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Jitish Kallat

Indian Contemporary Artist
Born 1974, Mumbai
Lives and works in Mumbai

Jitish Kallat’s oeuvre is a mix of painting, photography, collage, sculptures, installations and multimedia works. His body of work is best characterized by representation of life in an urban city with all its chaos and dissonance and a self-conscious awareness of history.



Bachelor of Arts (Painting), Sir J. J. School of Art, Mumbai

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The metropolis of Mumbai is reflected in most of his works

Kallat firmly believes that growing up in what one might call middle-class Mumbai suburbia did shape his world view. He argues that more than the city, it is the embodiment of emotions the city has to offer, which beguiles him. Life, Death, Time and Endurance, constitutes the nucleus of his art. The urban claustrophobia, cultural plurality, and the socio-economic concerns of Mumbai is externalised in some of his works. Urbanization, its beneficiaries and victims, its virtues and iniquities are some of the concerns he explores. Kallat views the city streets as his real university. The overplayed emotions of the city streets capture him. However, more than the city the larger subjects encrypted within it gains precedence in Kallat’s oeuvre. He has been widely recognized for the figurative paintings that delineate the cultural dualities of Mumbai.

Jitish Kallat, Baggage Claim, 2010, acrylic on canvas, bronze, triptych, 95.98 x 204.02”.

Kallat engages with National history through his works

In his installations Kallat has expressed attentiveness to national history. Historical speeches of Gandhi, Nehru and Swami Vivekananda are used in his Public Notice series. The Public Notice series can be seen as a satire of the diametric contradictions between the past temperament of the nation and the current social conflicts. Kallat revisits the speeches by Gandhi and Nehru, made at historic occasions and evokes them to remind us about our follies. Contemporary times are defined by terror, violence, hatred and fear. Current social order is at loggerheads with the Gandhian philosophy and Nehruvian axioms and Swami Vivekananda’s ideologies. Kallat uses these treasured documents of the past and pits them against the social milieu of the present. Public Notice, 2003, Public Notice 2, 2007, and Public Notice 3, 2010-2011, enshrine three historic speeches made by great personalities during historic times of exigency. These works aroused the artist’s dubiety and agnosticism about the times we inhabit. The artist hopes that the resolutions to our present conundrums could lie in the past. Through Public Notice he revisits the past and reinterprets it with a contemporary thought.

Jitish Kallat, Public Notice 3, 2010, LED lights, site-specific installation at The Art Institute Chicago.

His narrative involves promoting Art of the dispossessed

He defines himself as a member of civil society, cognizing and interpreting life in his own way. In Cenotaph, 2007, he documents the demolition of an illegally built slum dwelling which was a part of his childhood to reflect on the far-reaching effects of modernization of cities which requires re-location of its dwellers due to the widening roads and pavements. It is a narrative of the process of this dislocation. It stands as a documentation of the positive nature of urban development as well as the brutality and violence against the voiceless and dispossessed. In Rickshawpolis, 2006, Kallat engaged with vehicles and traffic as metaphor of modern cities like Mumbai. The rickshaw is a recurring motif for urban dissonance.  He documented dented skeletal remains of vehicles where each dent corresponded to a wound. His style is controversial and audacious.

Jitish Kallat, Rickshawpolis 4, 2006, acrylic on canvas with bronze gargoyles, 27.6 X 42.5”.

He works with multiple mediums to express his ideas

Kallat argues that the medium is really just a vehicle to germinate an idea. The content determines the medium. The medium demands less consideration, it acts only as a carrier of a larger thought. Though painting remains his forte, the artist does not hesitate to explore different media. For Public Notice, 2003, he used mirrors, to stimulate the viewer to reflect; for Death of Distance, 2007, he used fiberglass and lenticular prints. However, Kallat refuses to be labeled as a painter, sculptor or an installation artist. These media allow him to investigate the daily code of existence in Mumbai which is like a theatre for him. He uses modern technology and popular essentials like the photocopy machine and his images evolve out of text and captions from the popular media. Cars, buses, scooters, cycles, cats, cows and humans collide and coalesce to form mega-explosions.

Jitish Kallat, Aquasaurus, 2008, Resin, paint, steel, 39.37 x 106.69 x 41.73”.

Kallat harbours an obsession with the self-image

Placing himself at the centre of his works an autobiographical nature emerges which investigates the artist’s personal relations as well as his relations with his ancestors, time and death. He chooses an economical narrative form such that images float around the self image and the viewer becomes involved in a process of decoding what is real and what is fictional eliciting an emotive response. With Epilogue, 2010-2011, the artist attempts to revisit his personal past. The death of his father in 1988 was the inspiration behind this creation. The 22000 days of life his father enjoyed are captured by images of rotis which replace the 22000 moons he witnessed. What began as a personal engagement acquired a deeper meaning, as the photo-piece absorbs thoughts about the circle of life, the periodical rotation of completeness and barrenness. The moon with its various forms is symptomatic of time.

Jitish Kallat, Epilogue, 2010-2011, Pigment print on archival paper 753 prints, 11 3/6 X 14 3/8” each, dimensions variable.