Saturday 21 January 2023

The Cosmos Flux


Sandesh Khule

The strength of Sandesh Khule’s paintings resides first and foremost in their self-containment. That insularity is in part a function of their proportions. They invoke the feeling of being bastion islands in the flux of fashion, knowing full well that their own consummate stylishness is one of the reasons they so successfully resist external pressures. Khule knows that the dynamic sturdiness of an image is wholly a product of the rigor of its internal armatures in tension with its outer boundaries. The spare pictorial structures strictly observe that rule, whether they consist of visibly locked in matrices or of frameworks whose joinery is incompletely articulated but palpably considered throughout. That is, grids in which sections may suddenly drop without viewers ever losing their bearings or the overall framework of the composition imploding into disjunctive fragments. Moreover, consistent with his otherwise divergent purpose he is just as muscular. And the capacity to absorb counter forces imbues every dexterous line he traces.  

He locates the sublime not in vast baroque volumes and polychrome plateaus but in zones that are close to hand, intimate zones where predominantly close valued hues are lit up by flashes of color as lightning bolts illuminate the desert at dusk or neon signage sparks in the rain along vacant thoroughfares at the urban margins of landscape. The woks thus serve as sensations one has had in the real world that are evoked Khule’s experience of made up, abstract world. For in the final analysis such correspondences and associations draw us to otherwise unfamiliar images and they continually discharge their poetic stimulus long after we have absorbed all that is fresh and distinctive about them.  

Khule does all this within the physical confines of his chosen formats, grasping that those voluntary physical constraints release rather than bottle up his gift for invention. His early works hewed towards severe minimalist strains of abstraction; however Khule is not an ism-obsessed artist at any level. Then came a phase of subdued but recognizably dazzle in which the oblique was pitted against the square off, and cool acid greens and blues were flickering juxtaposed to off key oranges and bright reds, pinks or to earth or flesh tones masquerading as tints of a more aggressive decorative or cosmetic order. In both bodies of work, pigment went down matte and flat. Lately there have been disturbances in that once uniformly inflected painterly field while gray, slate blue, moss green, deep pumpkin, maroon have become more common. In broad expanses brush marks have started to show, agitating everything in their vicinity or reinforcing our sense of the relative fixity of those elements in which brush strokes have been entirely subordinated like tides washing up on breakwaters, in a sense of aquatic metaphors. With these developments Khule reminds us that he issues from a long tradition of gesturalism and the die cut bars of pigment should be read in terms of how they thrust into and configure the comparative emptiness surrounding them, although some have monochrome backgrounds felt so solid or looked so much like criss-crossed foregrounds.

It is with respect to this ability to give subtle moves dramatic accents and to make little pictures register with the impact of large ones that Khule’s work bears an affinity of deceptive modesty. Such a conviction derives from something intrinsic in his work. That something, contrary to first impressions, is an immodest ambition specifically the drive to create uniquely memorable images, one that nevertheless recognizes the dangers of over statement and values the virtues of what may seem to be an understatement until viewers have had a chance to re-gauge absurdly dilated sensibilities and bring them back into the sharp focus required by thoroughly considered, completely realized painting of every scale. Right now doing the right thing favors compression and decisiveness over grandiosity and approximation, over the supersized and the generic but excessively finished. Khule has come down on the side of making things that could be no other size and no other way. Nor need they be to satisfy those who care to pay attention. The beauty, common to all of the paintings, is that the shifts, when located, are as much felt as they are measured. There is a precision here that does not exclude either intellect or sensual pleasure. Neither of these attributes is reduced because of the presence of the other; on the contrary, they combine to enhance each other. His paintings are promises made with full understanding of the stakes and are promises kept, one by one by one. 

- Abhijeet Gondkar 2023