Dynamic painter of a positive world
For Joshi, the large paintings were the universe that he visualised or extracted from the existing universe. This universe is not an ideal or idle one. This universe is infested with various layers, layers of events, behaviours, accessions, offloading, aggressions and yielding and so on.
An isolated where nothing goes smoothly. Joshi's attempt was not to create a dream world, instead, he created layers after layers of colors, which in turn function as the layers of worldly events. Instead of giving strong contours of journalistic realism, Joshi shaped them out of abstract fields and minimal lines. The patterns evolve out of these acts of 'stroking' and slowly reveal a world that is akin to the contemporary world we live in.
Joshi was a keen observer of the changes that has been happening in a big way in Indian society. The two decades that had gone by were really stimulating for a thinking person as various contesting ideas and ideologies started operating in Indian society during these years, pushing and pulling it into various directions. These churning years facilitated Joshi also to ideate and create a visual field where he could distil the essence of the changing times through patterns of colours and rhythms.
This distillation had come to Joshi's visual field in the form of squares that remotely resembles the computer keyboards. Keyboards, if we see in a renewed perspective, hold the key of today's world. For anything and everything, right from googling for some information to text messaging a friend, drawing money from an ATM to booking a ticket for a movie, we depend on keyboards. The reduction of a tactile world into a pad of keys is an interesting phenomenon occurring in our lives flux.
A stroke on the keyboard actually determines the amount of ideas and information that we get, the depth of communication that we wish, the immensity of transcendence that we aspire. This interesting relationship between keyboards and human beings had become one of the pivotal points of reference for Joshi in most of his works.
It is not just the world of keyboards that inspired Joshi to do his paintings that vary in scale, Joshi's passion was to do large scale works. Geometric patterns come to his paintings in regular intervals, almost reminding one of the rhythmic patterns that Joshi created in his sculptural installations, and make the viewer to guide his/hers in certain ways. These geometric shapes, mainly squares and rectangles bring certain games into our attention.
Joshi recalled his childhood experience of playing board games and round games. These games are sublimated and re-articulated in the political governance and social structuring. Joshi understood this sublimation and the transcendence of human intelligence from children's games to political manoeuvring.
While he did his large scale works, he also revealed this subtle hidden world of games through the colour patterns and lines. Surendra Pal Joshi's paintings are architectural in nature without painting and architectural forms directly on to the pictorial surfaces. Architectural thinking becomes an integral part in these paintings because they reflect and represent the spatial distribution of an 'ideal' urban space. According to Joshi, these ideal urban spaces are the golden spaces that had been here once and would come back to our lives. In this sense, Joshi in his paintings, brought forth a vision and nostalgia at the same time.
On the one hand he portrayed an urban setting that would let the people to have freedom to move and express themselves and on the other hand he suggests that these spaces would have 'life' compared to the coldness of the present in cities
The dynamism of a golden past would come back, Joshi hoped. And that's what made Surendra Pal Joshi a dynamic painter of positive worlds.
Johny ML is a culture critic, art curator and writer based in New Delhi.