Critics’ Picks

Praneer Soi, The Olive Tree and the Bul-Bul, 2021, acrylic, silverpoint and graphite on canvas, 78 3/4 x 78 3/4".

Praneer Soi, The Olive Tree and the Bul-Bul, 2021, acrylic, silverpoint and graphite on canvas, 78 3/4 x 78 3/4".

New Delhi

Praneet Soi

Vadehra Art Gallery | D-53
D-53, Defence Colony
November 18–December 31, 2021

Spread over two floors of Vadehra Art Gallery, Praneet Soi’s “Migrations” marks the artist’s first show in New Delhi in five years. The title suggests the movement of images across time and circumstance may be akin to that of birds or bodies. The theme emerges from the artist’s own experience of being located between Kolkata and Amsterdam, as well as his family’s earlier exodus from Lahore to East India during the bloody partition of 1947. The exhibition showcases Soi’s sensitive eye for patterns—honed by ten years spent with craftsmen in the Kashmiri city of Srinagar—through a selection of acrylic paintings and silverpoint drawings on canvas and linen, along with ink-jet prints and glazed ceramic tiles.  

Avian motifs punctuate the exhibition, which is rich in references to the artist’s life and research. In The Olive Tree and the Bul-Bul, 2021, Soi constructs a frame within a frame, binding the histories of occupied Palestine and Kashmir. A thrush—the eponymous bulbul, often seen in Kashmir—perches on an olive tree that the artist encountered during a 2019 visit to the West Bank. Inscribed in the heart of the bird is the cityscape of Srinagar, its Zaina Kadal bridge passing over the Jhelum River.

Another motif is the World Trade Center, whose facade appears in two canvases made in 2020. In My Coordinates—I, it cuts diagonally across the composition, while in My Coordinates—Nocturne (Blue), it seeps through the silhouette of one figure carrying another. In the former, a pattern lifted from the Turkistani saint Bulbul Shah’s tomb in Kashmir intersects with the skyscraper’s windows; in the latter, they are hemmed in by Kashmiri latticework. Through this exercise of keen observation and awareness, Soi compels us to look through ornamentation to observe the conditions of our present.