Critics’ Picks

Jitish Kallat, Circadian Study (contact tracing), 2020, graphite and aquarelle pencil, stained gesso, organic gum,16 x 20 1/2".

Jitish Kallat, Circadian Study (contact tracing), 2020, graphite and aquarelle pencil, stained gesso, organic gum,
16 x 20 1/2".

New Delhi

Jitish Kallat

NATURE MORTE
A-1, Neeti Bagh
August 11–December 31, 2020

The punning parenthetical in the title of Jitish Kallat’s virtual exhibition “Circadian Study (contact tracing)” alludes to both its predominant medium, drawing, and, with the now-familiar term for identifying routes of infection, pandemic time. Specifically, Kallat explores how the Covid-19 crisis has affected the rhythms of our species’ way of life, how lockdown has rendered the passage of day and night somewhat otiose as a chronological marker.

The eponymous suite of graphite and aquarelle “contact tracings” consists of red and green outlines of twigs’ shadows, a record of the sun’s daily journey on paper, rendering of time as pigment. Obscure words annotate the drawings, “fleeting mental notes and intuitions” that the artist says are illegible even to him within hours of finishing the tracings. Durational works that play with the tension between the artist’s control and natural phenomena are not new for Kallat—Wind Study (the hour of the day of the month of the season), 2015, and Rain Study (the hour of the day of the month of the season), 2016, involved exposing graphite coated with inflammable adhesive to the elements or treating it with epoxy once it had been. 

Regarded closely, the uneven lines of Circadian Study are like borders on maps, suggesting a homology between bodies and territories during a moment when the precariousness of both has never been more apparent. The tendrilous forms become smudged in areas where the watercolor bleeds, resembling blown veins. Beige and blue circular designs punctuate the tracings, arranged like celestial objects. Kallat has often explored how the cosmic and the organic rhyme. In Circadian Study, the abstraction of the sculptural (a three-dimensional twig) into the painterly (pseudo-scientific diagrams) through the tracking of solar motion is perhaps a comment on nature reducing life to one plane, a tender reminder of planetary vulnerability.