as how far one can extend oneself into one’s own self, and also one’s family, the society, the nation. Having lived in an inflated personal bubble, engrossed in his own worldly pursuits, he decided at some point that maybe he was not being fair to the rest of his life.”

He worked with traditional media as in painting on canvas as well as new media which range from interactive programming based art as well as large scale prints on metallic surfaces. Both these areas pose their own challenges and also expand the scope of what he can say. While painting gives him the space to be introspective, new-media allows him to be more proactive. He explains: “I think communication technology is something that is really transforming our social reality and cultural space simply because it deals with communication and human communication and language is the site wherein social reality and cultural identity is constructed.”

London based Aicon Gallery has just showcased a solo ‘Dislocation’ (Milljunction- Part 2) of his works. Elaborating on his new body of works, he has stated: “Mumbai being a cosmopolitan city, consists of a floating population of immigrants from various parts of the country. Each one of these communities and individuals has their own version of Mumbai as their recollection of getting to know and comprehend it.”

In some works, different styles of painting exist within a single frame, in others it seems like two different time zones are pictured simultaneously. The artist also subtly uses mirroring within some of them and in a few the surface is interrupted by dripping computer code. This gives rise to a dizzying sense of multiplicity. His new series is both celebration and lament, archaic and super-technological. His use of mirroring, time-lags and alternate realities suggests a realm, or a mind that is disintegrating, the products of a restless gaze that never settles on one thing, or one time zone, for long.

A review in The Hindu by writer Ramya Sen mentions that his interest in technology, married to his passion for mythology is reflected in his art. The artist has been quoted as saying: “I am a hardcore science fiction junkie – that is where the two meet for me. Metaphysical becomes science fiction – Matrix is essentially the hero myth in a cyberpunk environment! You start finding parallels in these worlds.” The new series is incidentally an extension of his first solo in New York that raised the question about ‘the significance of mythic vocabulary, when modern icons are nothing but virtual symbols of themselves?’

The artist had stated: "I certainly see virtualization and gradual relocation of our everyday 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 is to capture this particular marker and also re-assert the physicality of the photographic image.”

Baiju Parthan has studied the Indian mystical arts, tantra, ritual arts, and Indian mythology that he includes in his contemporary art practices. He adds: “All these themes or subjects I have studied were out of the need to 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.”