Abirpothi

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Marginalised Voices Find A Platform In Ranjan Kaul’s ‘Within, Without’

Renowned for his portrayal of underrepresented groups, Ranjan Kaul will have his fifth solo show, “Within, Without,” at the Visual Art Gallery from March 26 to the 31st. After that, from April 12 to April 22, the performance will take place in Urban Fringe, the underground studio. 

A multifaceted personality, Ranjan Kaul is a visual artist, art writer and published author. He left his corporate job at the peak of his career to pursue his love for art. A self-taught artist, he has been passionate about art and literature since his early years and has painted on weekends throughout his professional life. 

The artist depicts the intricacies of our modern society, emphasizing the struggles women and children face. The most recent incident in Tamil Nadu, where 60 Dalits traversed “Kambala Naicken Street” wearing shoes for the first time, inspired the piece “Slipper and Silver.” 

Through deeply nuanced and phantasmagorical paintings that use allegory, magic realism, metaphor, symbols, poetry, mythology, and fantasy – Within, Without is Ranjan Kaul’s expression of what he views as a discordant, chaotic and disrupted world. The works reflect the complexities of contemporary society, which is inured to realities of complacency by altogether new technology-based media narratives. 

Hope Confronts Anarchy by Ranjan Kaul- oil on canvas – 48 x 60 in. – 2022-

The focus areas include the condition of women and children, self-interest, and the plight of the oppressed and marginalized. The artist’s concerns are not confined merely to those that meet the eye but also those that remain hidden – that take place in the home, in the interior of the mind. Rather than creating a mood of despondency and despair, the works give a glimpse of hope and harmony, of a world brimming with love and romance, music and dance. Rather than depict his serious thematic as realistic reportage, the artist often enlivens his work with a quirky, satirical skylarking, using hybrid, chimeric creatures. 

The exhibition will be held at the Visual Arts Gallery from 27th to 31st March 2024. Then, the exhibition will continue at Urban Fringe – the underground studio at Okhla Phase 1 from 12th to 22nd April 2024.

Main to Raste se ja raha tha by Ranjan Kaul – oil on canvas – 35 x 44 in. – 2023-

A dominant theme in the show is the predicament of women, particularly those belonging to the oppressed groups, given their lack of choice and autonomy and absence of agency. While the paintings depict their onerous social circumstances, they simultaneously offer a glimmer of hope, portraying their strength, resilience, and resolve as they do. The artist’s “Disrupted” series expresses the trauma that women, as also men, go through, faced with the strains of living in a harsh and, at times, antagonist society that is often unaccepting of their choices.

Some paintings weave narratives around the broader socio-cultural landscape, including five paintings loosely inspired by Shelley’s poem, Masque of Anarchy, juxtaposing the poetic imagery with imagined scenes from current times. Another two satirical works depict the growing obsession with the self, of makeovers, body-shaping and selfies, while another is a tongue-in-cheek image of a cocktail party.

Bloomscrush by Ranjan Kaul

“The primary focus of this show is to give imaginative articulation to what I believe are the disruptive and disquieting conditions we live in. These works are a reimagined umwelt of our times in which I use various devices and visual languages – from mythology and literary references to flora symbolism and human-animal hybrid characters.” Says Ranjan Kaul.

Daydreams by Ranjan Kaul

He adds, “I have explored various styles, treatments, and choices of the medium by shifting thematic – from heavy, textured layers of acrylic using the palette knife, watercolour, mixed media, to working with thick brushstrokes using oil. I find sticking to a particular style or theme rather constricting. I thus remain free from conservative constraints that can inhibit an artist from innovating, discovering, and learning. While my shows are thematically different, my oeuvre has a certain continuity where expression is concerned.

ABOUT THE ARTIST

Ranjan Kaul is a contemporary visual artist, art writer, critic, and published fiction author. He has held four major solo shows of his paintings in New Delhi: Ringside View, Open Palm Court Gallery, India Habitat Centre (Nov. 2021); Where do They Belong, Arpana Art Gallery (Oct. 2019); Staying Alive, Lalit Kala Akademi (May 2019); and Essence of Being, India International Centre Gallery, Kamladevi Complex (Nov. 2017) and participated in about a dozen group shows as an invited artist. Last year (2023), he curated and participated in a two-person collaborative exhibition, WhatsUp, at Urban Fringe – the underground studio in New Delhi. He also participated in about a dozen group shows in New Delhi, Kolkata, Kochi, and Nizhny Novgorod, Russia. His works are in private collections in India, the US, Dubai, and Hong Kong. He had a long and distinguished stint in book publishing. He served as Managing Director of Oxford University Press India while painting and writing fiction before he decided to leave publishing and take up art professionally. 

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