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Kriti Arora

First at Khoj
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Kriti did her Bachelor of Fine Arts from MS University Baroda in 1995. She then pursued Film and Photography along with doing her Master from University of Massachusetts Amherst USA.She has participated in several group shows in India and abroad including France, Canada,New Delhi, Baroda and many more. She had her solo shows in 1999- Where Art and Justice Unite, Art and Industry Building, Amherst USA, 1998- Mandir Masjid, Student Union Gallery, University of Massachusetts USA. Curatorial Note by Robin Dean – INROADS…bloodlines —–The works represent the evolution of an idea that began in 2004 with a journey to Jammu and Kashmir, her ancestral home. In the body of work that has emerged one is confronted by an artistic journey that mirrors her intimately personal pilgrimage to this conflict torn region. The personal quest to come to terms with her family history has drawn the artist back to the region again and again. She recalls ‘my mother and I were driving to Chutumail, where the last India-Pakistan war took place. At the Zhojilla pass between 14,000 to 18,000 feet we saw these men and were not sure whether they were army or militants. As we drove close we realized they were Bihari road builders. These men covered in tar working at high altitude surrounded by a barren landscape was such a striking image that I felt compelled to capture their emotions…’ It is pertinent to note that her initial desire was to capture their emotions not the reality of their appearance. Unlike much of her work the series is not overtly political, but her figures are intentionally ambiguous, reflecting her own initial uncertainty about the nature of these figures as she first saw them on the pass. Their clothing has a military slant yet their despondent faces and emaciated features suggest a deeper uncertainty and isolation. Yet as road builders they create the social arteries by which the region can survive and potentially prosper, as such they are symbols of a new future. The road builders are therefore metaphorical creatures. Dressed in warm, sometimes voluminous jackets and coats, they combine forlornness, darkness with a sense of detachment. Their stark and cheerless surroundings penetrate their souls and yet, at another level, they are valedictory creatures straddling two ambivalent universes. Hallucinations of horror and yet brave fighters, who are helping create linkages, building bridges in this strife-torn country and also, helping build a bridge between the instinctive chaos that marks so much of our lives. With the initial series of photographs began a metamorphic artistic process in which images and forms evolve from one another through variations of mediums and materials. Ink and tar portraits emerge from the photographic studies which evolve further into large images on canvas and finally into life-size sculptures, each allowing for different levels of allegorical association. The faces in the initial ink sketches are encased in tar, from these pupa-like forms the larger canvases mutate, the figures emerge more fully but the tar remains as part of their very substance, part of their being. Emerging from these figures themselves like a medical scan are lines that at first glance appear to be the folds or texture of their clothing, but on closer inspection reveal the blood that is pumping in their veins, their weakened skeletons, or the despairing bronchioles of their lungs urgently requiring oxygen to continue their work in this landscape of extremes. Some figures even hold human bones in place of tools, the symbols of the human cost of such projects. These lone figures with vacant stares, even within the largest canvas neither interact with one another nor engage with the audience instead they stare out to unseen horizons. Yet, undaunted in their unique isolation they are powerful symbols of a region experiencing a rebirth. The depiction of these lone isolated figures reveals part of Kriti’s artistic journey. The sculptures expand this metaphor to a new level, unlike the paintings the sculptures reflect the physical reality of the figures first confronted on the pass, but the postures are detached from any immediate context. As with classical Indian sculptures where hand postures or mudras are symbolic of the role that a deity performs within the manifest world so too the raised hands and lunging limbs of the tar figures reveal their implied activity without specifying the nature of their role. The ambiguity experienced first hand by the artist is thus reflected in the forms of the figures, their military style clothing and aggressive stances are in direct contrast to the anguish expressed in their facial features. When confronted by the sculptures these polarities create a sense of unease whereby despite our initial intimidation we are forced to empathise with their pain. The ghost-like figures entombed in tar appear frozen in time, caught in an unending cycle of toil and anguish, reminiscent of the tormented figures of Pompeii, where the muted horror of their final moment of life is caught forever in their contorted limbs encased in lava. Courage and fear, anguish and hope, death and rebirth, the cycle of experiences expressed symbolically in the figures are heightened by the presence of the video projection which running in an unending loop depicts an exploding mountainside forever reforming only to be destroyed again. The figures and the landscape that surround them thus become modern symbols of the polarities of human experience or taken at a universal level they reflect the creative and destructive cycles of the universe itself. The forms are the final manifestations of an artistic pilgrimage and the culmination of the artist’s desire to express her personal vision of a region. As an audience one steps into the mythical landscape of the artist and is forced to participate in that experience and part of her journey. Born from their toil and from the elements that surround them, these road builders represent universal symbols for the human condition and yet they remain emblems for the rebirth of a region, a creative energy with the potential for an enduring legacy that still hangs in an uncertain balance.