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Hello everybody, my name is Rebecca Brown and I’m a professor of the history of art here at Hopkins I’m thrilled to share with you some of my recent work, my ongoing work on an artist that I am truly fond of from southern India, KCS Paniker One of the things that really attracted me to his work is the way that he uses script It seems like you can read his paintings or should be able to read his paintings It turns out a lot of times what he is using his actual pseudo-script or scribbles that look like script It occurred to me, why would an artist do this? Why would an artist of the 20th century think about writing on a painting? It turns out that he is not alone Many artists in the 20th century do this What I want to do today is walk you through my thought process as I am thinking about why he would do this, and show you some of his amazing paintings and give you a sense of some of the answers I have come up with to this question Along the way, what I want to do is put him in conversation with a couple of other artists Some that are contemporary with him that are using Arabic and Persian script in their work and then some who are little bit later from the 90s and 2000s who are using Chinese script in various ways, pseudo-script and non-pseudo-script in their work To think more broadly about what it means for an artist to use writing in their work The other thing I should tell you is we will be having breaks for questions along the way, feel free to upload your questions and I will take a break along the way and answer them and of course at the end will have some time for questions Let me share my screen First thing I want to emphasize is that pseudo-script and writing that does not actually mean anything is nothing new We have had this since the ancient Egyptian times and I’m showing you here a scarab which has meaningless hieroglyphs as well as things that are trying to look like writing but actually are not This is something that has long been a part of art history It continues when we move into later periods What I’m showing you here is a beautiful ceramic bowl from the Walters Art Museum down the road from where I’m sitting This has pseudo-Arabic on it This is made in an Islamic context that the artist has chosen to use a gesture towards writing, and pseudo-Arabic around the edges in that blue declaration and in the middle as you can see as well Rather than using actual Arabic script Examples also exist in the European Christian world Here, I’m showing an example from the National Gallery in D.C. where you can see a 15th century Italian painting In the halo of Mary’s head it looks like writing and it looks kind of like Arabic but it is completely pseudo-Arabic There is no meaning in these gestures The other types of examples that we get are examples like this one that is a carpet that would’ve been used for prayer This is a prayer rug in an Islamic context It looks like script around the edges but it is pseudo-Arabic There are a number of reasons why an artist would have reached for a pseudo-text instead of an actual text One basic one is that they maybe did not know Arabic and could’ve been illiterate, or not in an Arabic speaking area even within the Islamic world That would definitely be the case for a lot of people They sort of gesture to it in the way that they knew how Another reason would be particularly in the case of the Mary image for example, to try to give us a sense of connection to the holy land through this language of Arabic

The artist would not necessarily known Arabic but wanted to give a flavor of that distant land and legitimize the presence of Mary in this concept Another additional reason is embodied by this prayer rug, this is an object that would go on the floor and that would be stood on during prayer The artist perhaps chose a pseudo-Arabic script around the edges and in the middle because they did not want someone who was worshiping to inadvertently step on the word of God This is about avoiding defiling that holy word Also, giving the person who was worshiping a sense of being surrounded by holy text at the same time There is a whole range of reasons why people have used this historically In the 20th century what we find is a bunch of the scripts: hieroglyphics, Mayan hieroglyphics, linear B People start to decode these things and become a source of fascination among the intellectual elite in a range of different countries This is one thing that spurs artists in Europe, in particular in the 20th century, to think about what it means to make a mark in a piece of clay and have that translate into meaning How does that parallel the making of a mark on the campus? How does that then translate? We have these questions around meaning making and painting that come out of a larger cultural sphere where questions of translation and decipherment are central The other thing that is happening in the early 20th century is that you also have cryptography happening World War I and World War II were known for moments where opposing forces would decipher the codes of their enemies in order to get a leg up Cryptography became a new thing that was circulation in the popular imagination alongside these other translation projects Someone like Paul Klee for example, a Swiss born artist and a member of the Bauhaus is thinking in the early 20th century about these type of questions Any making, mark making text and script How do we know what something says when we cannot decipher it or when it is difficult to decipher? He is drawing on, as you can see in this example, the range of Egyptian marks and forms and some of his works He also thinks about Chinese This may not look like Chinese, in fact it is not It is German It’s a German translation of a Chinese text He was given a book of Chinese poetry and he did several different works based on these German translations Thinking about the ways in which a Chinese character is contained in one space and you can see that operating in this particular painting Each letter, which you can barely make out, and if you can read German you may be able to pick out some of the words here Each letter is in its own square and then obscured by the way he is using color and line There is a sense of legibility and not quite legible that he is getting at in this work I think that is something that a lot of artists in the early 20th century were fascinated with Here are a couple of other examples where Paul Klee is experimenting in the mid-20s On the left I read this as his experimentation with marks that are akin to something like a linear B On the right this is one of two paintings that probably form the same painting This is Chinese picture two where he is experimenting with different forms and different gestures to think through the way in which we communicate through both letters, writing and symbols All of this comes together in an artist like KCS Paniker

What I see in his work is representation, questions of meaning, translation and legibility And a lot of his works you can see him working on the surface here You can see my pointer hopefully, but things like this sort of script here, he is also involving other kinds of animal forms, geometries from math, symbols that a South Asian viewer would probably associate with particular deities In this case it’s a trident that might be associated with the deity Shiva These are the kinds of elements that he brings together in his work Before I dive and I want to pause here for a moment to see if there are any questions I think we are actually okay I will go ahead and introduce you to KCS Paniker’s work in a little bit more detail Feel free to post any questions you have Once I have finished introducing we can go back to questions KCS Paniker is an artist based in southern India, the southern half of the Indian subcontinent where they speak a range of different Dravidian languages In the north they speak European languages which are associated with European language like German and Latin In the South is a different language family and a different subscript as well He is based in Madras and was the head of the art school there for many years before creating an artist village south of Cholamandal Here he is in the home that he built himself where he basically painted all of his works inside of his house Here you see him in his living room basically near the dining room working on this painting in 1968 He lived from 1911-1977 Unfortunately he was taken from us a bit early due to cancer In the last decade or so of his life starting in 1963 he starts a project that he calls “Words and Symbols.” What you see him working on here is a painting that he is halfway through Here is the finished painting on the left Just to give you a sense I love these juxtapositions because they are so rare Here’s a really good artists photographed in progress Here’s the final product You can see him working very carefully What he does here is he layers on his canvas these gestures that you can actually see very clearly, in this case in brown and cream He’s given us two zones on the top and bottom of the painting On top of those zones he is going to start putting in these diagrams and writing and adding charts and tables That is the process that he has already embarked on in the top half of that painting What this does, it gives the painting a layering of archaeological layers It feels like you can take the drawings that are floating on top of this thing that is behind In this stage in the 60s this is not 100 percent true for all his works but in general he starts out stripping away his color palette A lot of his early paintings in this series are this color palette you are seeing here This brown and yellow and neutral color palette Later he gets into massive coloring and gets excited about it again First, he wants to strip away that particular question from his painting and focus on the gesture, the mark on the campus Whether it is this brushy undercoat or the drawn designs on the surface Let’s just take a closer look at this painting so I can walk you through what these words

and symbols are and what they invite When I show this to art historians who are trained in South Asian art history they go nuts What they want to do is pick apart each little symbol What I see in the top right is right here and I am circling it with my arrow A multi-headed, multi-armed figure probably the demon Ravena and they want to pick other things related to various diagrams They see connections to the paintings that people do in front of their houses with usually the rice flour They see those designs in somebody’s paintings This close-up also gives you a sense You also have charts You want to figure out what’s the logic to this chart How is it organizing information? He also have geometric diagrams like you see in the bottom right here It seems like it’s out of a math textbook Maybe this is a problem that a person is working out and maybe what we see in the writing is the person continuing to work that out in text All of these elements then hover on the surface of the painting What we get in thinking through this painting as a whole is this idea of knowledge simmering on the surface All we have to do is crack the code That is our task as viewers What I found with his paintings is that soon you let that desire go because there’s just no way to make it work where everything in the painting coalesces together and I can really show you what this means I actually think what he is trying to get at is the very question of knowledge How do we know what we know? Or does that knowledge come from? What kind of structures do we put in place to create that knowledge? That is one teaser, a hint as to what we might get when we look at these painting a little bit more closely Before I move on to the next section that may take a couple questions I have one question about Paul Klee’s Chinese picture two That’s the painting on the right here The question is the image in Paul Klee’s Chinese picture two, where the forms and scripts began? How do artists make the distinction? This is exactly the question and one of the things that I think these artists are struggling with or struggle maybe is too negative of a word What they are grappling with or are interested in is exactly this idea Where the forms and where the script began? Something like a hieroglyphic going back to Paul Klee’s legend of the Nile painting really helps these artists to think through, what is it? What is the gesture of a boat? What does boat mean as letters and how do those forms translate into boat? This is a question that linguists are struggling with, that artists are working with, and that I think we see throughout Paul Klee’s work, is that he’s working with this edge between writing and symbol Certainly I think that KCS Paniker is titling this whole series “Word and Symbols” is also thinking about text as warm One of the words he uses for it is calligraphy We will come back to that as we talk about Arabic, Persian and Chinese calligraphy and writing I think the calligraphy idea captures both the form and the content at the same time and that something is very much thinking about Thank you very much for the question, that is great

Let me give you a sense of what it might be like to read these paintings if you knew one or more of the south Indian languages KCS Paniker is basically born in Coimbatore But his family is from [name] What you see here is Malailum script It’s not very readable What I want to show you first since I mentioned most of us share a knowledge of English is that early on in 63-64 he experiments with English in his paintings Right at the beginning This painting really helps me get a sense of what it might be as a Malailum speaker or reader to look at one of the paintings that has that script on it Here in premonitions which is a “Words and Symbols” painting you really get a sense for trying to parse out words like “psychological” up at the top or “death.” Impress on soul May beautiful phrase The end is interrupted by these mathematical equations We see summations over algebraic equations or you see square roots of crazy different combinations of things All of this is then interspersed or surrounded by that layering we saw another painting Right here and more colorful mode In some figural elements, some sketchy type forms and things like that There is a desire to read that is then thwarted by the way in which he is actually presenting his work The way in which he is mixing these texts into geometries and mathematics By the way, I checked with the mathematician friend of mine and he confirmed what I thought which is that these equations don’t quite work or add up to anything They seem like they might, but then they don’t It’s very possible that he was taking these from mathematic texts books he might’ve had lying around and messed with them Just like the text they are not quite readable Some of the resources that a lot of people talk about when they talk about KCS Paniker’s work associate him in some ways with a range of different knowledge systems One of the big ones people connect with him is the knowledge system around tantra, which is a group of text and belief practices associated with both Hinduism and Buddhism from the fifth century CE This painting here highlights that You get this figure in the top left of the painting which is a cosmic diagram You may be familiar with the term mantra which is a verbal, repetitive set of syllables that you would say is a meditative practice, a yantra is a visual version of that This is something you would focus on a meditation that is a simple form that has a lot of different layers to it He is giving us a yantra which is used in a range of different religious practices He’s giving us next to a yogi or some sort of religious figure in prayer with his hands above his head kneeling down Then he is giving us other kinds of geometric diagrams, diagrams below, perhaps astrological diagrams in the whole panel down below with diamonds in text and other sorts of forms along with this lovely snake, a multiheaded snake that is a common figure in all kinds of religions including Buddhism and Hinduism One way of thinking about the knowledge systems he’s using is that there is religious aspect to this There is a spiritual aspect to this I think in reading KCS Paniker’s work in the past a lot of people overemphasized that There is a stereotype about Asia and India in particular that it must be spiritual, think

Eat Pray Love, for example I think that is a part of this KCS Paniker himself was not the religious He’s using these forms as forms and symbols in a way of getting at what it means to know the world, and tantra has a range of different ways of knowing the world that he’s drawing on and including his work Another thing that he does in his work, another knowledge system he draws on is astrology This painting is actually fascinating, it’s hanging in the living room of the KCS Paniker family today and it has a lot of writing on it that can be parsed I sent a photograph of this painting to a colleague that knows both Malayalam and Sanskrit He is Richard Friedman at Duke, he helped me by actually parsing some of these words and telling me that it is in Malayalam script, some words are Malayalam and some are Sanskrit because you can write differently which is in the same script There are Sanskrit words, there are Malayalam words They don’t look like the English we saw before They don’t add up to full phrase or full sentence or real meaning, but then he got interested in what is at the top of the painting here I will zoom in here This little chart here, he said this kind of looks like the kind of astrological diagram you would ask for or commission on the birth of a child This looks like a birth chart He then looked up KCS Paniker’s birth chart with the information he had from when he was born and this is what his birth chart looks like It’s not exact, but it makes me feel like perhaps at the top center of this painting which is currently hanging in the living room of the family we have a very personal element of the artist’s own history embedded in the painting This is knowledge about a child and its future It’s hopeful for the future in these birth charts Two embedded in the middle of his painting I think is quite telling The fact that the family has kept this painting and kept it in a central location in the home is also telling I asked the family members that I was chatting with whether they knew that this was the birth chart after which had let me know and they said we sort of guessed, we knew this painting was important, and then asked them if they had a copy of KCS Paniker’s birth chart and sadly it had been lost I do think that this adds into that layering of information and layering of knowledge that KCS Paniker is all about We have religion, astrology and we also have magic and sorcery One of the things that I have been digging into and having a lot of fun digging into is magic and sorcery practices related to the Payon This is a picture from a book that details Payon symbols that are associated with magic and sorcery I just want you to look at this one down here If we go back to this painting we have this kind of astrological diagram that looks very similar A lot of his pseudo-figural works also resonate with some of those diagrams The other thing that he is often referring to that you can see in this painting are cave drawings Again, the 60s and 70s where a time when a lot of cave drawings in India as well as around the world are being published and circulated Get the sense of anxiousness in his work that I think is quite crucial That comes to these drawings but also comes to that archaeological layering that I was mentioning earlier This is another example from 1964 This one has English in it As you gaze at it in the detail that I’m giving you we talked about mathematics, we talked about religion, astrology, cave painting The other thing that I think is particularly salient for an understanding of what he is

doing here with the language is the particular context of the 1960s and 70s in South India This is the moment we have a lot of different political groups vying to have the southern Indian Lane which is recognized as legitimate at a time when Hindi, the language that is spoken across a decent portion of North India is taking over as a language in the civil service for example There are lot of language protests in language agitation across South India in particular In some ways, the focus on language is about all the things I was talking about earlier The interest that painters have in meaning but also very much a part of KCS Paniker’s world at this time When he is combining these things and all these different knowledge systems as you see in this particular painting is almost like a review of what I have been talking about We have deities, we have things that look like either folk art or cave painting We have diagrams that look mathematical And then we have other kinds of symbols as well On top of this layered background These kinds of things come together thinking about his work and what I see I want to move on to thinking about a comparative example with Arabic and Persian artists who are roughly contemporary with KCS Paniker Before I do let me see if there are any questions Cynthia has a question Would you agree that KCS Paniker’s mind works in a more cognitive way and he would choose symbols and arrange them to make a beautiful composition? I’m actually not sure what you mean by cognitive I can speak to the question of composition I think that KCS Paniker – he is a mature artist at this point and he has had years of working on various kinds of different phases or projects in his painting over the course of his career He also is one of the artists that gets up every morning and sketches His command of composition and of the balance across the painting and of color as you can see in this painting is also quite incredible and strong He is giving us a way of working our eye around the painting through color Here we have this baseline of the mauve pink, his daughter actually calls them bubbles The bubble behind On top of that we have this yellow square that floats but also is embedded within it there is a push pull with a lot of his colors Often he will go over multiple zones with the drawings on top He is very attentive to composition Even in the few paintings I have shown you, you can see that he is actually experimenting with that whole range of different kinds of composition The Oliver painting where everything is covered to the slightly sparser work to the one that is in his living room, which is this two part central image with text above and below I get the sense that he is very much experimenting with different kinds of balances in his compositions That is one way to answer your question As I said -we have another question about how KCS Paniker’s work is received in India today from Hannah Also, how was it received when it was first made and first circulating? He was very well received as a very well respected painter even before he took on this particular tone in his work One thing to note is not a lot of artists in India are working in the CDM This is pretty strange It’s not in the norm of what people are doing across the subcontinent Which I think actually speaks volumes to his confidence but also the way his mind works and how he is thinking about different things Most of the reception of his work struggled to figure out how to fit in

The one primary way people manage to do that is actually through the mode of transport In the 60s and 70s and 80s there was a move more among curators and galleries to create a group called neo-tantra artists He is often grouped with the Zardes He himself resisted this label, most did Some wanted to tap into something that they saw in tantra sex or tantra imagery and were closer to that idea I think just looking at the painting that I have got here on the screen you can see that he is dealing with so much more than religious imagery there’s so much geometry in math and so much more than just squiggles text I think there is a sense in which his painting was narrowly read during his lifetime He tried to fight against that, but continued to be lumped together within the tantra artists I’m trying to give him a much richer background and a much richer way of thinking about his work and we have had today How it is to you today? It’s not actually circulated that much As part of the problem, not just with KCS Paniker but a lot of artists that I study It’s hard to get information out of a lot of these artists Also, if you’re not able to go to India he is considered an incredibly important artist in Indian art circles today That is definitely the case He can see his work at the National Gallery in Delhi There is an art gallery that has over 60 works of his in Kerala I encourage you to go to this gallery and see it if you are over there It’s difficult to see his work and that’s a big hurdle for a lot of artists, not just KCS Paniker I’m actually not aware of the huge number of his paintings that exist outside of India aside from those in his family I’m hoping we can start to remedy this by publishing his work and spreading the word, so to speak I will move to the next section and we will have another break for questions again One of the things that I like to do, first of all KCS Paniker probably had no idea that the Zardes were working in text as well He might’ve known that there were a number of artists from the Islamic world that were also thinking about text declined in the work for some various reason I’m not sure that he would’ve seen this work or been exposed to it and he does not mention it He travels to the U.S. into Europe in the 50s and 60s but does not mention seeing anything except European and American work My method here is not about influence, it’s more about comparison If you put the Zardes next to KCS Paniker what do they help us see about his work? For starters I want to start with is Ibraham El Salahi He started out initially in the quarter given on the screen details this, like KCS Paniker he stripped away the color and went to somber tones as he says There is a kind of cognitive theory in terms of artist struggling with what we had earlier in the question about form and meaning and script In trying to pare it down He does that Then he starts writing Then he starts realizing that the forms of Arabic could break apart They look like skeletal forms especially this example I’m showing you here

He started to look at the space in between and how it flowed Then he says in this quote, “there the Pandora’s box open wide before my eyes and amongst those broken up letters I discovered animal and plant forms and human images are what looked like skeletons.” This is from 1962 Here, is just a year or two later This one on the right is not dated but we think it’s from the same time These paintings are glorious They have these haunting elongated figures Now that you have seen the earlier work that Ibraham El Salahi was thinking you get a sense of text and of writing and the bodies taking the form of the elongated in Arabic script and of a pattern of movement across the surface that is in some ways akin to writing in Arabic or Persian Ibraham El Salahi is one of the people that I put in dialogue with KCS Paniker, also because it’s not like these painters are readable They gestured toward script without actually being script or being taxed The other artists that I wanted to look at has readable script in his work This is Siah Armahjani He settled in New York Like artist settled in New York we have a different situation for Siah Armahjani This is a garment that is associated with his father It has on it written Persian text all over it including the sleeves and bodice I’m showing in detail here on the right This is readable text If you read the language This is actually crucial here Both for KCS Paniker and a lot of these artists working in Arabic and Persian Even if KCS Paniker’s work is displayed only in South India he knows that people looking at his work will be able to read it or only partially be able to read it What you get here with Siah Armahjani is the recognition from a lot of his U.S. viewers they are just going to see what they may interpret as Arabic script or Arabic language This laying of how does communication work if your audience is varying in this way -will have different language systems that we carry around with us Perhaps this is particularly true of those who are immigrants and those who live in a multilingual society like India where your mother tongue might be Malayalam or you might speak Tamil or English The multi layers of language and communication are so present for someone like Siah Armajani who is an immigrant from Iran and someone like KCS Paniker It’s illegible but there’s also a caveat around that Another Iranian artist also an immigrant from Iran Charles Hossain He has written individual characters and these are often numbers A lot of what you are saying are Arabic numerals and there is a kind of sense of communication, maybe numerology Hossein Zenderoudi was particularly interested in questions of the way codes might be translated into paint and use that metaphor of a secret code that might be used in this painting You may have seen if you went to MOMA, you might’ve seen one of Hossein Zenderoudi’s works

This is after the 2017 rehang of the galleries where the curators hung works from the countries that had been banned immigration from Iran was one of those band countries This is after the travel ban of 2017 and they hung a variety of works in here Here they hung Zenderoudi in the Matisse room This is that painting on the right Got a sense of how big it was and then the detail on the left This is another with felt -tip marker that was done right after he moved to Paris It’s like an Armajani and a connection to his father There is a way that text becomes connected to a memory and family and communication with family across distances in time Also, for Zenderoudi has this mystical aspect to it One of the things that he was particularly interested in is this idea of some communication could in fact be universal For him the use of all the symbols and charts and everything else was about trying to get to universal medication He says, “men the world over are identical in all can read my work.” What matters is to achieve harmony between the person who created it and the spectator Here, you make it something different than of the spectator of this work, but his hope is that you understand the kind of yearning for communication and connection that he is putting into this painting A final artist who does not fit in the 1960s or 70s period but I just wanted to raise her work because I assume some of you are familiar with it Shirin Neshat, she has photographed herself on left and right with guns in the image Across her face in both cases is writing Like all of the artist there’s a sense in which some people will be able to read it and no that what we are looking at here is poetry written by women in Persian after the 1979 revolution, but others will look at it and see undecipherable text or see Arabic or mislabel it in a certain way One of the things I think a lot of these artists are playing with is that missed connection They want us to think about the ways in which translation works and does not work I would say, Armajani and Shirin Neshat are in that realm as immigrant transnational artists The question is what does this help me think about in terms of KCS Paniker? Particularly, artist letter transnational and KCS Paniker really wasn’t, he traveled a bit but basically stayed more or less in one place They help me to see multilingual immunity that KCS Paniker is in and a part of He is trying to distinguish different levels of knowledge, that something the link which actually does for him The other being that these artists help me with is this idea of breaking down the text What does it need to have nonsensical text in your paintings or to use text as a way of marking? Both help me think through that in terms of letters and numbers I think in some ways the Zenderoudi painting that was at MOMA and KCS Paniker speak to each other probably the best of these In part because Zenderoudi is bringing together religious symbolism of various sorts from an Islamic context He’s bringing that together with his text is usually some sort of combination of what you see here There is also a very personal connection that we have in both of these paintings with KCS Paniker’s birth chart and the connection with his father

Any additional questions at this point? Shall I push on to thinking about — I just want to walk you through about what happens in the 80s and 90s in China One piece of background information that I think is important to keep in mind, during Mao rule you would’ve been taught a simplified version of Chinese characters A lot of artists in the 80s and into the 90s really pushed against this or use this as a political space to think about a character and how it worked The other piece of information is as many of you know, calligraphy is one of the highest arts in China It definitely outranks painting It slightly below poetry If you’re an educated elite person in China calligraphy is one of the things you get trained in and one of the things that you know and it’s a mark of someone who is well educated Similar to a knowledge of Latin might have been in British context in the middle part of the 20th century Gu Wenda in this context started thinking about seal script No one could read it unless I specifically studied it He started making up his own seal script What you see on the left is an early painting of his where he is using seal script but it is totally made up The idea is that no one would know that it is made up except for a scholar who knew seal script He is playing with that He is also playing with this idea of ink painting and calligraphy and landscape painting This develops into what you see on the right which is this massive installation that he did where he wove people’s hair into these curtains and then put text on them Text that was unreadable, but reflected the linguistic reality of the people he was collecting You can see on the right what looks like a Roman script, but you can’t actually read it Arabic or Persian script in the back, what looked like maybe Chinese or seal script on the right He is bringing together a visceral connection through human hair with a universalizing idea of unreadable script in his work Some of you may also be familiar with Xu Bing who created this incredible exhibition that was shown in early 2000’s Here he made up over 1000 new characters, new Chinese characters that are all fake He had them carved into blocks to they could be printed in traditional Chinese books that you see an exhibition Their print job on these awful scrolls that hang from the ceiling Again, like Armajani, the understanding of this piece is whether you know Chinese or not If you come in and know Chinese you go around trying to read and you cannot If you are not a Chinese speaker you go around and don’t expect to be able to understand It becomes a completely different work Again, Xu Bing is someone who left China Someone who is transnational artist and is playing with this idea of translation and readability He also does this work which is an introduction to new English calligraphy You should be able to read these characters if you can read English They are in fact in English but they are at first glance appeared to be Chinese The banner across the top left reads are for the people You can see on the left if you look at it carefully enough you can start to parse each of those characters This is something where he flipped that idea of readability And also try to undermine Chinese script in Chinese characters You can understand it, it is not out of your reach I think that is something he is trying to play with and a lot of his work

Two more examples Qui Zhije writes the orchid Priebus, it’s one of the things you learn when you’re learning calligraphy, how to copy not just the text but Wang Zitzi Here, we have readable text that becomes unreadable and then dissolves in its own weight The idea is the process of writing, the meditative process of writing over and over again Writing itself becomes a performance of this work Similarly, Song Dong does another meditative performance called stomping in the water What he has above his head is a woodblock that has carved into it the character or water He is standing it over his head onto the water and says I stamped it really deliberately but it never stuck The river kept moving Here, we have that kind of nonsensical aspect of it It is water in the text, but it is also water around his body and that we are seeing in the picture Which is the better water? Which is the better communication water? Where do we find the meaning of water? It’s also obviously an environmental case about nature and a piece about Tibet and the politics of territory and ownership and slipping by of the river as he is trying to mark it and stamp it with his label All of the Zardes for me add another layer to how we might think about KCS Paniker’s work in helping to see the particularities of KCS Paniker’s use of text here He’s interested in the magic of individual words, he plays with our perceptions in guiding us to read as Xu Bing does He suggests that his paintings might be ancient We might be looking at something that is so old that we can’t decipher it and don’t have access to it He’s giving us a range of knowledge systems and this is the painting I went and on where there is a lot of different kinds of systems, all brought together in this one work For me, KCS Paniker’s painting isn’t about any one system, it’s actually about the question of how do we organize the world? How do we understand the world? What systems do we used to do that? Perhaps, how can we acknowledge that none of the systems are going to be complete? There is still this magical excess and that’s where I see his art operating, to show us that magical excess I will end there I have one more question at least and feel free to add on We can go a couple of minutes over I am told Since language binds her separate society, could abstracting it or using pseudo-presentation too desire for common thread across humanity? Or, could indicate a possible isolation? That’s a great question I think a lot of these artists and I mentioned Zenderoudi feeling like there was that kind of common, universal aspect to it I think most of the artists I have shown you in their work, they are trying to think about the edge, the limit of knowledge perhaps in the case of KCS Paniker or communication more specifically in some of these other artists work I see Xu Bing as being very optimistic potentially about that We are saying that we can do this, we can bridge this I see some of the other artists it becomes a very personal thing When it’s your father’s coat and it’s writing about your father on that coat and it’s next to his body and it’s next your body and you wrote with your hand that’s a very personal, individual thing I think that there is a range of different ways in which artists are using text in one of the answers to your question is there is no way to say absolutely which way it falls

For me, it’s about looking at a bunch of KCS Paniker’s paintings and then figuring out how we might think about the context that he is in, the different resources he draws on and what he is giving us in the paintings themselves We are out of time Thank you so much for joining me This has been a real pleasure and I hope that it was also enlightening for you in some way If you have any questions at all or want to chat with me more about this my email is on the history of our website at Hopkins Feel free to reach out I very much appreciate Hopkins at home for facilitating me sharing this with you today

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