Art Review: Exploring identities through the abstract 

Sukant Khurana, a scientist, writer and data-science innovator, has not only experimented with various forms of painting, but has also joined hands with young artists for a novel experiment

Photo courtesy: Sukant Khurana
Photo courtesy: Sukant Khurana

Ashish Kumar Singh

At times, the word painting is a misnomer for what Sukant Khurana does because of the three-dimensional nature of his work. Only a minority of his works are planar with no texture. Texture, in Sukant’s work, is like spice in Indian food. Sometimes, the texture is in the form of a blob and sometimes in the form of knife attacks or bullet wounds on the canvas or fire treatment and sometimes in form of massive deposits of paint mixed.

At Khurana’s recently concluded exhibition, From Creative Destruction to Destructive Creation at Café de Art, Connaught Place, he has worked with young artists, filmmakers and scholars to experiment with the response of viewers of this exhibition.

A biotechnologist, neuroscientist and an artificial intelligence(AI) and data-science innovator all rolled into one, Khurana has used reverse, normal and distorted perspectives in the same painting, especially his neuroscience-themed works, which explore how hallucinogens can alter perception.

In classical paintings, there always has been a more detailed foreground and less detailed background, mimicking even the focus of a human eye. Khurana, in his experiments has played with the basic tenets of what is foreground and what is background.

Across his works, there are paintings where the object, person, or form at the centre of the painting is blurred, while the background is detailed. This intriguing aspect is not at odds with his approach to artistic process, where a beautiful detailed layer can be completely hidden by another plain layer.

Khurana is a good analyst and synthesiser, absorbing every style he comes across. In fact, if one has to classify his seemingly disparate art works, one of the few meaningful spectrum one can think of is of analysis and synthesis. One would find his works in two clusters, one near the synthesis end of the spectrum and another near the analysis end of the spectrum, leaving the middle sparsely populated.

Photo courtesy: Sukant Khurana
Photo courtesy: Sukant Khurana
Another abstract by Sukant Khurana

Rahul Saha, Jatin Das, Rakshit Nair, Angad Singh, Inder Raj Singh Virdi, Vandit Chawla, and Farooq Ali Khan are other members of this motley group, who are shooting responses of the viewers and then sharing it with them too. Thus, the abstract is being appreciated in concrete words finally transforming into a short film, another work of art.

His paintings would be on display now at The Drifting Canvas at Saket, Delhi. The Drifting Canvas is one of its kind exhibition or art show in India where works of western legends such as Van Gogh, Monet, Manet are being displayed on multimedia screens along with the works of Indian artists such as Anupam Sud, Umesh Varma and Sukant Khurana.

For The Drifting Canvas, Khurana’s theme is ‘identity’. Identities are shaped, defined, changed and modified over a period or they remain the same depending on the individual or group they belong to. Khurana attempts to show the depth and meaningfulness or meaninglessness of these identities. Identity itself is a sociological phenomenon, which evolves over time. Khurana, despite his scientific training, is not hesitant in highlighting issues such as expulsion, divorce, and murder—while depicting how people try to get away with it.

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