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CULTURE
Nidhi Agarwal: मानसिक (Psychic)
The New Delhi artist's fantastical exhibition showcases clashing forms and vibrant colors
by David Graver
on 26 February 2014
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Within the magnificent Oberoi Gurgaon Hotel, located in India's bustling business hub of New Delhi, acclaimed artist Nidhi Agarwal is showcasing a series of chaotic and colorful mixed-media paintings. The gallery, Nature Morte, carries global prestige, having first been founded in New York City by artist Peter Nagy before shifting to their primary New Delhi location in 2003. A sister location, also centered around leading contemporary Indian art, opened in Berlin in 2008.

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"Psychic" is composed of many recent works by Agarwal. Each incorporates painting and drawing, often portraying clashing forms and figures, yet unified by vibrant color. Although abstraction serves as a throughline, Agarwal also manages to incorporate more figurative depictions, toeing a line between reality and fantasy. The artist refers to her work as honest expressions of a young woman living in today's urban India. However, in place of a statement on this show, she invokes author Dr. Suess: "I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living, it's a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope. Which is what I do, and that enables you to laugh at life's realities." The quotation resonates through the emotional expression behind each of Agarwal's work. They convey a nervous energy, some delight in the disturbing, but all of them celebrate life.

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Agarwal was born in 1972 in Faridabad, India—located in the north Indian state of Haryana. She went on to study painting at the College of Art in New Delhi, where she has lived since. From her first solo show in 1993 to her 2013 large public display in Latvia, she has shown across the globe while receiving artist grants and residencies in Germany and United States. Pulling electric form from found materials and oils, acrylics and rice paper, ink and charcoal, she employs the impasto technique. The result is a remarkable texture and a contrast between background and form. The works featured in "Psychic" call on this method as well, often with entire tubes of paint squeezed atop, spritzed and smeared. In the face of all that vivid chaos, the artist still manages to deliver a beauty well worth checking out.

Currently on show at Nature Morte within The Oberoi Gurgaon, Nidhi Agarwal's "Psychic" will run seven days a week through 16 March 2014.

Images courtesy of Nature Morte

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