Chinmoyi Patel artist's films

Presented as a part of Camden Kalā 2017

We are delighted to present a selection of films by the artist Chinmoyi Patel as a part of Camden Kalā with accompanying text by the writer Niru Ratnam.

Later on this year we will be presenting a selection of artist's films from India curated by Chinmoyi that will explore amongst other things ideas of identity, memory, geography and place as a part of our continuing celebration of the UK/India year of culture. Chinmoyi Patel is based in Baroda, India

Chinmoyi Patel Artist's Films

The Solid Melts into Sauce 
HD Video, 8 min 33 sec, 2015

Chinmoyi Patel is interested in the shifts, changes and ruptures that have arisen in the wake of rapid urbanisation and development in India.  Her work focuses on the ambiguous effects of these social forces not simply through documentary but by embedding ambiguity within the form of her films. In The Solid Melts Into Sauce (2015), Patel films a traffic junction in the city of Vadodara. The camera intermittently dwells on a sculpture based on the form of a banyan tree. It is an iconic work by the artist Nagji Patel that was sited at the traffic junction known as Fatehganj Circle. Shortly after the film was made the sculpture was moved in order to make way for the construction of a flyover. An advertising hoarding to the left of the scene filmed by Patel carries the headline “Think Ahead, Leave Behind” (with “a legacy” in very small letters appended to it). The hoarding, advertising luxury apartments, is sited next to a newly built pillar that will carry the flyover. Both the flyover and the hoarding are signs of the area’s rapid development. By way of contrast, the sculpture seems from a different age. The film is punctuated by a narrator who seems to direct all the action from the way that the camera moves to the way that the public on the street move. It is soon clear that this is a conceit – that the narrator in fact cannot control the people that the camera focuses on. Life rushes on beyond the control of the artist. The subjects of the film are beyond the control of the filmmaker, the legacy of the sculpture is beyond Nagji Patel. The pace of change in India, it seems, is just out of reach, rushing onwards towards a future the form of which no-one is quite sure of.

The Impressions Project (A Sunday Afternoon) in collaboration with Rahul Bhattacharya
HD Video, 7 min 16 sec, 2014

The Impressions Project (Luncheon) 
HDVideo, 5 min 02 sec, 2014

Two works which are closely related, The Impressions Project (A Sunday Afternoon) and The Impressions Project (Luncheon) (both 2014) use well-known late nineteenth century French paintings to frame scenes of the changing riverscapes in Indian cities. Both Seurat’s The Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte and Manet’s Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe (Luncheon on the Grass) are now seen as works that heralded the beginnings of modernist art, with each artist breaking away from conventional representational techniques of the day in an attempt to mirror the rapid upheavals taking place in modern societies. Patel’s use of each painting paradoxically seems to suggest that urban development can bring stasis or even decay. The figures in each film hardly move from their poses. Progress seems to have stalled on these polluted riverbanks of Indian cities particularly in The Impressions Project (Luncheon) where the price of development seems to have been the death of the Tapi River running through Surat. Again the framing of the film through other elements of visual culture brings a sense of ambiguity that is built in to the very structure of the work.

Oasis Grande-Tranquility 
HD Video, 3 min 52 sec, 2013

“Shall We?”
HD Video, 18 min 32 sec, 2011

Oasis Grande-Tranquility (2012) and “Shall We?” (2011) both examine the rise of the Indian middle-classes and the aspirational lifestyles that are being sold to them. Development and progress are set to banal muzac in a show luxury apartment devoid of any originality in the former film and in the dining room section of a furniture store in the latter. Consumption is presented as an end in itself, and middle-class life a phenomenon that seems a new, insidious form of western colonialism.

The showcase of Patel’s films is presented as part of Camden Kalā celebrating the UK/India year of culture. Patel’s work and the film programme she will curate later in the year shows that contemporary India is a multifaceted, fast-changing country. The pace of change is creating new subjectivities and a new senses of place but at the price of displacement and alienation. This phenomenon was also associated with western modernists trying to make sense of the effects of the industrial revolution. Like those modernist painters who chose to embody rupture and change with the way in which they handled the pictorial surface Patel seeks not simply to document the paradoxes she sees in contemporary India but through her practice to embody those ruptures and splits. Her work draws attention to how thinking ahead should not necessarily entail leaving behind structures, people and histories who do not fit easily into a narrative of consumer-led progress.

More Information about the artist

Chinmoyi graduated with a BFA (Painting) from Fine Arts, M.S.University in 2006 and an MFA from Goldsmiths, University of London in 2009. In 2006-07 she was awarded the Madanjeet Singh Scholarship by South Asia Foundation, New Delhi for a one-year residency at Beaconhouse National University, Lahore. She currently teaches part-time at Department of Fine Arts, South Gujarat University, Surat.

Find out more about Chinmoyi Patel

About the author

Niru Ratnam works at ArtReview and is a writer based in London.

This article is part of our arts programme Camden Kalā - click here to find out more.

Camden Kala