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How artist Utkarsh Makwana uses geometric shapes as tools of storytelling

In his ongoing solo show of paintings at Akara Art, Utkarsh Makwana uses shapes and patterns as a tool to bind narratives together

Detail from 'Finishing Touches', 2022. Courtesy: Akara Art
Detail from 'Finishing Touches', 2022. Courtesy: Akara Art

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The intricate detailing in Utkarsh Makwana’s work invites the viewer to come closer and soak in the narrative. In his latest show, ‘Yes, Blue! But Which Blue?’, one can see the various influences—ranging from miniature painting and textile to architecture and familial memories—come together to create deeply human stories. In Finishing Touches, for instance, there is a palpable sense of melancholy as we see a lone female figure at the centre of the frame, working on a patchwork textile.

In the past Makwana has shown great skill with geometric shapes as a storytelling tool, but in this work, he takes it a notch further. The viewer’s eye travels from the patterned floor to the jaalis on the windows to finally rest on the textile, which too is a bouquet of shapes, line and colour. Each patch in the fabric has its own individual characteristics—chequered, dotted, scalloped and more—showing Makwana’s keen understanding of textiles. This is, perhaps, due to a childhood spent in a family of tailors and fabric experts in Ratlam.

“When you listen to a song, the background music helps bind the melody together. I see patterns in the same way. They help a viewer navigate the story, or transition smoothly from one narrative to another,” says Makwana. The miniature-style of painting—a form he has followed since his college days—too acts as a strong tool for him to tell a story which is firmly his own.

Also read: Museum of Art and Photography opens for physical exhibitions

The artist’s process of creation is an interesting one. He usually divides the painterly plane into sections, which are informed by geometric equations. “For instance, there are two circle works in the show. In one, I have flattened the sphere and divided the circles into different angles to create an aerial view. There is another way in which I can create a frontal view by dividing the sphere into different levels. I construct and deconstruct a shape according to the space that I need to tell a story,” he elaborates. According to the curatorial note, Makwana’s spatial configurations vary the complexity, density, and scale of the works. The artist often begins with structure, an architectural constitution. “This determines how we view the work: how our eyes travel along lines and grids; what points of the canvas we are drawn to by a rhythmic logic; which details appear as though magnified sheerly by their relationship to pattern and volume. It’s a discrete, yet animated choreography, and Makwana devises this with intention,” it states.

The title of the show is an interesting one. While viewing the works, it feels as if the artist has tried to break stereotypes around the gendered use of the colour blue. The narratives focus solely on the human condition, irrespective of the gender of the subject. While his earlier paintings drew heavily from myths and symbolism, his new series is more of a pondering on lived experiences—this is also, perhaps, an impact of the covid-19 related lockdowns. “My recent work is an inquiry into the human experience and emotions. It is about you, me and everyone. I find the usage of the term blue in literature and in everyday life to depict emotions very interesting—Monday blues, we are feeling blue, and more. That is what I have tried to evoke in my paintings,” says Makwana.

The exhibition can be viewed at Akara Art, Mumbai, till 25 February, 11 am to 6.30 pm

Also read: What goes into the making of Yigal Ozeri’s photo-realistic paintings?

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