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RATHEESH T.

Artist Spotlight

Video-Show

When I was invited to write this short text about four painters that work with Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke, I was uncertain how to proceed, being largely unfamiliar with these artists' practices and having no immediate thoughts on painting — an important reason why they were brought together. I am glad we persevered because what followed was a series of engaging weekly online studio visits, from quarantine in London to various locations including in Kochi, Trivandrum, Baroda and Rotterdam where these artists are based. 

While I missed the full experience of going into the studio, meeting in person, and having a direct encounter with the work, I appreciated a technology, which meant that without traveling I was still able to learn more about these four artists and their relationship to the medium of painting. And what follows is a series of short excerpts from our conversations.

The 4 painters will be profiled in 4 Online Viewing Rooms, beginning with Trivandrum-based Ratheesh T. (born 1980).  

Image

I Am (Cleaning Pond), 2015

Oil on canvas 

78 x 96 in / 198 x 244 cm

In the work of Ratheesh T. the visual worlds of Kerala have been consciously reduced to a series of portraits, principally of himself, as well as images of his studio and its immediate surroundings in Trivandrum where he lives and works. The elimination of surplus elements in his practice gets chronicled in the painting ‘I am (Cleaning Pond)’ (2015) where a jumble of clothing has been discarded leaving the artist naked, while behind him the walls crumble away to reveal a scene in which mechanical diggers extract weeds from the pond behind his studio — an image which is at once metaphorical and taken from life. He describes himself as ‘not telling big stories’, not plucking images from the air, but detailing what is happening right here ‘in my small life’. As we speak, he moves the camera to show his studio balcony with its high wall, which in a double portrait currently underway, sees him jumping up in order to see over to the pond below.

Image (the wall one

The Wall Between Us, 2020

Oil on canvas

72 x 84.4 in / 183 x 214.5 cm 

Text Middle Step

The Middle Step, 2014

Oil on canvas

96 x 77.9 in /  244 x 198 cm

Collection: Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, Japan

Ratheesh explains that while the work ‘I Am (Cleaning Pond)’ was pivotal, an earlier painting ‘The Middle Step’ (2014) also depicts a transition for the artist. This is an upward mobility through his art from a poor childhood, to success and recognition in adult life. In this painting we see Ratheesh ascending a chrome-railed staircase to an upstairs room and looking back to a group sitting at a table below that includes his mother, and four childhood versions of himself. They are eating papaya and jeering at the artist as he walks up and away from them. ‘Papaya’ the artist explains, ‘is low-cost food in Kerala’ eaten by disadvantaged families such as his own. It is noticeable that he has painted the family group with exaggeratedly dark skin, and in our conversation, he describes the association between caste and skin tone that exists in Kerala to which this refers. For example, he relates how in the 10th grade, he was teased by his classmates who called him ‘Booker’ following a lesson about Booker T. Washington, the African American born into slavery, who went on to become a prominent educator and leading intellectual in the late 19th early 20th Century.  

As I was finishing this text, the gallery sent me an image of the artist's most recent painting, a self portrait with his daughter — which is also included here.

— Grant Watson

Image (with daughter
Installation View Amma

Amma, 2016, oil on canvas, 70.9 x 47.3 in / 180.2 x 120.3 cm. Private Collection.

Invisible Caterpillars

Invisible Caterpillars, 2019

Oil on canvas

72 x 96 in / 182.8 x 243.8 cm 

Installation View 2018

Slide-Show

Slide-Show Thumbnails

Invisible Caterpillars, 2019

Oil on canvas

72 x 96 in / 182.8 x 243.8 cm 

Inquire

Amma, 2016

Oil on canvas 

70.9 x 47.3 in / 180.2 x 120.3 cm 

Private Collection

Allotted Land, 2018

Oil on canvas

71.6 x 120 in / 182 x 306 cm

Private Collection

Kiss (Clear Pond), 2016

Oil on canvas

72 x 84.2 in / 183 x 214 cm 

Collection: Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University

I Am (Cleaning Pond), 2015

Oil on canvas 

78 x 96 in / 198 x 244 cm

Inquire

The Wall Between Us, 2020

Oil on canvas

72 x 84.4 in / 183 x 214.5 cm 

Inquire

The Middle Step, 2014

Oil on canvas

96 x 77.9 in /  244 x 198 cm

Collection: Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, Japan

Silent Dialogue, 2021

Oil on canvas

72 x 48.4 in / 183 x 123 cm

Inquire

How Are You, Who Are You?, 2018

Oil on canvas

78 x 120 in / 198 x 305 cm 

Private Collection

I See You, 2018

Oil on canvas

78 x 96 in / 198 x 243.8 cm  

Collection: Zuzeum Art Centre, Riga, Latvia 

AmmaVeedu, 2019

Oil on canvas

78 x 120.5 in / 198 x 306 cm 

Collection: Zuzeum Art Centre, Riga, Latvia 

Morning Fruit, 2019

Oil on canvas

72 x 48 in / 182.8 x 121.9 cm 

Collection: Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, New Delhi, India

Contestant Waiting at Legend’s Corridor, 2020

Oil on canvas

48 x 36 in / 121.9 x 91.4 cm

Collection: Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, New Delhi, India

Invisible Caterpillars, 2019

Oil on canvas

72 x 96 in / 182.8 x 243.8 cm 

Amma, 2016

Oil on canvas 

70.9 x 47.3 in / 180.2 x 120.3 cm 

Private Collection

Allotted Land, 2018

Oil on canvas

71.6 x 120 in / 182 x 306 cm

Private Collection

Kiss (Clear Pond), 2016

Oil on canvas

72 x 84.2 in / 183 x 214 cm 

Collection: Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University

I Am (Cleaning Pond), 2015

Oil on canvas 

78 x 96 in / 198 x 244 cm

The Wall Between Us, 2020

Oil on canvas

72 x 84.4 in / 183 x 214.5 cm 

The Middle Step, 2014

Oil on canvas

96 x 77.9 in /  244 x 198 cm

Collection: Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, Japan

Silent Dialogue, 2021

Oil on canvas

72 x 48.4 in / 183 x 123 cm

How Are You, Who Are You?, 2018

Oil on canvas

78 x 120 in / 198 x 305 cm 

Private Collection

I See You, 2018

Oil on canvas

78 x 96 in / 198 x 243.8 cm  

Collection: Zuzeum Art Centre, Riga, Latvia 

AmmaVeedu, 2019

Oil on canvas

78 x 120.5 in / 198 x 306 cm 

Collection: Zuzeum Art Centre, Riga, Latvia 

Morning Fruit, 2019

Oil on canvas

72 x 48 in / 182.8 x 121.9 cm 

Collection: Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, New Delhi, India

Contestant Waiting at Legend’s Corridor, 2020

Oil on canvas

48 x 36 in / 121.9 x 91.4 cm

Collection: Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, New Delhi, India

Grant Watson is an independent curator based in London. He holds a PhD in Visual Cultures from Goldsmiths College, London. He was Senior Curator at Iniva, London (2010-14), and Curator at MuHKA, Antwerp (2006-10), where he presented the large-scale exhibition “Santhal Family: Positions Around an Indian Sculpture" (2008), which addressed left politics and modernism in India. He was Visiting Curator for documenta 12 in Kassel in 2007, where he researched the participation of contemporary Indian artists in the exhibition. Recent activities include 'bauhaus imaginista' a 3-year research project exploring the transnational character and reception of the Bauhaus with exhibitions and discursive events taking place in Asia, Latin America, Europe and the USA.