Recent works by NANDA DAS

14 – 28 January 2014  |  Daily 11am – 7pm, Sundays Open

Atmospheric Apprehensions

“Open the window. Let the atmosphere come in” – Nanda Das remembers his geography teacher nonchalantly pronouncing every time he entered the classroom in humid environs of Agartala. Windows were promptly open and the ‘atmosphere’ filled the sweaty ecology of the classroom full rambunctious boys. Atmosphere was wind, climate, weather, and more categorically the southwesterly breeze that cooled the earth during musty afternoons. In these canvases, Das has opened all the windows of his apartment tethering at the top of tower in the urban jungle of Thane. And the sky with all its atmospheric flourish has stamped its being on Das’s representational imagination. The sky that permeates his apartment leisurely, soothingly and compassionately infuses with his canvas, transformed by the artist’s existential predicament.

The De-toxicological practice that Nanda Das commenced with his first solo exhibition was an unfinished project. He returns again. If the original intention was to cleanse the self, this project is to decontaminate the world that he inhabits. Purify the air he breathes. Sanitize the world he occupies. Liberate the sky he dwells under. The de-toxicological imperative of his first painterly excursion was waterborne. This is his airborne expedition – an atmospheric voyage to rescue the very ether that embraces his being.

The present project is singularly about the firmament that encompasses his tenacious ontological reality – a universe that is, like his earlier project, a part of the fissured world of mendacious urbanity that he has hesitatingly made his home. Jostling for peace he only acquaints his being with a seething disquiet – a disenchanting foreboding that infiltrates into the unblemished crevices of his fortified soul. This body of work is a courageous intervention into assuaging that unrelenting disquiet that percolates deep into his existential dystopia of his being. Lost, but thriving. Disoriented, but throbbing. Disturbed yet determined.

Nanda Das, the humanoid, the citizen, and the artist is seeking refuge. He wants to live. He wants to survive. And he seeks sky – the last and only resort of a dead hope – undying yet challenged. But that hope is also lost. The sky that he seeks as refuge is already sold. Corrupted. Sullied. Commodified. Hawked in the nauseating market place of stifling capital. This project is to reinstate that sky back.

The atmosphere is under siege. The commodified spatiality of urban Bombay according to Das is not about just capturing space under the hegemonic clutch of capital, but it is actually incarcerating the sky. Das’s work aggressively gestures towards this transformation. Here escalating high-rises of the urban Bombay is eradicating the unrestricted gaze of the sky. He yearns to liberate its emancipatory gaze into infinity. Hijacked by the infiltratory penetration of towering erections, the artist wants to rescue sky’s unfettered fidelity. Das is in search for a sky that has a possibility of celestial deliverance, but is corrupted by the ugly effulgence of affluent urbanity. The skyscrapers are literally scraping the sky of its essence. Modernity has colonized earth, dammed the waters and now he colonizing the sky. The artist in Das is desperate to rescue this sky. He wants to salvage its restorative canopy. He wants the sky that is pure.


The artistic fixation with the sky reflects his tangible transfigurations. From living in low-lying tenements in the dense urbanity of Thane, he has been forced to move into the aerial temperamentality of towering apartment complex. An involuntary disarticulation brought about by the nefarious obligations of real estate insanity that is a perpetual propensity of urban Bombay (.and Thane, by infective infliction). The move dislocated him from the accustomed congeniality of a chawl. Earth, water and foliage that furrowed the four walls of his domestic harmony disappeared. All that remained was the clear sky – blue, red, crimson, cobalt, grey and black – an ever-changing changing atmosphere. High above the earth was just the sky. The changing reality of his life again inserts into the two dimensionality of his canvas.

The dissonance of a retailed sky-scape rattles the politics of the artist. The scared refuge is suffering. And to mitigate the violence, Nanda yanks the sky back to the earth. And from the window through which the atmosphere comes, he tugs the vibrant tenacity of the earth as well. The gritty configuration of the working class – robust Dabawalas, Tongawala and concentrating Chaiwala reclaims the sky. Here they meet the beatific grace of Kali, smiling. The earth, the divine and the diurnal meet in the confluence of a sky that is perpetually persistent.

Nanda Das continues with his signature style of hyper photo-realism. But now it is just not an aesthetic device but it is also a reclamatory practice. He uses the photoelectronic capturing mechanism to apprehend the sky that is getting retailed. He makes it his own, by transforming that sky into a world of his imaginative universe. And in this universe inhabits characters, atmospheres, and climates, weather that gives his ravaged soul a gentle solace. Das attempts to resuscitate the loss of concrete connections to the objects of his sense to fill the existential void within him. It unleashes a flow of new perceptions that his sky-scapes manages to apprehend that the city’s skyscrapers are unable to comprehend.

Ashish Chadha (Asst. Prof. Film Media, University of Rhode Island)

Exhibits in this show

Project Details