Ajay Kurian

12 Sep – 12 Oct 2013


In 2008 I began silkscreening clarified butter onto paper.  About a year later, I perfected the process and graduated to working on linen, dusting the freshly applied ghee with a golden dust, allowing the image of ghee to come into focus, if a bit hazily.  It appeared almost like a revealed image in a shroud.  I couldn’t tell whether the image was appearing or disappearing.  The patterns I use come from two sources, either from the interior of a security envelope - like one you might receive from your bank - or from scientifically derived quasicrystalline patterns, which often feel like they could be a pattern for envelopes as well.  The overlap between them is complicated, but simply put, I was interested in the patterns that were evocative, occasionally incomplete, and non-periodic in their repetition.  The paintings or shrouds that resulted are all titled Prevenient but often with an additional parenthetical title.  I took the word Prevenient from a theologian named John Wesley who coined the phrase “prevenient grace”, which I’d loosely describe as the preliminary grace necessary to then achieve actual grace.  I liked this moment before truly entering into grace - this provisional moment - and what might be necessary to experience this provisional state, like a solemn dance routine towards transcendence. The paintings are a result of this kind of wondering, shifting, and dusting. Their quiet is a kind of provision for understanding, a word I mean with the utmost empathy.

Nevertheless, these works exist in a marketplace, and this made me apprehensive about what one was actually purchasing, and what I had made a purchase on as well, namely, spiritual real estate.  Additionally, I had made a cheap purchase of culturally loaded materials, such as ghee, linen, and gold.  And the only way I felt I could continue making these paintings is if they began to reflect my anxiety about that purchase, their circulation, and their status as spiritual commodities.  To show an honest face meant to show both faces, to reveal that with the angel comes the devil.  This Faustian turn is what has made these paintings real gateways to me.  I do not know who goes through them, nor what occurs any more.  

The other objects that populate the exhibition, such as discs of burnt bread each with the fire-gnarled face of Janus, and boxes of a local curry of Kerala with a slight irregularity, offer up different provisions and suggest a more complicated web of references that might dismay a viewer looking for the ease of simple abstraction, because in the end what I’ve realized is that abstraction is a dangerous thing.  Abstraction easily becomes the violence of the coin.  

Ajay Kurian