Following her presence at the 55th Venice Biennale, Pace London is pleased to present an exhibition of recent work by Prabhavathi Meppayil from 26 June to 2 August 2014 at 6-10 Lexington Street. nine seventeen is Meppayil’s first exhibition in the UK, and first with Pace.
Born and raised in Bangalore, India, where she continues to work, Meppayil—the descendant of several generations of goldsmiths—revisits the motifs and problematics of Modernism and Minimalism via Indian artisanal practices and techniques. Her untitled paintings feature copper and gold wires embedded in heavily gessoed surfaces, and fields of marks left with goldsmith’s tools, most notably the thinnam, traditionally used to incise ornamental patterns in bangles.
In rich dialogue with Pace’s 54-year celebration of postwar abstraction, Meppayil’s subtle play of luminous lines and almost imperceptible indentations call to mind the pared-down visual language of Agnes Martin. Her reinterpretation of such minimalist trademarks as the grid and serial repetition also recall Sol LeWitt, whilst her dedication to surface and pure monochromy evoke Robert Ryman. Meppayil’s work however retains small flaws and the unmistakable traces of the artist’s hand, inflecting minimalist formulas with a profoundly sensual and transcendent dimension, specific to her setting and artisanal methods.
“My practice is about process and material. My engagement with the medium is about exploring a new relationship with traditional materials. A finely prepared gesso panel is almost like an object, the ambiguity between a surface and an object is interesting. I draw on the panel with delicate copper wire, by heating, stretching and embedding on the panel; make marks by tapping with my father’s goldsmith tools. The entire process for me is not just about drawing, it is as much about making; making things.” Prabhavathi Meppayil, May 2014.
Meppayil rose to international prominence in 2013 as one of the stand-outs of Massimiliano Gioni’s The Encyclopedic Palace at the Venice Biennale, which enshrined “outsider artists” and reconnected contemporary creativity to time-honoured and painstaking manual labor. Little known outside of India until recently, her paintings put a subtly evocative emphasis on materials, work implements and artistic process. Meppayil works “suggest that through meditative repetition, tradition remains in motion, guided equally by the history of craft and the hands through which it passes.” Sam Korman, La Biennale di Venezia, 2013.
nine seventeen is accompanied by a catalogue which features texts by Dr. Peter Miller, whose shared enthusiasm for Meppayil’s work brought the exhibition to the American Academy in Rome; historian and critic, Deepak Ananth, a specialist on Meppayil’s work and its relationship to Indian art history; and Harvard professor and Art Historian Dr. Benjamin H.D. Buchloh, whose original essay stations Prabhavathi’s work amongst the greats.