Nakhra: Towards a sacred sensuality : Chemould CoLab | Kuldeep Singh

11 January - 24 February 2024

You hear Kuldeep before you see him.


The silvery hum of the tanpura filling the room is broken only by the rustle of the ghungroos on his ankle, all part of an elaborate riyaaz — or practice — that moves from the terrazzo floor to the canvas in one sweeping gesture.


A single easel occupies pride of place at the centre of his studio within Sugra Manzil, but there are paintings strewn all around. Cups of chai stream in, as do visitors, with Kuldeep holding court to an enraptured audience. He was born to put on a show.


There’s a manicured order to the chaos. Post-it notes are arranged methodically on the side of a cupboard. A small portrait - the only nude figure around - peers out from above a stack of sketchbooks. Look hard enough and a playful assemblage opens up before your eyes. 


Kuldeep’s figures, like him, are a tease. Part of his queer rendition of Ragamala paintings, they stretch out languidly across the canvas - deliciously sensual, mischievously enticing. Whimsical brushstrokes craft hazy mystical landscapes, luring you in before denying you a complete picture. Like an alaap that never reaches its crescendo. Like a stolen gaze towards a forgotten lover at the crack of dawn.


This denial is intentional. The erotic is intertwined with the deeply spiritual. Inseparable, the two create a heady mixture of lust and devotion, desire and submission, as the tanpura hums on.

The stage is set. You, too, are invited to perform. 

-Written by Anish Gawande

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