The journey of two artists who make a power couple!
The Indian art field has seen a few artist couples, powerful in their unique way, which also sets them apart from their partner. We’re in talks with Jagannath and Pranati Panda, today, to understand each one’s approach to art and how it is affected by having a partner, who is an equally renowned artist. We spoke with Jagannath and Pranati separately and then questioned them together on a few aspects regarding each other's artistic practice and art in general.
Beginning with Jagannath, we spoke to him about his reconciliation with ‘Myth and Technology’. His artworks are a sophisticated reflection of India’s transition in an era of extreme urbanisation. His visual narratives exist in a world where reality, dream, and metaphor unite and often contain animals who are personified and are living out the complexities brought about by social change. The contradictory propositions, duality, chasm merge seamlessly in his artworks - fantasy and truth, old and new, natural and constructed, rural and urban. These juxtapositions find characters from Hindu epics, legends, and lore in the cityscape. Even as his artworks display various disruptions and deteriorations brought about by human activity, the use of light and colour communicates an uplifting, enchanting view of existence as a whole.
AA: How did your interest in merging myths and technology come about?
JP: We grew up in a culture that loves stories, which gives us one moral or one truth, which is why myths are a process of understanding reality in one’s narrative. The artworks come face to face with duality trying to strike a balance. When you speak about technology, it is the by-product of our knowledge and wisdom. It depends on how we use technology - are we able to maintain balance?
AA: Was social change always a matter close to your heart and purpose?
JP: I never approach my work to be right or wrong. It is our perception that we project at nature, which is what it gives back to us. Whatever information is accessible to me through social media, news, personal meeting, etc.; my perception and my understanding find its way onto the canvas, which many believe to be a social commentary.
AA: What has changed in your artistic narrative in The Trance Narratives, from your previous solo show?
“I enjoy working when our state of mind reveals itself in the visual of my artwork, which is constantly changing.”
The Trance Narrative mainly focuses on and articulates the contemporary condition of the oppositions between development and greed, sustenance and waste, and between faith and science, which awakens other eyes as a circumambulatory element on a cyclic path. Time in Indian thought is not linear but cyclic. Thus, life plays out in infinite repetitive loops rather than following a progressive way. The role of witness and narrator (such as our Narada Muni, the celestial observer) is a vital one, for he is the observer and keeper of history and knowledge and also of wisdom. The witness of time is ever-present as a bird, beast, human and hybrid of a social narrative.
AA: What have you learned about yourself as an artist and your art practice while you collaborate with so many galleries, curators, and fellow artists?
JP: Working with galleries, curators, and artists is inspiring. The support that I was able to garner from them and bring to my work and practice; I am only grateful for that.
I think this also gave rise to the Utsha Foundation. This foundation that I have established works with the community through a diverse art program and also supports younger artists!
Pranati Panda, on the other hand, has a very delicate feel to her artworks. Unlike Jagannath, there is strength in the fragile artworks. It almost personifies her as a human being, an artist, a creator, a nurturer, and so on. Speaking of her solo show at Vadehra Art Gallery, Pranati puts elements of art, nature, life, and haberdashery together into circular frames, hoops, and vitrines, where these elements pulsate and take various forms within worlds of their own. These abstracts are better understood through their materiality. Threads adorn these artworks, which for Pranati represent feminine energy - soft, plaint, able to stitch together, bind, and unite the torn, but comfortable to cut and dwindle. The net, however, represents masculine energy - strong, unbreakable, unchangeable, protective like a shield but porous enough to let the light and thread pass through.
“The thread connects me to my past and my present.”
Red, for her, is fiery, visceral, life-giving, and zen-evoking. It is why she wakes up every day by 5:00 am to meditate in the energy of the dawn, a morning ritual she built while reclaimed from the passing of her firstborn due to brain haemorrhage more than a decade ago. This loss was an additional blow after she lost her mother a few years before this unfortunate incident. For a year, she abandoned art until she was advised to take recourse in it as a therapeutic release.
AA: In the way, you use mediums, what has changed or evolved since 'Weaving Land' in 2017?
PP: I’ll go back a little while ago, somewhere around 2007; it was then that I began using threads in my artworks. I used them in artworks, but never stitched or hand-stitched them into my artworks. I started referencing several textile artists like Sarah Walton, Lenore Tawney, etc. especially their practical expertise.
If you see my latest works, I use dissolving fabric; there are a lot of floating images here and there without any base, which has been technically inspired by Australian artist Meredith Woolnough. The way she used dissolving fabrics made me reminisce about life, which made me mindful of my memories. So that is the difference that occurs after 2017 regarding the usage of threads and technicality.
I have also ventured into videography and photography. I have also worked on sculptures!
AA: What inspires you to create art that transpires life and various other occurrences?
PP: Yes, it's the essence of absence. It is my personal life experience; my mother lives in me. I am reminded of my son’s absence every day. Particular incidents have shaped my life and my work. The relation to my work is deeply personal but not direct.
AA: Your work has excellent detail, line work, exciting textures, and motifs - was this something you also tended towards in college?
PP: I still consider myself an art student! I am still learning. But, during my college days, I have amassed a wealth of practical knowledge - like how to use different mediums skillfully. Studio practice, additionally, has also taught me how to use materials and fabric as well. Art education helps you understand and work with various materials.
“Every material teaches you its use and delivers it's energy.”
AA: Conceptually strong, and medium-wise fragile - does it get difficult to strike a balance between this play?
PP: Life itself is healthy and fragile. Life is always contrasting. For me, fragility and strength, both exist in my works as they exist in life.
At the fag end of the conversation with Jagannath and Pranati, we had to understand a few things from them, especially what they thought of each other’s work and practice. Jagannath is all praise for Pranati. He says, “She works harder than me. She has so many ideas to explore; constantly reading and working.”
We asked Pranati about Jagannath’s most interesting artwork or series of artworks. To this, her response was: ‘The Being’ is one of his most substantial works. In 2015, when the artwork was brought into the gallery, it drew me into it; the Rhinoceros’s form was massive and was life-like. Another great work of his is ‘Ravana’, 2011.
AA: Do both of you advise each other on how to go about each other's works of art? Does it happen often?
PP: We share our studio space, though we have different working times. We usually share and communicate what we think about each other's work. Though our approach is different, we still speak about the working of the art world, artists, and more.
"He is like my mentor."
The two are great admirers of each other's artistic journey and practice. It only goes to show how poignant a partner's participation shapes not just one's life but also ones' legacy.