Indian artist M. Pravat is interested in exploring the architecture of space, time and memory. For over a decade, his work has been about gradually deconstructing architectural forms and spaces in his immediate surroundings in the city of Delhi, to study them both in the material sense as well as in how they reside, expand and contract in our memories.
In his first solo show in Dubai, Liquid States, Pravat is presenting drawings, paintings, sculptures, collages and installations that combine imaginary urban plans and architectural blueprints with construction materials such as brick and slate. The artworks examine the fluidity of our seemingly solid built environment — as our cities continue to grow — and existing structures are torn down and replaced by new ones, leaving behind the physical and mental detritus of urban expansion and decay.
“I do not know anything about architecture or urban planning, but my soul demands that I create something related to my built environment. Delhi has been an interesting base for this exploration because of the many ancient monuments spread across the city and the massive urban development that has taken place in recent years. I began this investigation in 2004 by making paintings of living spaces, and then moved beyond that to understand where these spaces come from by examining under-construction sites, and collaborating with an architect to actually build a structure in my studio with 7,000 bricks and cement. Later I got interested in the very life of detritus and decay. All these different states of architecture bring with them their own temporalities, some carried by high velocity and others arresting time,” the artist says.
Pravat’s current work is about deconstructing the foundations of built forms and reconfiguring them in a process that continuously blurs, shifts, breaks down and rebuilds the boundaries between the material life of forms and the way our memories preserve them.
He began by creating an imaginary urban plan and stretching the drawing thus defying the rigidity of concrete, and mimicking the fluidity of memory and of the expansion of cities. In a painstaking process, he then replicated the entire plan using precisely cut pieces of brick and slate, transforming an idea, based on his memory and dreams into a solid, tangible, physical, architectural work.
The artist has used the same technique to create a series titled, Diagram of Unformed Desires. This includes diptychs featuring childlike drawings on architectural board of a house, a latticed window, and abstract forms representing future desires and developments, paired with replicas made from brick and slate. Taking the process further, he has also transformed the two-dimensional urban plan into a huge brick and slate sphere, titled The Malleability of All Things Solid. The work represents a solid presence and the potential for fluid movement, as well as the continuous cycle of building, demolishing and rebuilding that is happening in modern cities.
Similarly, several bricks with interesting cuts and holes that the artist found at construction sites represent the detritus of construction. Bricks also appear as transparent objects on a set of paintings on gridded paper titled, Certainty of Appearance. Here the grid refers to the mathematical aspect of architecture, which the artist and most of us do not understand.
Other works in the show include a series of ink on paper drawings, and mixed media paintings on canvas, where the artist has played with the idea of imaginary blueprints and fluid spaces. He is also showing his ongoing Notebook series, featuring sketches, collages, found images, and other materials that are part of his research on different materials, interiors, architectures, and spaces.
“My work aspires to capture the precarious life of built forms that are caught between permanence and disintegration, between constant rebuilding and tearing down, between physical presence and mental spectres,” Pravat says.
Jyoti Kalsi is an arts-enthusiast based in Dubai.
Liquid States will run at 1x1 Gallery, Alserkal Avenue until October 31.