Born 1968, Kerala, India
Lives and works in Mumbai, India
One looks at the world through the tinted spectacles of ‘news reports’, that unroll the stories of massacre of innocents, spectacular highlights of explosions, flux of faces of people who make headlines, spitting the words of hate and arrogance and the kinds of propaganda campaigns that just struggle to hide nothing but truth. It is a strange world exposed and manipulated. A world where one does not know who the real enemy is, yet ‘terror’ is the common word for both those who resist and those who attack. It is one’s extended vision that construct and reshapes the perceptions of the ‘present’. And it is riddled with a number of eternal questions and a couple of ready-made yet elusive solutions, which I am interested with. It is the touch and smell of the ‘present’ I am dealing with in my works, in a process to find a solution, where the praxis of language becomes one with the perceptions of reality.
Although he works in three dimensions (his installation Counting Down was shown in the first part of Passage to India), T V Santhosh is best known for his paintings. Throughout the 1990s he worked primarily in black and white isolating single images in atmospheric fields of grey in paintings that owe something to the iconography of Pop Art and black and white press photography. More recently his painting has employed the visual effect of solarisation. A process once popular in the 1960’s as a means of ‘psychadelicising’ photographic images. These skilfully executed paintings have a photographic quality that clearly appropriate references from print media, television and the internet. This solarisation in which tonal values are reversed in neon pinks, purples and greens are a defining element of Santosh’s paintings sometimes assembled as diptychs juxtaposing negative (solarised) and positive images side by side. The tonal reversal acts as a deliberately provocative visual metaphor intended to reveal dark areas of society in the most vivid way.
Santhosh’s political views developed in the early 1980s in the Indian state of Kerala as a member of an activist group, Pratikarana Sangam. A time he describes thus “It was after Chernobyl happened and then the Bhopal gas tragedy struck in India. We painted posters protesting these events and depicting the side effects of so-called progress and pasted them all over Kerala,” While Santhosh appears to be motivated by politics he prefers to describe it as “not a political, but a philosophical approach”. His subject matter deals with violence and injustice. His paintings are a comment on inequality, famine, terrorism and war.
Santhosh is passionately involved with the larger world and with events that grab the media’s attention. Most of his imagery is sourced from the media: photographs of captured terrorists, the spectacle of war and bomb blasts, uniformed security men with sniffer dogs on leash. Santhosh’s work deals with the rhetoric of terrorism and militarism. “My recent works are just a continuation of what I have been doing, nothing drastically different. But I see that after the terror attacks in Mumbai, the context of my works has become more relevant’.
In his painting on show in Passage to India ll, Enemy’s Enemy ll 2008 Santhosh questions the ambiguities inherent in notions of right and wrong, enemy and victim, evil and innocent, ambiguities that the media tends to paper over. Irony is integral to Santhosh’s dialectic, as he says. “It is the only way to deal with the unresolved nature of the happenings around the world today”.