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b. 1977, India

Abir Karmakar Biography

Contemporary Indian visual artist Abir Karmakar is known for his photo-realistic, voyeuristic paintings of domestic interiors. The Baroda-based artist uses these depictions of intimate settings to discuss broader ideas of identity, memory, and history.

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Born in Siliguri, West Bengal, Abir Karmakar studied painting at Rabindra Bharati University Kolkata, graduating with a BFA in 2001. He later attended The Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda in Gujarat, graduating with an MFA in 2003.

Abir Karmakar's early paintings and video largely focused on human figures. His paintings in the 2000s consisted primarily of photo-realistic androgynous—largely naked—portraits and self-portraits. Series like 'Interiors' (2006) and 'In the Old Fashioned Way' (2007) broke down formalities of gender, sexuality, and intimacy as it exists in relationship with oneself in private spaces. Set in the intimate spaces of the bedroom and bathroom, Karmakar depicted his and others' bodies with expressions that are sometimes confrontationally provocative and other times more self-absorbed.

In series such as 'Scent' (2011) however, Abir Karmakar's focus shifted. Largely removing the human figure from his work, the artist instead focused on presenting detailed realistic interiors that bear traces of human activity. Though there may be no provocative self-display, in 'Scent' a provocative element is preserved in messy bedrooms and bathrooms.

With roots in 17th-century Dutch genre painting, Abir Karmakar's domestic interior scenes use the composition of objects of everyday life—such as furniture, kitchen utensils, clothes, and trinkets—to form a psychological picture of the space's occupants. Frozen in a particular moment, these objects encode a memory of the home's occupants that we are not privy to.

In series such as 'Views' and 'Angles' (both 2014), the voyeuristic element of these scenes is emphasised with a rounded composition, recreating the effects of peeping through a keyhole. This optical effect also exemplifies the interplay between two- and three-dimensional space in Karmakar's paintings. Each interior scene is a balanced illusion utilising pictorial devices such as mirrors and doorways, and accurate mimicry of natural and fluorescent light, to create the impression of space beyond the flat canvas.

In some interiors, the artist inverts this spatial relationship. Abir Karmakar's wall-size 'Home' (2016) paintings for Kochi-Muziris Biennale in 2016/2017 were specifically designed for Kashi Art Gallery. Adjusted to suit the proportions and architecture of the gallery, when installed together the illusionistic interior paintings gave the impression of transplanting a whole house into the gallery. The artist even cut a door-shaped opening into the canvas to match the entrance door in the gallery.

Abir Karmakar's paintings are not exclusively photo-realistic interiors. In his 'Suns' (2015), for instance, the artist presents a series of images that turn the voyeuristic eye upon itself, depicting human eyes up close. Karmakar's practice is also not exclusive to painting—he has made several sculptures and video installations.

Abir Karmakar's 'History Painting' (2020) series, in contrast to earlier works, puts aside spatial illusions and intimate interior spaces. Instead, he documents in his realistic style the essence of life played out on India's streets during the global coronavirus pandemic.

Abir Karmakar Solo Exhibitions include:

Here everything is fine, GALLERYSKE, New Delhi (2020); Displacement, Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke, Mumbai (2017); Room, Interrupted in Passage, Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke, Mumbai (2012); The Morning After, Aicon Gallery, New York (2011); Within the Walls, Gallery Espace, New Delhi (2008); In the Old Fashioned Way, Aicon Gallery, London (2007); from my photo album, The Museum Gallery, Mumbai (2005).

Abir Karmakar Group Exhibitions include:

Drawn from Practice, Experimenter, Kolkata (2018); Peak Shift Effect, Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi (2013); Cynical Love: Life in the everyday, Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, Noida, India (2012); Adbhutam—Rasa in Indian Art, CIMA Gallery, Kolkata (2011); INDIA AWAKEN: Under the Banyan Tree, Essl Museum, Vienna (2010); A MAZ ING, Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai (2008); Reality Bites, CIMA Gallery, Kolkata (2007).

Michael Irwin | Ocula | 2021

Abir Karmakar Featured Artworks

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Surface by Abir Karmakar contemporary artwork
Abir KarmakarSurface, 2020Oil on canvas
121.9 x 91.4 cm
Sold
Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke
Surface 2 by Abir Karmakar contemporary artwork
Abir KarmakarSurface 2, 2020Oil on canvas
91.4 x 76.2 cm
Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke Contact Gallery
Surface 1 by Abir Karmakar contemporary artwork
Abir KarmakarSurface 1, 2020Oil on canvas
91.4 x 76.2 cm
Sold
Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke
Door V by Abir Karmakar contemporary artwork
Abir KarmakarDoor V, 2018Oil on canvas
213 x 107 cm
Sold
Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke
Door IV by Abir Karmakar contemporary artwork
Abir KarmakarDoor IV, 2018Oil on canvas
213 x 91 cm
Sold
Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke
Home (Wall III / Wall IV) by Abir Karmakar contemporary artwork
Abir KarmakarHome (Wall III / Wall IV), 2016Oil on canvas
287 x 533 cm
Sold
Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke
Home (Wall V) by Abir Karmakar contemporary artwork
Abir KarmakarHome (Wall V), 2016Oil on canvas
259 x 601 cm
Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke Contact Gallery
Home (Wall II) by Abir Karmakar contemporary artwork
Abir KarmakarHome (Wall II), 2016Oil on canvas
287 x 302 cm
Sold
Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke

Abir Karmakar Recent Exhibitions

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Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, RED at Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke, Mumbai
Closed
14 January–31 March 2021 Group Exhibition RED Galerie Mirchandani + SteinrueckeMumbai
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, Drawn from Practice at Experimenter, Ballygunge Place, Kolkata
Closed
18 August–31 October 2018 Group Exhibition Drawn from Practice ExperimenterBallygunge Place
Contemporary art exhibition, Curated by Birgid Uccia, Displacement at Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke, Mumbai
Closed
15 November 2017–28 February 2018 Curated by Birgid Uccia Displacement Galerie Mirchandani + SteinrueckeMumbai

Abir Karmakar Represented By

Abir Karmakar In Ocula Magazine

Asia Society Triennial Part Two is a Mixed Success Ocula Feature Asia Society Triennial Part Two is a Mixed Success By Vivian Chui, New York

New York City's Asia Society Museum ushered in the spring season by unveiling the second and final chapter of its inaugural triennial.

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Abir Karmakar In Related Press

A Room with a View: Abir Karmakar’s Displacement by Roshan Kumar Mogali Related Press A Room with a View: Abir Karmakar’s Displacement by Roshan Kumar Mogali 9 January 2018, BOMB

For the Kochi-Muziris Biennale in 2016, Abir Karmakar covered the interior walls of Kashi Art Gallery, a restored colonial Dutch house, with seven floor-to-ceiling paintings.

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Walk Through A Stranger's Home Related Press Walk Through A Stranger's Home 12 November 2017, mid-day

While the residents of this home, evidently furnished according to middle-class taste, are never to be seen, the paintings do not seem de-peopled. In fact, there is a sense of intimacy that Karmakar creates through the eight paintings that will be on view at Colaba's Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke Tuesday evening onwards. "You enter...

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'Forming in the pupil of an eye,' Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2016 Related Press 'Forming in the pupil of an eye,' Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2016 17 January 2017, Art Agenda

Guest curated by artist Sudarshan Shetty, the third edition of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale (KMB), titled Forming in the pupil of an eye, is an assembly of artist-created realities. Shetty outlines his curatorial concept with the story of a young traveler who went on a long journey to meet a sage. When he reaches her, 'the Sage assimilates the...

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Abir Karmakar In Video & Audio

Meet Your Artist: Abir Karmakar I Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2016 Related Video & Audio Meet Your Artist: Abir Karmakar I Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2016 29 January 2017, Kochi-Muziris Biennale

Working from photos of domestic spaces, Abir Karmakar studies the traditions of painting and its varying forms of spatial construction. Creating a photorealistic installation reminiscent of trompe l'oeil upon the walls of Kashi Art Gallery, he dramatises the space between perception and interpretation. Abir Karmakar won the 1st Asia Future Award...

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