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Artist Profile1
Why Abir karmarkar loves to paint his own self?
Abir Karmarkar’s compositions incorporate an unconventional subject matter that he portrays in his own inimitable style. His photo realist images - sharp and edgy, sensual and satirical - are as real as a picture, but as phantasmagorical as a quirky piece of art.

The Baroda based artist employs an innovative technique to narrate an imaginary autobiography on the canvas. He explains, “I create a virtual reality, a sort of parallel world, to explore my ‘other’ self, and convey or question certain prevailing concepts and notions related to sexuality that I find odd and unjustifiable.”

Abir Karmarkar’s subject matter moves closer to the reality, drifting away from it simultaneously, leaving one dazed. Born in 1977 in Siliguri, the artist first studied Painting at Rabindra Bharati University, Kolkata. In 2003, he did his M.A. (Painting) from Faculty of Fine Arts, M. S. University, Baroda where he was also awarded a Gold medal.

The artist now has made Baroda his home. He informs, “After finishing my formal education, I spent almost a year honing my artistic skills, experimenting with various forms and mediums. I felt most comfortable with realism. I photographed myself from various angles and in various poses, and used the images as a reference.”

His debut exhibition ‘From my photo album’ held at Mumbai’s Museum Art Gallery in 2005 received an overwhelming response from viewers, critics and collectors. Gallery Heike Curtze, Berlin hosted a solo show of his works last year, titled ‘Interiors’, which again was well appreciated by the viewers and art critics in Germany.

Abir karmarkar’s critical concern is depiction of flesh in all its materiality and corporeality. He pays immense attention to detailing, colour and lighting in his works that portray a different shade of sexuality with a hint of intimacy and eroticism. In one of his canvasses, the artist portrays a female character, dressed in an appealing black dress and tights, with an inviting look; her luscious red lips adding to the sensuousness. Another canvas shows the protagonist, lolling on the bed, simply sprawled out on a decadent velvet sofa or all set to strut for a fantasy filled fashion show. The settings are predominantly urbane, upper class, drawn from bourgeois world of fashion and flashy high life.

He says, “To some extent, I dramatise or magnify the core concept, but the idea is to get to the root of it, and not to provide a shallow representation. It’s part real, part fictional and part autobiographical. One cannot demarcate the boundaries! I am neither propagating any ideology nor passing any message. I merely articulate my viewpoint through my works. As an artist, I am more concerned with enhancing the visual, conceptual quality of my works.”

The artist does not want to associate his concept with popular tags, such as ubersexual and metrosexual. In fact, he finds such terminology quite redundant and restrictive, at the best. His canvases are more of an exploration into a fantasy world where he can touch, feel and explore his own body. Hence, the artist invariably employs himself as the model and the protagonist.

Abir karmarkar often paints his own self as an androgynous double - a split image of him - both as a woman and a man. He explains, “It’s a performance that I indulge in for projecting my artistic aspirations on myself. I use myself as a medium. It’s a self-image, not a self-portrait.” According to the artist, he simply looks to freeze on the canvas a moment, a milestone in his curious artistic journey.

The underlying theme is, of course, that of sexuality; our preset notions of body, our obsession of it, and the resultant glorification in media and society. Elaborating on his creative process, the artist states, “I extensively use readymade or found images in my creations. Composition and content both are crucial, albeit the challenge to me as an artist is more at a conceptual level.”

Working with a mixture of readymade or found images including his own images and other photographic references from personal and archetypal iconography, he reuses and transfigures them, manipulating them to make them relevant to the intended artistic output in oils on canvas.

The artist takes advantage of technology to juxtapose these images in his work that mostly show two personas residing within a single body. The images, carrying a touch of eroticism, come with a touch of melancholy and accentuate the feeling of isolation, which is inherent in his creations. An amalgamation of photographic and painterly techniques, they depict his alternative ego, ‘the feminine being hidden within me’, as the artist reveals. “I look to blur boundaries between the feminine and masculine, by questioning such notions.”

The artist sums up, “Though I use myself as a model, my emphasis is not on physicality. It’s not a mere representation of the self. These are not his self-portraits but the images of the self confronting the inner self.”