Critics’ Picks

Manish Nai, Untitled, 2010, gouache, 57 x 82”.


Manish Nai

2 Sunny House 16/18 Mereweather Road Behind Taj Mahal Hotel Colaba
August 7–September 11

In his latest exhibition, titled “Extramural,” Mumbai-based artist Manish Nai indulges his taste for grubby surfaces. This show recalls his previous productions, particularly his jute and canvas “paintings,” which in past presentations have hung on the walls like threadbare rush mats. Here, navy and beige square blocks comprising jute thread rank as newcomers to his oeuvre. So, too, there are new silvery works on paper that resemble pockmarked tinfoil––and a gritty site-specific mural. Perhaps to emphasize the curious materials used in their manufacture, all these offerings are called Untitled.

Nai’s preoccupation with unusual textures began in the year 2000, when his father owned a small wholesale business selling thick cloth. Inspired by the look and feel of jute, he stuck a piece of it onto a canvas, slowly pulling out threads to create a shadowy patchwork. By 2005, he had discovered that Photoshop allowed him to confabulate new patterns to work into the cloth. In the blue-gray Untitled II, 2010, pixel-like specks of dyed and natural jute are interspersed. Stare at them and they begin to dance like the wispy, flickering lights of screensavers.

Over the years, Nai has woven dissent into the ranks of Mumbai’s art critics. For some, he is a pioneering abstractionist, while for others his optical illusions lack intellectual depth. In “Extramural,” his choice of materials (and what they reveal about his hometown) nullifies such criticism. The mural is the most riveting work on view. Tiny flecks of gray paint construct an abstract motif: At times the wall looks like it has been slashed with a penknife; at others it appears to throb with color. As the minute dots of gouache seem to shift and swirl––creating patterns that are revolting and engrossing in turn––they embody the city’s state of flux: the way its graffitied edifices and small-time industries contrast and conflict, yet coexist, with its high-tech aspirations.