Neverland Post Office
Art Heritage brings to Delhi audiences Neverland Post Office, an exhibition of Rajesh Deb’s recent acrylic, woodcut, ink work and artist books. In continuation of his Testimony of Tolerance solo exhibition (Art Heritage, 2018) where Deb looked at identity in the context of historical figures and events – Neverland Post Office frees the viewer from the constraints of history, creating a series that draws on themes of reinvention, separation and belonging. It draws references and inspiration from J.M. Barrie’s mythical Neverland and Agha Shahid Ali’s collection of poems The Country Without a Post Office, inviting audiences to take stock of the absurdities of pre-pandemic and recent times, and reflect on their own actions.
In one of the darkest hours of the last century during the COVID pandemic, global lockdowns prompted one to evaluate and question priorities that often led to dramatic life changes, making the time of such a forced ‘pause’ appear as a silver lining. Now, as the rhythm of daily existence shifts back into a high gear, the time to reflect seems to have evaporated once again. Rajesh Deb’s new series of painting, woodcuts, ink works and artist books takes this moment of return (albeit in a new form) to ask us to, once again, undertake the exercise of self-reflection in a broader context.
Working on the premise of treating fantasy as a site of resistance, the imaginary world created in the Neverland series depicts a place that is both devoid of the passage of time – time-less – as well as literally a place whose existence and identity have been obliterated. “Such a place can have no identity,” says Deb – “and therefore has no post office.” But Deb’s world is not entirely fantastical as he brings elements and characters from the real world and amalgamates them into new forms of “hallucinations”. Posing a question Deb asks, “if things in the real world are combined into a new form to create new meaning, are they meaningless or do they reflect the sum of their parts?”
The exhibition is complemented by Ranjit Hoskote’s essay, Announcements Of Emancipation, in which he juxtaposes stanza’s from ‘The Country Without a Post Office’ against Deb’s works. This jugalbandi of the literary and visual mediums creates another space for interpretation of both the poems and the works themselves. Notes Hoskote, “…all persuasive and compelling satire, Deb’s oeuvre is not corrosive. On the contrary, it resonates with the artist’s compelling sympathy for humankind’s predicament, trapped as the species is between individual desire and the apparatus of institutional systems such as society and State. Captivated by the energy coursing through these works, we find them animated by an affirmation of the human adventure: that quest for a fuller and richer life, to be achieved through resilience and an intransigent belief in a more optimal, plural and equitable future. On Deb’s testimony, we can properly claim the mantle of being human only when we articulate such an ideal and insist on its saliency, regardless of how occluded it is by the Nacht und Nebel, the night and fog, of the perilous and precarious present.”
20 Mar - 16 Apr 2022
Paintings and Artist Books