x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Bose Krishnamachari: a startling, colourful artist

In his Stretched Bodies exhibition at 1x1 gallery, the artist revisits his trademarks and engages with the well-known art of Andy Warhol and Piet Mondrian.

Roots + Maps = Mondrianity.
Roots + Maps = Mondrianity.

A genial, mild-tempered man in person, Bose Krishnamachari is content to share the spotlight in his work as well. He curates shows for other artists, famous and less so, and addresses their work in his own creations. The Kerala-born and Mumbai-based artist's new show at 1x1 finds him engaging with two icons in the western tradition, Andy Warhol and Piet Mondrian, while at the same time revisiting some of his own trademark approaches.

The old stuff greets you first. Krishnamachari's Stretched Bodies series is a sequence of giant, psychedelic acrylics, explosions of saturated colour that retain just enough structure to suggest a confused and artificial interior space. Picture an avalanche of fried eggs and dolly mixture falling on a bouncy castle and you have an idea of the tone. Krishnamachari has been adding to Stretched Bodies for several years, and appears indifferent as to whether the new canvases should be regarded as free-standing works or contributions to an evolving whole. Some circular paintings are exhibited alone; larger, rectangular examples are hung contiguously to form a giant, migraine-inducing frieze stretching around the gallery wall. Yet this open format is the essence of the project: the paintings are reactions to Mondrian's rectilinear abstractions. It's as though Krishnamachari has tried to make them bulge and then burst in every direction at once.

The De Stijl painter comes in for more explicit tweaking in an installation called Roots + Maps = Mondrianity, a set of white bookshelves so crooked in design that they look like crazy paving. The shelves are fringed with a kind of architrave giving them the outline of cartoon clouds, or, for that matter, of a land mass crisscrossed by roads. Thus Mondrian's arid geometry is forced into new dimensions and returned to the world of objects.

The most startling piece in the show is an installation called White Ghost and Red Carpet. A long bench is crammed with microphones, whose multicoloured wires snake through holes and tangle across the carpeted floor. On the other side of the table are 13 white chairs. The chairs are of curious design: indented with grid patterns, their high backs cut into keys or alphabetical characters. They look a little like Parviz Tanavoli sculptures rendered in Lego. The whole thing is an almost chaotically allusive work, yet here again, Mondrian feels close by.

Not everything in the show comes off. A pair of red-hued realistic paintings depict Krishnamachari variously with Andy Warhol and Mahatma Gandhi. They are captioned "Long Live...!" The subtext, one assumes, is that in each case the king is dead and the heir is smiling expectantly, but these pieces are too half-baked to take seriously and too dingy to laugh off. Elsewhere is a series of works involving fist-sized grey hemispheres glued to the wall in Braille-like patterns. They resist interpretation and deflect attention: in the context of this show, they're wallflowers at a riot.

NO by Bose Krishnamachari runs at 1x1 Gallery until April 30.