WHO Santhosh is a sculptor and painter from Kerala. Now based in Mumbai, he obtained his BFA in painting from Santiniketan and Master’s in sculpture from MS University, Vadodara. He has exhibited at Nature Morte Berlin, Aicon Gallery, London and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York, among many others.
Which aspect of daily life inspires your work?
When you pick up the newspaper every morning, you wake up to a turbulent world. These reports have the power to reconstruct your understanding of reality. Different media portray same incidents with different political implications. Encounters with local events and global realities have become a part of everyday life. This is an underlying aspect of my work.
What made you politically aware as an artist?
I lived through the politically and culturally eventful 1980s in Kerala. It was a phase of intense questioning and counter-questioning. I got involved with street dramas and various other reactionary activities. It was a meeting point of different ideologies — Gandhian, Marxist and so on. I learnt about the Eco-humanist approach, changing strategies of neo-colonisation and many local issues. It was a time of disbelief in ‘pure aesthetics’, which gave me an understanding of the relationship between art, language and human realities.
How do your works represent your ideas?
Earlier, I was inspired by black and white war photographs to investigate history. I tried to surpass a photo’s momentariness by merging images into one painting. It helped me establish a chain of cause and effect continuum to look into the future. Monochrome reminds me of a memory while my recent colour-coded works address current events. The solarised colour scheme I use captures their intensity.
A work that remains important to you?
Metabolism Test belongs to the monochromatic period. It was inspired by Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal,his response to World War II, set in the medieval period of Black Death. I adapted the image of Death playing chess with a knight. I tried to bring direct references of the war through mushroom clouds spreading in the sky and the enigmatic game of chess through the image of a rat laboratory set-up in the foreground. I was interested in multiple meaning and human error in modern-day calamities.