b. 1969, India

NS Harsha Biography

NS Harsha is celebrated for his paintings, site-specific installations and sculptures that navigate the tensions between the local and global, the traditional and contemporary, and the individual and collective. Drawing on a diversity of traditions including comic books and Indian miniature painting, as well as art history and pop culture, his works are recognised for their attention to detail, use of flat spaces and fine brushwork. Working through a local context, Harsha addresses shared contemporary challenges that arise from global modernisation.

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Through his combination of discordant imagery and current events, Harsha questions the binaries of 'local' and 'global', and 'traditional' and 'contemporary'. For example, the two works Mooing Here and Now and Only Way is through Milking Way (both 2014) were both inspired by the artist's visits to dairy farms near his hometown of Mysore, India, and in Germany, where he observed the local farming industries' ready adaptation of modern technology. In Mooing Here, rows of figures against a blue-grey backdrop utilise technology in various ways to milk the cows, while the figures in Only Way milk solely by hand. The surprising appearance of elephants in both paintings further references a local incident in which two wild elephants killed a man and several cows in Mysore in 2011. In another painting titled Showstoppers at Cosmic Data Processing Centre (2015), rows of sari-clad women investigate the sky using telescopes. The repetitive arrangement is intermittently interrupted by other women milking cows. Like Mooing Here and Only Way, this incongruous pictorial cohabitation was also inspired by actual news; at the time, NASA had begun to employ rural workers in India to assist with data-collecting. According to the artist, such events are not merely locally specific but 'reveal today's global human condition.'

This attention to the local and global also translates into an inquiry into the individual and collective. In the installation Sky Gazers (2010), created for that year's Liverpool Biennial, a crowd of painted figures on the floor gazed up towards a mirror on the ceiling. When the audience entered the installation and looked up, they found that their reflection became a part of the faces below. On the other hand, Come Give Us a Speech (2008), a large, six-panel painting produced for the National Museum Cardiff, depicts hundreds of figures seated in an orderly manner. Directly facing the viewer, the many figures are represented with references to popular culture (Batman and Superman) and to Western art history (Duchamp holding his 'fountain'), highlighting their individuality.

In 2018, Harsha united his longstanding interests in the cosmos and consumerism in Reclaiming the inner space, a large-scale installation created for the 21st Biennale of Sydney. Spanning an entire wall of the exhibition space, the installation consisted of more than 4,000 components, including unfolded cardboard packaging overtop several mirrors. To denote the stars, Harsha splattered black paint over the cardboard, while around 900 hand-carved wooden elephants were buried between the layers of the cardboard and mirror. The work owes its conception in part to the rise of supermarkets in Mysore. In an interview with Ocula Magazine in 2018, Harsha referred to his enthralment with the supermarkets and their influx of new brands and boxes presented, a phenomenon he referred to as generating 'retinal competition'. Harsha stated he was particularly absorbed by the parallel between the dark spaces inside packaging cartons and the cosmos—the vast universe is surprisingly near us. As he says, 'we assume dark cosmos to be far away when it is just around us, in different shapes and sizes.' When the elephants rise out of this rupture in the gallery wall, their presence not only alludes to their significance in Indian culture but also to their association with the natural world, which bears the brunt of human interventions.

Harsha completed his studies in painting at Chamarajendra Academy of Visual Arts (CAVA), Mysore, and University of Baroda Faculty of Fine Arts in 1992 and 1995, respectively. One of his teachers was Nilima Sheikh, a Baroda-based artist renowned for her evocative paintings reminiscent of Indian miniature tradition. Harsha has exhibited widely, notably at Victoria Miro Gallery, London (2015); Iniva, London (2009); and Maison Hermes, Tokyo and Osaka (2008). Selected international art exhibitions include the Biennale of Sydney (2018); Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art (2013); Yokohama Triennale (2011); the Bienal de São Paulo (2010); Liverpool Biennial (2010); Singapore Biennale (2006); and the Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (1999). In 2017 Harsha presented Charming Journey at Mori Art Museum, Tokyo—his first mid-career retrospective, which exhibited more than 70 major works since 1995. In addition to the prestigious Artes Mundi Prize (2008), Harsha also received the DAAD residency award in 2012. The artist currently lives and works in Mysore, India.

Sherry Paik | Ocula | 2018

NS Harsha Featured Artworks

Untitled by NS Harsha contemporary artwork mixed media
NS Harsha Untitled, 2019 Wood, found paper packaging, steel hooks, acrylic paint and acrylic mirror
8 x 25 x 30 cm
Victoria Miro Enquire
Smears to weave her everyday by NS Harsha contemporary artwork painting
NS Harsha Smears to weave her everyday, 2019 Oil on canvas
43 x 33 cm
Victoria Miro Enquire
Untitled (A Deep Lie Series) by NS Harsha contemporary artwork painting
NS Harsha Untitled (A Deep Lie Series), 2019 Acrylic on cotton cloth
110 x 159 cm
Victoria Miro Enquire
Missing Cook Beyond the Cosmic Twigs by NS Harsha contemporary artwork painting
NS Harsha Missing Cook Beyond the Cosmic Twigs, 2016 Acrylic and gold foil on canvas
190 x 150 cm
Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke Contact Gallery

NS Harsha Recent Exhibitions

NS Harsha Represented By

Victoria Miro contemporary art gallery in Wharf Road, London, United Kingdom Victoria Miro London, New York, Venice

NS Harsha In Ocula Magazine

In Ocula Advisory

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