T. Venkanna

T. Venkanna confronts the stereotypical ways that define and contrive sexuality, which has become the dominant preoccupation of his practice. While doing so, he rediscovers certain motifs borrowed from artists like Hockney, Rousseau, and Mondrian, along with specific forms of traditional art. He then goes on to subvert each work, contextualizing a historic visual within the contemporary political discourse. Venkanna’s practice imbibes a wide range of media, including drawing, painting, sculpture, installation, and performance. His linguistic device is formed by integrating the personal, social, and ultimately the political.

In this body of works, ‘Looking for Peace’ (2017), he explored death in a time of war, where the remnants of tragedy persist long after the violence ceases. The large paintings in ink on rice-paper evoke the cold vision of a hellish nightmare and a sense of eeriness, as one silently witnesses the ‘Dance of Death’, mediated by Venkanna’s use of potent signifiers and a very personal stylistic oeuvre that is graphically dark and cynical.

Entry Only, An Endless Journey and Brave Soldier are three works from the series, painted from the experience of visiting the Auschwitz concentration camps in Poland in 2012. The title of the first work, Entry Only, alludes to the confinement and atrocities in the gas-chambers, from which there was no exit. An Endless Journey deals with the pathetic plight of the migrants in different corners of the world, who are on an uncertain voyage of death. The third work, Brave Soldier is a tribute to the unfulfilled sexual desires of the young men in the army who die an untimely death; their phalluses populate the barren landscape with a solitary tree at the optical centre of the canvas in which a crouching mourning female, is the only sign of human life.

Artist Biography

Venkanna holds a Masters in Fine Arts (M.F.A.) in printmaking from the Faculty of Fine Arts, M.S. University of Baroda and Bachelors in Fine Arts (B.F.A.) in painting from J.N.T.U, Hyderabad where he was awarded a Gold medal. The artist lives and works in Baroda, India.

2019 began with a solo project Tradition/Transformation curated by Abhay Maskara at Gallery Maskara. In 2018 Venkanna participated in an exhibition Inde, Manoir de Martigny, Switzerland. In 2017 he had his seventh solo show Looking for Peace, Sakshi Gallery, Mumbai, India. In 2016 he was part of a group show TIME, Gallery Maskara, Mumbai, India. In 2015 he had his sixth solo show CELEBRATION at Gallery Maskara, Mumbai, India. In 2014 his shows include Residual Remnants, Site art space, Baroda, India; Midnight’s Grandchildren curated by Girish Shahane, Kitab Mahal, Mumbai; Trajectories: 19th-21st Century Printmaking from India and Pakistan curated by Dr. Paula Sengupta and Camilla H. Chaudhary, Sharjah Art Museum, UAE. Major shows in 2012-13 include Air Sri Lanka, Galerie Krinzinger Projekte, Vienna, Austria, Lunch with Olympia, curated by Robert Storr, Yale University School of Art, CT, USA, Between the Lines: Identity, Place, and Power, National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA), Mumbai, India, Pancha Mahabhuta (The Five Great Elements) at the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, Kochi, India, Cynical Love: Life in the Everyday curated by Gayatri Sinha at the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, Noida, India,a solo presentation at Art Brussels 30th Contemporary Art Fair, ProjectStage at Art Stage Singapore, the India Art Fair, India, the VIP Art Fair, (online). In 2011, Venkanna presented a controversial solo performance at Art Stage Singapore and was part of New Trends from South India, at the Lalit Kala Academy, Chennai, India. Other key projects during the year included; CROSSROADS: India escalate (India Pavilion) at the Prague Biennale 5, Czech Republic, a solo presentation at the Art Brussels 29th Contemporary Art Fair, Belgium, Fabular Bodies, curated by Gayatri Sinha for the Harmony Art Foundation, Prince of Wales Museum, Mumbai, India, Printmaking: Open Studio, at Gallery Maskara, Mumbai, India, (M)other India at Galerie du Jour – Agnès B, Paris, France and Window in the Wall, Pearl Lam Galleries, Shanghai, China. In 2010 his work was part of Finding India: Art for the New Century, Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) Taipei, Taiwan. His solo show, NERO opened at Gallery Luce in Torino, Italy and he simultaneously showed at Artissima 17 Torino, Italy. He was also the youngest artist featured in the Saatchi Gallery show The Empire Strikes Back: Indian Art Today, London, UK.

The artist was shortlisted for the SKODA prize in 2010 and 2012. His works are in major collections including the Charles Saatchi collection (UK), the Burger Collection (Switzerland/Hong Kong), Swagemakers collection (Netherlands) and many more in America, Japan, Russia Europe and India.

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