Cheat sheet: NS Harsha
Make like you know everything about the multi-media artist
1) Aver that he is a consummate storyteller
The Mysore-based artist’s works always involve layered allegories about the state of things — politics, class structures, the machinations of daily life — elevated with humour and fantasy. He credits contemporary master Bhupen Khakhar, a faculty member at MS University of Baroda where Harsha earned his MFA, as a major influence.
2) Marvel at his range
While Harsha’s style is an assimilation of Indian miniature and figurative painting techniques, he relishes working across media: painting and drawing, sculpture and installation. Add how he enjoys the immediacy of water-based paint, but is equally interested in the stories that wood, mud, powder and photography can yield.
3) Chuckle at how he’ll do your head in
With their dance of scale and detail, Harsha’s works alternately lead and mislead, a quality most evident in ‘Raha Dikhanaywalay Thay Hai Rahengay’ (2013). What appears to simply be a group of playful langurs is actually a loaded metaphor for humans and our daily struggles, and their fingers pointing upwards denote the wish to be free of earthly concerns.
4) Say he’s concerned with the politics of labour
And cite ‘Nations’, his 2007 installation of 192 sewing machines, each with a flag that represented the countries of the UN. Harsha created this after visiting a small-scale textile factory, wanting to expose the realities and exploitations of human labour.
5) Liken his canvas to the theatre of the absurd
In his latest series Upward Movement, Harsha draws from Samuel Beckett’s existential themes in Waiting For Godot to riff on the seeming randomness of life. In ‘Only Way Is Through Milking Way’, he has an elephant charging at rows of men milking cows — based on the horrific IRL version he witnessed in his hometown of Mysore.
Upward Movement is on at Victoria Miro, London, till April 25. Victoria-miro.com