Praneet Soi - Srinagarnew installation in the Van Abbemuseum collection
From 28 January 2016 a new acquisition will be displayed in the collection presentation The Collection Now. It is an installation named Srinagar (2015) by Praneet Soi who lives and works alternately in Amsterdam and Kolkata, India. Delving into ideas linked to the depiction of Srinagar’s cultural fabric and the slippages in the public understanding of its rich historical legacy, the show is set against the backdrop of the violence, loss and longstanding misrepresentation of Kashmir in mainstream media. It brings together Soi’s artistic probe into Srinagar’s cultural elements as well as his contemplative reflection on Kashmir’s portrayal in the public domain.
The opening of the exhibition takes place on Thursday evening 28 January at 7.30 pm with an artist talk between Praneet Soi and Charles Esche, director of the Van Abbemuseum.
Soi’s first visit to Srinagar was in 2010, shortly after violent protests erupted across Kashmir and waves of stone pelters, young and old, descended on the streets of the city. Srinagar was the first stop of a personal journey through which Soi seeks to dig into the connections between forms and images which have travelled, through the passage of time, across China, Iran and India. It was in relation to this enquiry and in an attempt to understand the links between Kashmir, Central Asia and Iran that he spent his time in the city documenting the many historic Sufi shrines in Srinagar. He furthered this investigation at the Smithsonian, where he was awarded a fellowship to study South Asian and Islamic Art at the Freer and Sackler Galleries.
It was during his first trip to Srinagar that he met Fayaz Jan, the Ustad (Master Teacher) of an atelier where he later returned to work in 2014. Jan’s apprentices painted traditional motifs on the papier-mâché boxes and objects that flood shops across Kashmir. The art of papier-mâché, a composite material made of pulped paper and adhesive which hardens as it dries, travelled to Kashmir from Iran much like the decorative patterns on Sufi architecture. Soi worked with the craftsmen to create experimental compositions based upon historical designs they still work with today.
The installation consists of 44 painted papier-mâché tiles arranged upon a table. The walls surrounding the table have been painted chalk-board black. On the surface are traced in chalk a sequence of images including one from Leonardo Da Vinci’s 'Codex Atlanticus’ which speaks of anamorphosis, a perspective technique which causes an image to appear distorted. Soi’s reference to the method is an oblique allusion to the state of Kashmir and the media’s perception of it, fed on images and information that obscures more than it reveals. Lastly, a dual-projection slide-show narrates his exploration of traditional patterns used by the cities craftsmen interspersed with images he collected during his stay in the city.
Praneet Soi (Kolkata, India, 1971), studied painting at the Maharaj Sayajirao University, Baroda, India and visual arts at the University of California, San Diego. Soi moved to the Netherlands in 2002 to follow a two-year international residency program for artists at the Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten, and since then he has divided his time between Amsterdam and Kolkata. Amongst other international venues, Soi participated within the Indian Pavilion at the 54th Venice Biennale (2011). In 2009 Soi worked for six months on a series of murals and sculptures in and around Het Oog at the Van Abbemuseum.
Evelien Scheltinga, Christiane Berndes.
The project is part of the exhibition The Collection Now, which was made possible with the support of BankGiro Loterij, Mondriaan Fund, Stichting Promotors Van Abbemuseum, and VSB Fonds.
Srinagar was made possible by support from Outset Contemporary Art Fund. The installation was acquired with the financial support of the Stichting Promotors Van Abbemuseum.