An enigmatic blue ceramic tile situated on the mausoleum of Miran Zain, the mother of the 8th Sultan of Kashmir Zain-Ul-Abedin (1420-1470), was the starting point for this solo installation. Situated on the banks of the river Jhelum in Srinagar, the mausoleum dates to 1430. Its architecture points to the links between Kashmir and central Asia. The tile itself, glazed in blue, had sculpted upon it a shape in low relief unlike anything Soi had seen before.
This tile was replicated at the Bordallo Pinheiro Ceramic Factory. The period of fabrication, starting from the modelling of the tiles to their eventual placement in the kiln, provided Soi with an alibi for observing the workers and the industrial processes employed. Documenting this video allowed the dynamics of the factory to seep into the narrative. These same tiles now line the surface of the curving dioramic wall situated within the Conversations space, adding texture to the projection of the video.
Included within this narrative is a collaged animation documenting the Timurid jade jar from the Founder’s Collection. This object once belonged to Jehangir (1569-1627), a Mughal king who ruled over Kashmir. Locating its presence within the Museum helped Soi unfold the project for this edition of Conversations.
Work on this exhibition began more than a year ago with Soi’s invitation to outline a new project for the Museum based on his ongoing exploration of Kashmir. Soi has been visiting Srinagar since 2009 and engaging with artisans there in part to gain an understanding of this troubled border region. Kashmir is India’s northernmost state and since 1947 (the year the subcontinent rid itself of British rule) the site of a separatist movement. The cut-out red mountain-like shape within the Conversations space allows Soi to recall the Zabarwan mountain range lying to the North-East of Srinagar.
Soi’s repeated visits to Lisbon enabled a growing familiarity with the city and allowed him to internalise aspects of its history and culture and as well to ruminate upon certain objects within the storage of the Museum. The play of light upon the Kum Kapi rugs is one of these examples. A set of uncatalogued Sassanid coins is yet another. These he comments upon in a diaristic way within the video that is projected upon the back of a pillar placed deep within the room. The semi-circular front of the pillar is encrusted with tiles similar to that upon the curving screen albeit coloured and patterned close to the formation visible upon the mausoleum in Srinagar.
The aural environment within the space consists of a layering of sound from the timeline of the dioramic projection and the composition created by the Lisbon based composer and architect David Maranha. Maranha recorded sound within the factory as a beginning to this collaboration.
The title Third Factory references the book by the Russian Formalist Víktor Shklovski (1893-1984). Within the book the author recognises three periods of his life which were important to his formative growth as a writer. Soi takes his time in Srinagar, Caldas and Lisbon as a point of departure, utilising space and the transformation inherent in the projection of video upon architecture to forward another agenda – that of the multiplication of points of entry and departure within subject matter.
Soi moved to the Netherlands in 2002 to attend the Rijksakademie van beeldende Kunsten, a two-year international residency program for artists and currently divides his time between Amsterdam and Kolkata. This oscillatory movement impacts his practice. Soi identifies over time, patterns that emerge from an investigation of his extended social and economic landscape.
Praneet Soi was born in Kolkata in 1971. He left Bengal for the west coast of the country in 1990 where he studied painting at the Faculty of Fine Arts, Maharajah Sayajirao University, Baroda. The liberalized economic policies of the 1990's had ushered in an era of globalization and uponcompleting his Bachelor's and Master’s degrees, Soi worked as a visualizer within the advertising industry in New Delhi. In 1999 he left for California where he attended the University ofCalifornia at San Diego on a scholarship and received his second master’s degree in the visual arts. In 2001 he was selected to the summer residency at Skowhegan, Maine.
Soi moved to the Netherlands in 2002 to attend the Rijksakademie van beeldende Kunsten, a two-year international residency program for artists and currently divides his time between Amsterdam and Kolkata. This oscillatory movement impacts his practice. Soi identifies over time, patterns that emerge from an investigation of his extended social and economic landscape. In California it was the miniaturizing nature of the vast, undulating, suburban vista that caught his eye.
Moving to Amsterdam, media reportage of unrest in the Middle-East, Pakistan and Afghanistan in the events following September 11th led to a series of miniature paintings on terrorism and expanding from there, paintings of the human body. Site-specific wall paintings also emerge from these sources whose further investigation led Soi to create an archive that traces his relationship with the media.
Since 2008 in Kumartuli, North Kolkata, Soi’s documentation of small-scale factories and one- room workshops has been an ongoing activity. Kumartuli is historically home to a clan of potters that have worked with religious iconography and sculpture-making and has over time given way to micro-workshops and warehouses. Through the inherent politics of labor and economictransition that manifests itself in a series of works titled “Notes on Labor”, Soi delves into a pluralistic representation of this complex, historic and yet relevant site, through a series of slideshows, miniature paintings and video.
Soi first visited the city of Srinagar in Kashmir in 2010. He documented extensively the historic Sufi shrines in the city (Dastagir Pir has since burnt down and is currently being rebuilt) and met
with local craftsmen. He returned to Srinagar in the spring of 2014 and embedded himself withinan artisan’s studio, working with traditional patterns and motifs in the making of experimental compositions. Insurgency-scarred and a politically sensitive issue for the rival nations of India and Pakistan and its own ethnically divided population for over 5 decades, Kashmir has faced the brunt of cultural and social deprivation that comes from being one of the most militarized regions in the world.
Soi used the time spent in Kashmir to explore the disappearing traces of Sufi culture and the related migration, over the course of history, of ancient patterns and forms from Iran into the sub-continent. The migratory nature of the works emerging from Kashmir could perhaps belinked to his family’s exile from what became Pakistan when the country was partitioned in 1947. His grandfather moved to Delhi before finally settling in Kolkata in 1950.
Interactive processes are important to Soi. He designed drawing-machines that would allow himto share his work process with an audience. The “Astatic Machines”, inspired by Paul Klee’s “Pedagogical Sketchbook” for students at the Bauhaus, emphasize the importance of drawing inSoi’s practice. The artist, in partnership with the Mondrian Foundation, has recently set up in Kolkata a pilot residency for artists and practitioners. A studio program that privileges a material approach to making art while using the city as a filter for experience. In May 2017 'Notes on Labour', a solo exhibition containing bodies of work created over the past years as well as a site- specific installation, opened at the Bhau Daji Lad Museum in Mumbai. In 2016 Soi participated in the Kochi-Muziris and the Singapore Biennales and displayed work within the project-space of the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven. In 2015 the artist was granted a fellowship at the Smithsonian Institute where he spent a month studying illuminated manuscripts at the Sackler and Freer Galleries in Washington DC. In 2014 Soi was artist in residence Stiftung Laurenz Haus in Basel.
Soi’s works reside in important collections in Europe and India. These include the permanentcollections of the Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, New Delhi, The Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin and the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam. In 2014 Soi was commissioned to create a permanent work for the HCL headquarters in Chennai. In 2011 he was one of 4 artists representing India at the Indian Pavilion in Venice. In May 2017 Soi was in residency at the Irish Museum of Modern Art while researching the Mughal collections of the Chester Beatty Museum for an exhibition at CCA Derry later this year.
Curator: João Carvalho Dias