Born New Delhi, India, 1973
Lives and works in Mumbai
My work attempts to unravel the contradictions and complexities of our existence in contemporary society. As someone who is continually stirred by one’s surroundings, I would want to be alert to what characterises our situation from that of the rest of the world and hope to arrive at codes that aid the understanding of other cultures by being more appreciative of differences..
Reena Saini Kallat
Reena Saini Kallat has been described as a maker of talismans. Her paintings and installations frequently deal with the condition of the ordinary person in a rapidly changing society whose situation can be blighted or improved by the social or political circumstances in which they find themselves. Implicit in Reena Saini Kallat’s art is a concern with the position of the individual, in danger of being reduced to an anonymous and forgotten statistic. The talismanic nature of her work lifts the banality of human existence up into something that has meaning and relevance so that the even most humble can be acknowledged for their unique qualities. Reena Saini Kallat (the partner of Jitish Kallat also exhibiting in ‘Passage To India ll’) is one of a generation of artists who have graduated from art school in India during recent years and who have created a new wave whose subject matter often deals with the rapid development taking place in their country and the problems this creates. In Reena Saini Kallat’s case social issues are juxtaposed with the more fundamental human dilemmas, the cycle of life and death, defeat and resurgence. These issues are seldom dealt with literally but are imbued with a poetic and sometimes surreal sensibility. In the past she has painted cars and houses in balloons and towering structures made from slices of bread faced by androgynous and fantastic creatures.
On show in the exhibition are two works from a series entitled Penumbra Passage (Canine Cases) 2006. They are composed of painted portraits hung above vitrines displayed like an historical exhibit in a museum. The portraits are of unknown people whose images Reena Saini Kallat has sourced from the internet but which are displayed as if the subjects were of a significance that belies their anonymity. Across each face is a smear of colour that has been likened to the shape of the disputed territory of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. In each vitrine is a display on red velvet of small plastic toy weapons laid out in the shape of an open mouth as if they were canine teeth, relics from the ruins of a freedom that has been hard to achieve.
Reena Saini Kallat’s other work in the exhibition Memoria Corona 2006 consists of a huge crown modelled on that of Queen Elizabeth ll. On top of it sits the magnificent Kohinoor diamond lost by India to the British at the time of the Empire. Close examination reveals that the surface of the crown is covered with names. They are those of freedom fighters who fought the British colonialists. This symbol of power and Empire is transformed by Reena Saini Kallat into a memorial to the lives that were lost during India’s struggle for freedom.