Art News & Views

Shresta Rit Premnath A Passion for Structure

   by Franck Barthelemy

Shresta Rit Premnath caught my attention most probably for a wrong reason : he was the only Bangalore artist at the last Art Basel presented by a Bangalore gallery. I became curious and wanted to know more about him. The work he showed at the fair, Zero Knot, is an installation organized around a statue. Well, around a form that looks like a statue. Maybe a beautifully sculpted one but we don't know. Shresta chose to present the statue covered with a tarp. What is it all about? Is this a statue that is going to be taken down? Is this a statue that is going to be inaugurated? Who does it represent? Adeposed leader? Or an upcoming one? The artist surrounded the statue with different signs of past and future in order to continue playing with the contradiction brought to us by the tarp. When I talked to Shresta in Bangalore a few weeks ago, he talked to me about the Zero Knot theory. “Zero Knot is a mathematical structure. It is a loop where there is no end. It is a structure that reveals multiple numbers of forms. It is infinity, at the same time it always comes down to zero.” The revealed / non-revealed statue is the perfect representation. It could be a whole, and at the same time it could be nothing.
Looking at Shresta's body of works, we can probably say that he is fascinated by one subject : the structure. A possible illustration of it is the last exhibition he had in Bangalore, LEO, where the artist explores different representations of powers. The lion is one of them. Shresta strongly demonstrated that the symbol is well-rooted into our mind. The MGM lion we all saw on movie theatres' screens shows the power of the American film industries over the world. And, with more subtlety, he showed us that we are surrounded by lion representations in the form of statues in our cities. At the borders, at the courts' gates, at the city halls' gateways, in all places where the political power, i.e. the power of the city, is exercised. Shresta believes those symbols of powers are in place to convince the people the power is legitimate. They define most of the time an imaginary inside and outside. And this is another theme Shresta likes thinking about : boundaries. His work A Cage Went in Search of a Bird is a beautiful illustration of his personal quest. And the title he chose, borrowed from Franz Kafka, is another illustration of Shresta's passion for structure. When I questioned him on his reasons to refer to Kafka, he answered: “The structure”. Kafka wrote structured fiction. It is hard to read without thinking about a moral. But it is hard to find out what that is.” Like Kafka, Shresta is interested in questioning the viewers. He wants the viewer to become an investigator for sense. He wants the viewer to create sense out of the objects he proposes. And he helps or motivates the viewers by proposing different structures. He said: “I find there is something in the structure that makes a whole. I want to find the formal or conceptual relation between the objects I use.” The context can play an important part in the meaning. And this is something Shresta acknowledges with emphasis. He strongly believes in continuous change and his loop videos are a clear indication of his belief. He immediately refers to Borges and his Pierre Menard allegory. Shresta can repeat video scenes endlessly with the only objective to question the viewers. The main challenge is to pull the viewers in the video rather than creating a distance between him and the art piece. Shresta associates easily still slides and animated scenes in his videos and tries to 'present unrelated forms in a structured way that makes sense'.
Shresta's search for structure makes him a fascinating artist. I enjoyed talking to a global artist who is from Bangalore and lives in New York since he started studying art, who creates multi-cultural communities through his journal Shifter and who commits to boost art debates. I look forward to Shresta's next project, maybe in Berlin soon. Keep his name in mind!




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