Prabhavathi Meppayil

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Born in Bangalore, India in 1965, the artist Prabhavathi Meppayil’s work is drawn from the sensitive abstraction of the practice of goldsmithing – her familial heritage. Directly employing tools of the trade – primarily thinnam – in manners that reinterpret, repurpose and recontextualise them, Meppayil’s mark-making is characterised by a sense of delicate yet laboriously repeated interruption atop a painting surface, predominantly primed with multiple layers of gesso. The renewed use of particular materials invites notions of tradition, craft and modernist abstraction to converge on the same field of play, moving away from post-war reductionist tendencies to secure a strong engagement with historical and geopolitical specificity.

Arising somewhere between the precision of artisanal execution and the unpredictability of material condition, Meppayil’s gestural impressions become palpable traces that bear the mark of a temporal dimension. Particularly in works that involve copper wires which undergo her processes of tempering and oxidisation, her compositions capture nuanced transformations and variations over time. Integral to Meppayil’s practice is a concern for the sonic quality inherent in goldsmithing. Apart from the visual repetition in basic geometric forms, the percussive element in the tapping of tools invites another dimensional layer to her work. The engagement with form and process thus invokes the bodily, and unveils the passage of time and its effect on tradition and place.

Meppayil’s solo exhibitions have taken place at: Esther Schipper, Berlin (2018); GALLERYSKE, Bangalore (2017); Pace Gallery, New York (2016); berlinoneseven, Johnen Galerie, Berlin (2014); nine seventeen, Pace Gallery, London and The American Academy, Rome (2014); Recent Works, GALLERYSKE, Bangalore (2013); Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi (2010); Sakshi Gallery, Mumbai (2007); Forum Schlossplatz, Aarau, Switzerland (2001); Chitra Art Gallery, Bangalore (1999). Her work has been shown in group exhibitions including: Cosmopolis #1.5: Enlarged Intelligence, Mao Jihong Arts Foundation and Centre Pompidou, Paris (2018-19); 21st Biennale of Sydney, Sydney (2018); Everything we do is music, Drawing Room, London and Kunsthaus Centre D’Art Pasquart, Biel, Switzerland (2017-18); Yokohama Triennale, Yokohama (2017), The Mulberry Forest Becoming Ocean, Esther Schipper, Berlin (2017); Kochi Biennale, Kochi (2016); Accrochage, Venice (2016); Dhaka Art Summit, Samdani Art Foundation, Bangladesh (2016); Codes of Culture, GALLERYSKE, New Delhi (2015); carte Blanche, Pace chesa Büsin, Zuoz, Switzerland (2014); Approaching Abstraction, Jhaveri Contemporary, Mumbai (2014); abc – art berlin contemporary, Johnen Galerie, Berlin (2013); The Encyclopaedic Palace, 55th Venice Biennale, Venice (2013); everything/nothing, GALLERYSKE, Bangalore (2012); Phantoms of Asia: Contemporary Awakens the Past, Asian Art Museum San Francisco, USA (2012); Shadow Lines, Biennale Jogja XI 2011 #1: Indonesia meets India, Yogyakarta (2011); Orientations: Trajectories in Indian Art, Foundation “De 11 Lijnen”, Oudenburg, Belgium (2010); and many others.

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Images: sb/eighteen, installation view of the 21st Biennale of Sydney (2018) at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. Installation of approximately 875 found objects (iron, copper and brass), and gesso. Dimensions variable. Presentation at the 21st Biennale of Sydney was made possible with generous support from Pace Gallery.
Courtesy the artist; Pace Gallery; Galerie Esther Schipper, Berlin; and GALLERYSKE, Bangalore and New Delhi. Photography: Prabhavathi Meppayil