Sosa Joseph is a figurative painter from Kochi, India. Though she sometimes uses her hometown as a starting point, Joseph's paintings expand beyond the southern Indian city to examine commonly gendered realities. The abstracted—and often female—figures in her works exist in a mysterious world; while they gather for shopping trips, chat at the bazaar or rest indoors, there is invariably something unusual about the presence of the blurred, flattened and anonymous bodies.
Joseph's paintings bear certain similarities to the works of the Baroda School painters of the 1970s and 1980s—among them Sudhir Patwardhan and Bhupen Khakhar—who developed a style of narrative painting with an inclination towards the urban streetscape and a departure from pictorial realism, replacing it with allegory and a sense of the uncanny. In Joseph's What Are We? I (2012)—the first of three paintings by the same title—a row of veiled figures study an assemblage of broken objects and domestic animals before them. The individual elements are commonplace: upturned umbrellas, a telescope, a cat, a few hens, a dog, and veils that could be a burka or a nun's habit (familiar sights in Kochi). Yet the eerie way this group of women has gathered—standing close together with still and blank faces—undermines the apparent familiarity of the scene. Such otherworldliness again seems to blend with the local in What Are We? II, where figures holding umbrellas stroll the street and the type of toy-seller commonly seen in Kochi sells balloons inside a pink membrane.
Whether deploying broad strokes to exaggerate the features of her figures or manipulating oil paint in a way that has been compared to watercolour, Joseph favours unsaturated hues. In Interior Figures (2015)—a horizontal composition of women seated on chairs and a mat—the figures' bodies and clothes range from white and shades of grey to muted red, pinkish grey and yellow.
Joseph studied painting at the Raja Ravi Varma College of Fine Arts, Kerala, and at the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda. Unlike many of her contemporaries, who stayed in Baroda or moved on to Delhi or Mumbai after completing their studies, Joseph returned to Kochi. In addition to showing multiple times at Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke in Mumbai since 2009, she has also exhibited at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (2015); Nature Morte, New Delhi (2015); Schneider Museum of Art, Southern Oregon University (2006); and Kashi Art Gallery, Kochi (2005, 2003). Selected group exhibitions include Mémoires des Futurs | Modernités Indiennes at Centre Pompidou, Paris (2017); India Art Fair, New Delhi (2017); and Setouchi Triennale (2016). In 2018, Joseph participated in the 21st Biennale of Sydney, where she presented a series of paintings that continue her inquiry into the human condition.