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March 12, 2018

Unnikrishnan C’s First Showcase In Switzerland Takes An Unusual Look At The Ordinary

Text by Huzan Tata

The Kerala-born artist will have on display a series of mixed-media artworks including paintings, installations and video works

Imagine having your artworks at a show curated by Jitish Kallat for the Kochi-Muziris Biennale (KMB) while you’re still in art school, and having your first international solo exhibit less than five years after graduating. For some artists it may be a distant dream, but for Unnikrishnan C — who was the youngest artist to showcase his works at the second edition of KMB — this is a reality. The Kerala-born creator, who studied at the Thrissur School of Art, will have on display — in Switzerland this month — Portraits of Everyday Life, a series of mixed-media artworks including paintings, installations and video works.

Of this opportunity, he says, “I am extremely excited and humbled…as a young artist who graduated from art school just three years ago, I could not have imagined such a possibility. I am even more excited to see how an audience that is so disconnected and distant from Kerala will engage with my works that are rooted in the people and stories of Nemmara, the small town that I belong to.” One who’s drawn to illustrate the everyday and the ordinary in his creations, Unnikrishnan considers Frida Kahlo an eternal inspiration, and he hopes to impact the world around him through his art practice — “Making art is not a choice that I made, there was nothing else that I could have done and there is nothing else I want to do.”

Unnikrishnan Speak

Beginnings “It was my school teacher who initially trained and encouraged me to study art and consider it as a career option. From the eighth standard, I was inclined to pursue my studies at the Thrissur School of Art. My time there was extremely fascinating, as it opened up possibilities of translating ideas into artworks.”

Inspirations “I’m greatly influenced and inspired by the work of Frida Kahlo; she’s the first artist whose work I felt drawn to, specially her self-portraits that have strong elements of magic realism and surrealism that I could relate to immediately. Her representation of folk forms, the use of colour and the fact that she was primarily a painter all had a profound influence on my own practice. My people, the land, the landscape, its culture and history — all of it inspires my work. I also get great inspiration from travel. Sometimes I ride out on my Scooty to nearby villages to spend time in different landscapes and meet people that belong to that space. The spaces that I inhabit inspire me.”

On His Practice “The strong emotional connect with my family’s history as traditional weavers and learning those techniques and skills to make new works have formed a large part of my practice recently. How occupational skills and objects of everyday use are transformed into works of art is an area of great interest as it allows me to carry forward my family’s traditions through my own art practice.”

On His Swiss Exhibition “The opportunity to dedicatedly work on a solo exhibition has given me the chance to experiment with varied mediums, which I had so far not worked with, and it has also given me the space to explore ideas and major influences and translate them into works. Like someone once said, to really look at and observe the world, one must look at it through the eyes of a painter, who is capable of seeing and taking in the minutest of details of any scene.”

Portraits of Everyday Life was on display in Zug, Switzerland from March 9-11, 2018.

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