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Artist Profile3
Socially oriented agenda of a young and talented artist
Among the select few contemporary artists from India who featured in the 2011 Venice Biennale at the country’s first eve official Pavilion, young and talented Praneet Soi is greatly influenced by the issues that touch our daily life. His practice is a byproduct of his constant journey, observation and search of cultural contrasts between and his native city Kolkata and Amsterdam, where he now lives. He has traversed distant and diverse cultural grounds, from India to the Netherlands, passing via the US. On his flat acrylic engravings, he looks to denounce, the spasmodic pressure we suffer every day from religious and political realities. He is known for addressing sensitive social issues with a global or local resonance.

For instance, when onion prices touched a record high, housewives took to the streets last year. Food inflation was soaring and this staple of Indian cooking turned a political hot potato. But for Praneet Soi it proved to be a source of inspiration, as he felt the onion crisis was an issue directly affecting common people in India and beyond. He researched the subject and created a series inspired by food inflation recently on display. The artist took photos of routine trading in Okhla’s fruits & vegetables market. When the inflation reached its peak, he decided to work with geometry for giving them new perspective.

His idea was to draw fresh attention to ubiquitous images many had become accustomed to – those typically paired with inflation news stories. But he did not want to make any political statement. He was quoted as saying: “It’s kind of an interesting story since it depicts the varied textures of India sans being too particular. It’s about something (inflation) that happens all over the world.” However, he is opposed to the idea of making images to narrate a story, and simply wants people to ‘build their own stories from these images.

Born in 1971 in Kolkata, he did his Bachelors of Fine Arts and later Masters (Painting) in 1994-96 from Faculty of Fine Arts, M.S. University of Baroda. After completing a Masters Degree (Visual Arts) from University of California, San Diego (2001), he studied at Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten, Amsterdam (2002-03). Among his selected solos are 'Still Life', Vadehra Gallery, Delhi (2009); ‘Het Oog (the Eye)’, Van Abbe Museum, Eindhoven, Netherlands (2009); 'Cut-Out', Gallery Martin Van Zomeren, Netherlands (2009); ‘Juggernaut’, Project 88, Mumbai (2008); ‘Face to Face’, LKA, Delhi (2006); ‘Northern Wind’, Galerie Martin Van Zomeren, Amsterdam (2005); 'Spinning Stories ... # 3’, The Kromme, Tent, Rotterdam (2004); 'A Short Walk’, The Inkijk, SKOR, Amsterdam (2004); and shows at University of California, San Diego (2003, 20005).

Among his recent selected group exhibits and participations are 'Genius without Talent', de Appel Boys' School, Amsterdam; 'Concepts & Ideas 2011', (CIMA), Kolkata; 'ID/entity', Vadehra, Delhi; 'Progressive to Altermodern', Grosvenor Gallery, London; 'Generation in Transition', Zacheta National Gallery of Art, Warszawa, Poland; Ural Industrial Bienale of Contemporary Art, Ekatarinburg, Russia; 14th Vilinus Painting Triennal, CAC, Adelaide; and the 2009 'ARCOmadrid' fair in Spain. A recipient of The Russell 2002 Grant courtesy University of California, he also served Residency at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Maine in 2001. He received a Grant from the Ministry of Education Culture & Science, Netherlands in 2004.

With his work, Praneet Soi strives to express the encounter of different eras, skillfully synthesized in an archaic two-dimensionality that’s expressed with raw and violent lines, reflecting contemporary society. Keen to experiment, he works in a wide range of media like painting, drawing, audio-visual assemblages etc. He employs ancient eastern refinement to emphasize the suffering of humanity. His visual idiom recalls that of the 16th-17th century tradition of ‘Rajput’ painting in Rajasthan, and that of the iconographic ‘Kalighat Pata’ from Kolkata. The Indian folk art and its techniques have influenced his style apart from the traits of realism that they carry in a ‘western’ sense of inferring the term.

Giving an insight into his processes, a curatorial note to his display ‘Het Oog (the Eye)’ at Van Abbe Museum had mentioned: “In a time where we are inevitably confronted with images of conflict from all over the globe, the artist asks himself how the human figure is represented in contemporary image culture. In our time, where the use of age-old image conventions is appropriated in professional image production, what happens when this very figure is ripped apart and an attempt is made to reconstruct it in another way?” On the other hand, his ‘Cut-Out’ comprised an archive of images composed as cut out collages, together with paintings and a mural as a means for him to mark out his physical, political and cultural environment. On the other hand, his ‘Juggernaut’ included works that when juxtaposed led to a certain social commentary.

Encapsulated within the notion of progress today are the dual forces of war and globalization. The thread that strings these forces together is history. The series employed political imagery born of such process to picture the strange alliances and mutations that populate its disturbed trail. His paintings in miniature format and on flattened ground explored images of unrest from across the world - Afghanistan, Lebanon, London and Iraq, whereas for a project earlier this year, he visited the insurgency hit city of Srinagar in Kashmir. An interactive document was prepared to follow the state’s political problematic along juridical lines within history. A slide-show detailed a personal and intuitive exploration of the city. Collages, text as well as photographs drew upon its inherent beauty. The composition – not predetermined - albeit materialized in a symbiotic relationship with the space.

As part of his socially oriented artistic agenda Praneet Soi continues to explore representations of familiar images emanating from the rumblings around in particular, to grasp how such imagery can affect the way we might perceive our own surroundings.