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Jeram Patel, Untitled, ca. 1960, burnt wood, 19 × 25".

Jeram Patel

Kiran Nadar Museum of Art

Jeram Patel, Untitled, ca. 1960, burnt wood, 19 × 25".

“Black has always fascinated me,” said Jeram Patel, who passed away earlier this year at the age of eighty-six. “It seems that black in itself carries many things, no one knows deposited by whom, and when.” This preoccupation hovers in the air throughout “the dark loam: between memory and membrane,” a retrospective of Patel’s work curated by Roobina Karode; it snakes its way into the various rooms of the museum, settling as soot on wooden surfaces, or as dense, dark masses on paper, or blurry, bleeding, elongated forms in Chinese ink paintings.

Patel’s black does not evoke the oppressive darkness of despair so much as the smoldering heat of burning charcoal. That fire was very much a part of his repertoire is evident in his works from the 1960s, when he traded the softness of the brush for the blue flames of the blowtorch. A major section of the current retrospective is devoted to

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