"What we see then is a demonstration of enormous ability, of the dualities of chaos and order, of vast cosmologies and small human gestures, of darkness punctured by manifold natural sources of light. Standing at an inscrutable distance, Harsha says, "An artist has to have that position otherwise we get consumed by the world and whatever it has to offer.""
- Gayatri Sinha, art critic and curator
The Worlding of the Portrait
By Gayatri Sinha
N.S. Harsha gives us a manner of painting, which has to be read rather than viewed. In the performative act of moving closer and then further away from each work, or reading it left to right, we engage with an extraordinary language of painting that asks us to look beyond the world of art. Drawing on resemblances across time to the painted panoramas of the East, temple architectural ornamentation of lesser beings, school rooms charts, quotidian acts of a rural economy or the schemata of Indian painting, Harsha creates a polyphony of portraits. Seemingly repeated in endless fashion, these nevertheless bear the consistency of music notes, all similar but different. One may sense in his body of work an appetite for a great, sweeping view of communities: in short, a worlding of the portrait.
The present suite of works renders Harsha’s view of the contemporary moment with deep compassion and a searing irony. This is the image of our time: rows upon rows of people being given the RT-PCR test, the tools of their occupation borne with both humour and vulnerability. At the core is the imaging of migration, the subject enshrined in epic literature and biblical lore as much as in the vast movements across borders in the 20th century. The uniformity of linear arrangements, so distinctive in his work, is broken as migrating families gather in huddled clusters, seeking the warmth of community. Human and animal forms – monkeys, elephants, rats, cows – virtually appear interchangeably, gesturing to the folkloric as much as an observation of quotidian acts of survival. Even as abjection is punctured by humour, the cosmos is always proximate, descending on his canvas with vast planetary mobility. The humble diya, the domestic wood fire and the distant star all come together to create pools of illumination. The trail of smoke across the canvas becomes an indictment of the reading of the dark times of the pandemic.
What we see then is a demonstration of enormous ability, of the dualities of chaos and order, of vast cosmologies and small human gestures, of darkness punctured by manifold natural sources of light. Standing at an inscrutable distance, Harsha says, ‘An artist has to have that position otherwise we get consumed by the world and whatever it has to offer.’