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July 18, 2017

Prabhakar Pachpute: An Abundance Of Black

Text by Tina Dastur

It’s because he was born and raised in Chandrapur, Maharashtra — often referred to as the Black Gold City — and his family still works in one of its oldest mines

Coal mines have always held a fascination for him. Hardly surprising, since Prabhakar Pachpute was born and raised in Chandrapur, Maharashtra — often referred to as the Black Gold City — and his family still works in one of its oldest mines.

“I have been exploring the theme for the last six or seven years and have learned that mining is tied up with many small and big businesses. Steel, thermal power and fuel plants and even gold, iron and other natural resources — they all depend on the coal mining industry. My work looks at the people living around these areas and their health issues, the socio-cultural impact, displacement and the geographical and ecological changes,” says Prabhakar, who uses an array of materials ranging from clay and charcoal to dental plaster and wood carvings to depict his surreal figures.

Since his first exhibition Canary in a coal mine in 2012 at Clark House Initiative to his more recent projects No, it wasn’t the locust cloud in 2016, also in Mumbai, at the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA), and Shadows on Arrival earlier this year at Kolkata’s Experimenter Gallery, Prabhakar has successfully managed to communicate the plight of the farming and mining communities in India. The last project delves into his interest in the post-industrial landscape. “It offers a comment on the question — ‘What do we have left as a landscape?’ It is about darkness, emptiness, dehumanisation and a fear about this ‘lunar landscape’. After visiting different mining locales, I have realised that there is always some sort of dark story associated with it. So even if there is eventual beautification of those lands, there will always be shadows,” he explains.

The 31-year-old, who is currently based in Pune, enjoys doodling in his free time, and is readying himself for a handful of ambitious projects. “In August this year, I am participating in an exhibition titled India Re-worlded: Seventy years of investigating a nation at Gallery Odyssey in Mumbai, curated by Arshiya Lokhandwala. Later, in October, there’s another one called Imaginative Geography, which will take place at the Asia Culture Centre in Gwangju, South Korea.

And then, in 2018, I have two projects — one is in March at the AV Festival in Newcastle and the other is in June, at the Centre for Contemporary Arts in Glasgow, both in the UK,” he signs off.

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