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Amol K Patil’s UK Debut: ‘The Politics of Skin and Movement’ at Hayward Gallery

Celebrating a Multifaceted Artistic Journey

Amol K Patil, the conceptual and performance artist from Mumbai, is set to make his institutional solo debut in the United Kingdom with the exhibition titled ‘The Politics of Skin and Movement.’ The show is scheduled to open on October 11, 2023, at the Hayward Gallery’s HENI Project Space, marking a significant milestone in his artistic career.

A Multidimensional Artistic Expression

Amol K Patil’s exhibition promises to be an interesting blend of various art forms, including drawings, poetry, sculpture, kinetic objects, and moving images. It draws inspiration from both art and political activism within Patil’s own family, rooted in the vibrant cultural hub of Mumbai.

An Artistic Lineage

Patil’s artistic lineage is a rich tradition of creativity. His grandfather was a poet, and his father an avant-garde playwright, setting the stage for a lifetime of artistic exploration. This exhibition serves as a voice to the influence of his family’s creative heritage, infusing his work with depth and resonance.

Exploring the Body and Urban Environment

Patil work is deeply rooted in the exploration of the complex and intricate relationship between the human body and the urban environment. His artistic inquiry explores various aspects of this connection, addressing contemporary issues such as labor conditions and casteism. Through his installation art, Patil seeks to bridge the past, present, and future, offering a unique perspective on these pressing issues.

Amol K Patil receives Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation/Kochi-Muziris Biennale Award - Announcements - e-flux
Amol K Patil, The Politics of Skin and Movement, 2022. Photo: Kochi Biennale Foundation | Courtesy: Joseph Rahul.

Patil’s work at its core examines how the human body interacts with and is influenced by the urban environment. He may explore how the physical spaces, architecture, and infrastructure of urban areas shape our daily lives and experiences. This investigation can involve both the physical and psychological impact of urban living.

Installation art is a key medium through which Amol K Patil expresses his artistic vision. These immersive and often site-specific artworks allow him to engage viewers on a profound level, making them active participants in the exploration of his chosen themes. His installations may encompass a variety of materials, such as sculptures, multimedia elements, and even soundscapes, to create a multi-sensory experience.

Patil’s art is not confined to abstract concepts; it is deeply rooted in addressing pressing contemporary issues. Labor conditions, for example, might be explored through his work, shedding light on the challenges faced by workers in urban settings. His art may serve as a platform for advocacy, drawing attention to social injustices and inequalities.

Amol Patil - Prince Claus Fund
Artwork by Amol Patil – Prince Claus Fund

Another significant theme in Patil’s artistic inquiry is casteism. In many parts of India, caste-based discrimination remains a pervasive issue, impacting the lives of millions. Through his art, Patil may raise awareness of caste-related challenges and engage in a dialogue about how to address these issues in the context of the modern, urbanised world.

Patil’s unique perspective and creative lens are crucial to his artistic practice. His ability to reimagine the human body and the urban environment in novel and thought-provoking ways challenge viewers to see these familiar elements in a fresh light.

Breaking Borders, Real and Imagined

Amol K Patil’s exploration of borders, both real and imaginary, stands as a central and poignant theme in his artistic work. This theme allows him to dive deeply into the challenges faced by individuals, particularly those within his community, when it comes to accessing and moving within spaces that are often marked by division and restriction. Through his art, Patil offers a thought-provoking perspective on issues of identity and belonging in the context of these borders. Patil’s art examines the duality of borders – those that physically separate spaces and those that exist in the imagination. Real borders may include physical boundaries like walls, fences, or checkpoints, while imaginary borders can represent societal, cultural, or psychological barriers that restrict movement and access.

Amol K. Patil’s ‘ThePolitics of Skin and Movement’ installation at the Kochi Biennale 2023. Photos by Antara Dasgupta.
Politics of Skin and Movement’ installation at the Kochi Biennale 2023. Courtesy: Antara Dasgupta

Patil’s work brings to light the challenges and restrictions individuals face when trying to navigate these borders. These challenges can be multifaceted, encompassing issues related to immigration, citizenship, socio-economic disparities, and discrimination. By visualising and embodying these struggles through his art, Patil makes them tangible and relatable to a wider audience.

As an artist who often draws from his own community’s experiences, Patil provides a unique and authentic perspective on border-related issues. His work may shed light on the specific challenges faced by his community members, emphasising their resilience and determination in the face of adversity. Borders inherently bring questions of identity and belonging to the forefront. Patil’s art prompts viewers to consider how these borders impact an individual’s sense of self and their connection to a place or community. It may challenge preconceived notions about who belongs and who is considered an “outsider.”

Installation view of Amol K Patil, The Politics of Skin and Movement, 2022. Photo: Kochi Biennale Foundation / Joseph Rahul
Installation view of Amol K Patil, The Politics of Skin and Movement, 2022. Photo: Kochi Biennale Foundation | Courtesy: Joseph Rahul

Through his artistic expressions, Patil invokes a strong emotional response from viewers. Whether it’s through visual symbolism, storytelling, or immersive installations, he invites people to empathise with those affected by borders and to reflect on the broader implications of such divisions in society.

Patil’s art serves as a platform for advocacy and social commentary. By highlighting the issues associated with borders, he encourages dialogue and action around topics such as immigration reform, social justice, and human rights. His exploration of borders may manifest in various artistic mediums, from traditional visual arts like painting and sculpture to more contemporary forms such as performance art and interactive installations. This diversity of expression adds depth and richness to his exploration of the theme.

Recipient of Prestigious Award

Amol K Patil’s artistic prowess has earned him the inaugural Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation/Kochi-Muziris Biennale (DBF-KMB) Award. This award not only recognises his talent but also provides emerging South Asian artists with the opportunity to present their inaugural institutional solo exhibitions in the UK at the Hayward Gallery’s HENI Project Space.

A Journey of Rediscovery

Patil’s artistic journey has evolved over time, from visual art to a keen interest in performance art, kinetic art, and video installation. He draws inspiration from a collection of sounds and immigrant dialects recorded by his father for avant-garde theater scripts. These findings, along with handwritten songs by his poet grandfather, have deeply influenced his artistic expression.

Reviving Chawl Architecture

Amol K Patil’s ongoing work revolves around excavating and investigating the unique architectural style of Mumbai’s chawls, five-story structures that provided social housing for mill and factory workers in the early 1900s. Through his art, he captures the dynamic essence and soundscape of these chawls, breathing life into their historical significance.

A Vision for a Counter-Memory

In his recent work, Patil expands his research to examine urbanisation and the invisibility of the working class in evolving urban landscapes. He seeks to create a counter-memory, challenging established narratives and exploring the complex relationship between humanity and our ever-changing environments.

Amol K Patil’s artistic journey, influenced by his family’s legacy and driven by a passion for social commentary, promises to captivate audiences in the UK. ‘The Politics of Skin and Movement’ at the Hayward Gallery’s HENI Project Space is not just an exhibition; it’s a celebration of art’s power to provoke thought and inspire change.

Feature Image: Amol K Patil | Courtesy: Prince Claus Fund

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