The alternate view has always been of interest to artist Sumedh Rajendran. Even when he was a child growing up in a family of artists in Kerala, Rajendran was always curious about art outside the state, the movements and mediums, inspirations and influences. It’s the same inquisitiveness that defines his work at Khoj Studios in Delhi, where he seamlessly moves from the familiar to the unfamiliar and immediate to the more distant. “You don’t see life as what it is. There are different versions and interpretations,” says Rajendran.
The exhibition titled “Water Without Memory” is a preview of what will be shown at Sakshi Gallery in Mumbai in October. With a total of eight works, the display is not large in numbers but it does give a glimpse into Rajendran’s engagements in the recent past. Those familiar with his trajectory will instantly draw connections between his last solo “Split Distance” at Vadehra Art Gallery in Delhi in 2015 with the wood works in the ongoing exhibition. There, landscapes in wood were suspended on the walls. In the current set, the focus in on Kashmir — he presents water reflections of burnt houses in the Valley in Reverse Land.
“These are the interiors of a house. In life, there are things beyond what is visible,” says Rajendran, 45. In another room are waterfalls in wood in Rooms Without Insight. The artist admits that there is a contrast in the very nature of the medium — the fluidity of water and the denseness of wood — but he says that the variance is deliberate. “It is about true sense of life, memories, and the different times — the interiors and the time we spend in the lap of nature,” adds the Delhi-based artist.
Assisting his father G Rajendran, a well-known artist, and his grandfather who was a teacher at the School of Arts and Craft in Thiruvananthapuram, art seemed a natural pursuit for Sumedh to follow. But he did not want the obvious. He wanted to develop his own distinct language. “Each individual needs to find purpose of his existence. When we move out, the perception changes. Also, you are going out of your protected environment,” he says. So after his graduation in art from College of Fine Arts, Thiruvananthapuram in 1994, Rajendran enrolled for a masters at the College of Art, Delhi. There was a three-year hiatus in between, and these were years of experimentation and building a thought process. Coming to Delhi was a “cultural transformation”. It was also a city that offered several opportunities to artists, and for Rajendran commissioned projects preceded exhibitions.
One of his earliest solos, “Pseudo-Homelands” at Rohtas Art Gallery in Lahore in 2005 projected “the landscapes marginalised by the hierarchy of power structure, where negotiation is a mere theatre”. Rajendran continued to depict this disparity. His 2008 celebrated work, Infant Region Advancing, for instance, depicted a man falling, and below him were buildings made of tin cans, resembling temples and mosques, commenting on the rise of religious fundamentalism.
Exhibiting at Khoj is also homecoming for the artist. Rajendran was part of the artists collective there from 2001 to 2004. Here, he met his wife, Pakistani artist Masooma Sayed. He also established friendships with artists Gigi Scaria and Arunkumar HG among others. “We used to spend hours working here, discussing art, going for tea to a nearby stall,” recalls Rajendran. There are some beginnings made with the ongoing exhibition too. For the first time, he has used marble, a medium he last worked with in college.
“For a long time after that I thought how can I use marble and bring meaning through the medium. Here, I have used natural patterns in the stone to showcase clouds, which do not seem to be moving but actually are,” says Rajendran. To assist their journey, he places a metal track on top of marble in the work Crossing Frozen Clouds. It is placed next to a work that is trademark Rajendran — Depth of Other Sky. It uses glass and ordinary metal fence, materials that have been recurring in his work for more than five years now. “Like the fence, life too has a pattern but there is a space ‘in-between’, and this work captures that,” says Rajendran.
The exhibition at Khoj Studios ends today. It will take place at Sakshi Gallery in Mumbai from October 12 to November 12.