For his first solo show, Canary In A Coal Mine (2012), Prabhakar Pachpute gave vistors at Mumbai’s Clark House Initiative an immersive understanding of the plight of miners from Maharashtra’s remote Chandrapur district (also his home town). As torches examined his dimly-lit charcoal murals, suffering and subjugation came into full view.
This time around, the 30-year-old is taking over Mumbai’s National Gallery of Modern Art’s 226-foot dome for a solo exhibit — the youngest artist to do so — to create an open-pit mine that reflects the reality of the hazardous coal mining industry. Using a mix of hand-drawn charcoal sketches and sculptures, No It Wasn’t The Locust Cloud introduces visitors to a farmer-turned-coal-miner who has to give up his land and livelihood under duress, and follows the transformation of his once-fertile farm into a barren wasteland.
Pachpute’s work is medium-friendly, but his surreal figures — with heads made of sickles, plugs, light bulbs, etc — consistently draw from his family legacy that comprises of three generations of coal miners. “I was looking for an identity for my work, and that’s only rooted in something personal. These people from my hometown, their lives, matter to me,” he says.
No It Wasn’t The Locust Cloud is on from April 12 to May 15 at NGMA in Mumbai. Ngmaindia.gov.in