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Michael Kohn Gallery
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Siji Krishnan at Kohn Gallery

Free

Michael Kohn Gallery is pleased to announce Liminal Spaces, an exhibition of new works by Indian artist Siji Krishnan. For her U.S. debut and first solo exhibition with the gallery, Krishnan presents a group of large-scale paintings and works on rice paper. The exhibition will be on view from April 26 through June 8, 2024.

Recognized for her emotional landscapes which capture the experience of growing up in the vivid countryside of southern India, Siji Krishnan unravels her psyche on canvas in a dialogue between personal and collective memory­.Her family paintings—intricately detailed portraits framed by sensorial impressions of rural village life—examine the kinship between humans and the natural world. Seemingly delicate, the weightless rice paper surfaces are reminiscent of the long, narrative registers of the 16th century Bayeux Tapestry or the subtlety of Giorgio Morandi’s still lives. The works transcend their contemporary trappings and genre associations to create something wholly original.

Liminal Spaces offers a continuation of Krishnan’s work in the spirit of the Perennial Upanishadic dictum, vasudhaiva kutumbakam: “the world is one family.” In this exhibition, the artist builds her own sense of familial identity as a mother; the act of creation (both on the canvas and in her body) allowing her to “gain a fresh perspective and experience new life.” Each of her subjects, though rooted in the artist’s familiar past, are concentrated in the present and prompt the viewer to listen attentively to their stories.

To achieve her signature textural quality, Krishnan layers together fibrous, brittle rice paper. Watercolors are then built up in thin washes of delicate blue and earth tones to achieve a supple, singular patina resembling an old map or sepia-toned photograph. The absence of the illusion of depth means Krishnan’s brushstrokes and subjects stand out sharply; the topography of the natural world blending with the architecture of village life. Her works on linen carry a similarly effortless quality.

The entanglement between humanity and ecology manifests across this body of work on both the microscopic and macroscopic levels. In Womb, the title refers both to the figure of the pregnant woman and her reflection in the rippling pool of water she stands in. Saying bye features accumulation and repetition; the silent gesture of a waving hand of a mother echoes the communication of her baby in utero. With Krishnan’s brush, a cluster of trees becomes a portrait as much as a disparate group of individuals transforms into a landscape. “I started seeing the landscape as a metaphor for this internal transformation,” says Krishnan. “As a result, a realm beyond verbal expression started unfolding. The whole process was something organic, which led to a fragile ecosystem on the canvas.” In their fragility, Krishnan’s landscapes stand as their own and establish a nuanced perspective in contemporary portraiture.

Photo: Siji Krishnan, To be or not to be, 2023-24 Watercolor on rice paper pasted on canvas, 18 1/8 x 18 1/8 inches

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