“Social Expressionism: Discordance, Harmony and Flow ” _________ A solo exhibition by Raka Panda | West Bengal, India
Emergent Art Space is pleased to present a solo exhibition of young Indian artist Raka Panda, highlighting the evolution and ongoing development of her artwork.
Engaging panoramic scale, this exhibition features works created by Raka Panda in the last several years, interspersed with text from her artist statement. The images presented have been selected to show a range in tempo, perspective, mood, and focus relative to the artist’s interests, observations, and experiences, culminating in the harsh pandemic realities of our current day.
Raka Panda’s expressive and emotionally attuned paintings explore human existence through observations of people in the West Bengal region of India where she lives and works. Taken as a whole, these pieces evoke the artist’s symphonically expansive range, with probing and interconnected tableaus of paintings and groupings of smaller works in dialogue with one another. Engaging her art practice and compassionate nature, she seeks to connect with and understand humanity within landscapes of culture and class. With her inquisitive, socio-political narrative eye, she examines commonalities, disparities, challenges, and inequities. She claims to be unraveling her own identity and perspective in the process and her paintings offer viewers an opportunity to do the same.
Ann Wettrich, EAS Curatorial Team
AROUND THE SKY
LIFE AROUND THE CIRCLE
As an artist, I aim to build a world that is undeniably separate from the one we live in. What fascinates me about any artistic medium is its potential to pull the viewers out of a logical common world and place them in a space that is more alive. I use narrative forms to represent the world, using expressive painterly qualities to provide an alternative perspective.
MORSELS FROM THEIR LIVES
My subjects and concepts pull deeper and deeper into the world we live in. I am fascinated with people--their variety of emotions, physical expressions and dispositions, not only expressions of enjoyment but also of struggle, frustration, dislike. My aim is to help the viewers not to overlook disturbing facts. I have faith that empathy and emotion play a significant role in shaping the essence of my paintings.
The Ahmedabad slums, the daily life around me, the local market, the crowds and the roadside vendors are the subjects that take form on my canvas. Amidst the chaos, smiling faces and mute spirits, every character is unfolding their story quietly even though they are surrounded by noise.
I explore identity and place in the society where I grew up, representing complex realities and focusing on local people with varied ways of living. My own upbringing was in a middle-class family, residing in a village at the border of the two states of West Bengal and Odisha.
During the research and photo documentation stages of the process, observing the life around me, I discover faces of people whose eyes I connect with. Suddenly my attention might switch to a deprived person who has been ignored, or to some reality of social contradictions that haunts me in my daily life and raises my awareness.
WORKS ON THE THEME OF TRANSPORT
I believe in bringing attention to the unattended. Connecting observations with the canvas, I give concrete form to emotions. I want my imagery to visually represent the stories of ignored and marginalized sectors of the society, populating unwanted space.
The narrative core of my paintings is inspired by the the work of the Bengali philosopher Rabindranath Tagore, and it aims to connect to humanity, representing socio-political issues, identity crises and the economic burdens at the basic levels of quotidian survival. Observations and interest in people have inspired me to create my visual language.
OUR OWN WORLD
Either the whole human figure or only a particular part of a person’s body are depicted on the canvas. My intent is to highlight specific aspects of deprivation, showing people who are silenced and stigmatized by mainstream society. Through my practice, I have deepened my awareness of and relationship to these harsh realities.
The works of German Expressionist painters have strongly influenced my work. For this reason my paintings have acquired novel configurations beyond traditional forms of expression, and here I feel my own identity.
WORKS ABOUT THE PANDEMIC 2020-2021
Focusing on representing individuals, I can harmonize myself with a totality and feel part of it. An existing true being is felt. I learned during this work that when vision is pure or undisturbed and creation is clear, then ‘real enjoyment’ is attained.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Raka Panda is based in West Bengal, India where she was born and raised. She received BFA and MFA degrees in Painting from Kala Bhavana (Institute of Fine Arts) at Visva Bharati University (founded by Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore) in Santiniketan, West Bengal.
Her work has been exhibited widely in India and also has been shown internationally. Seeking to deepen her creative practice, she has participated in international arts workshops, residencies and fellowship programs. Most recently she was awarded first prize in the Emergent Art Space’s international online exhibition Calling Across the Distance, adding to a growing list of distinguished awards, grants and scholarships.
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