“Cloud over the landscape” is a deep engagement with the subjectivity of maps and their inherent function as history-making devices.Using interventions like painting, erasing and burning the photographic image before it is transferred onto wood, artist Saju Kunhan creates room for accidents, mistranslations and loss of information.
In elaborating on his method in the catalogue for Stained Geographies, he says “Photographic printed images are always the moments of history. I destroy the moment, add more layers in it and remove certain layers of identity from it.” He recognises this manipulation process in his reconstructions and takes advantage of it to fictionalise history and narrate an altered reality.
This image of the map of Delhi, in particular, is a response to the shifting political climate of the land, with cloud-like shadows falling over various parts of the city. The imagery of the figures seen on the top and bottom edge of the panels are “translations of clay figurines and dioramas of ethnic groups and events originally documented by the British during their Indian expedition” and hence speak of their own particular histories. Presenting cultural and socio-political contours, the map morphs out of a mere recording into a palimpsest of varied pasts and presents.
Saju Kunhan’s practice is a subtle reiteration of migration histories, geographies and their positioning in the twenty-first century primarily through the process of image transfer on wood panels. The significance of materiality is evident in the treatment of the images, as they are an amalgamation of several recordings ranging from intimate portraits of people to Google Maps screenshots, producing a time-scape not only through the grain of the wood but also through the landscapes captured. The artist’s choice of using recycled wood panels comes from his fascination with forgotten or unknown histories, which he can then alter, subtract from or add to, and enable a “rebirth of the wood as an art piece” as Kunhan puts it.
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TitleCloud over the landscape
MediumImage transfer, soft pastel, acrylic and varnish on wood 6 Panel-work
DimensionsH: 152.4 cm x W: 274.3 cm (each panel)
Genre: Modern & Contemporary Art