Pace Gallery presents Recent Works, Prabhavathi Meppayil’s first solo exhibition at 6 Burlington Gardens and the third presented with the gallery. The exhibition features a new body of work that continues to explore Meppayil’s concerns of modernism and Minimalism.
“Meppayil’s linear designs in her work are not engendered by manual artisanal means or painterly processes: drawing, facture, and gesture originating either from pointed indentations or from linear metal insertions that singularly define graphic structures. Meppayil’s paintings seem to be driven by a latent desire to leave behind the parameters of pictorial space and its supporting surfaces, reaching for an ultimate sublation of the painterly rectangle in a numinous architectural space.” Benjamin H.D.Buchloh, 2014.
The descendant of several generations of goldsmiths, Meppayil retains the unmistakable traces of the artist’s hand combined with an element of chance, inflecting Minimalist formulas and intermissions with a profoundly transcendental dimension specific to her setting and craftmanship methods.
The use of traditional tools, which are essentially geometric in form, is the focal point of Meppayil’s large-scale installation exhibited at the 2018 Biennale of Sydney and replicated in the exhibition at Pace. sb/eighteen consists of gesso and 875 found iron, copper and brass tools, carefully assembled on a wall with a pristine white surface. The individual objects are deliberately arranged in a pattern suggesting a low-relief grid. These objects, conventionally used by goldsmiths in the application of their craft, also allude to postwar abstraction where geometric structures were often used to facilitate non-hierarchical methods of organisation. Three new cast concrete and copper sculptures reference these traditional tools.
By taking tools that are commonly used in the artisanal process, most of which are obsolete and dislodged from their original purpose, Meppayil reiterates them as art objects while also retaining vestiges of their individual histories. This process also emphasizes their materiality and simple forms.
Lines and carving also remain a leitmotif in her oeuvre, as Meppayil expresses the necessity to come back to the pureness and essence of the material. These paintings feature copper wires embedded in heavily gessoed surfaces and rows of indented marks left with goldsmith’s tools – most notably the thinnam – used to incise ornamental patterns in bangles. The delicacy of the lines and marks belie the intense labour needed to create these works.
Coinciding with Recent Works, Meppayil’s piece titled n/eighty nine (2016) is featured in collection display, Home Is a Foreign Place, at The Met Breuer from 9 April 2019 to 21 June 2020. This exhibition introduces recent acquisitions by the Department of Modern and Contemporary Art of The Met.
In rich dialogue with Pace’s history, Meppayil’s reinterpretation of Minimalist trademarks such as the grid recall the visual language of Agnes Martin, whilst her dedication to surface and pure monochromy evoke Robert Ryman. Recent Works will also coincide with this year’s Venice Biennale. The Encyclopedic Palace, curated by Massimiliano Gioni, at the 55th Venice Biennale (2013) included Meppayil’s work, which subsequently prompted the start of the relationship with Pace.Installation view, Prabhavathi Meppayil: Recent Works, April 26 – May 25, 2019, Pace Gallery, London © Prabhavathi Meppayil, Photography by Damian Griffiths