Prabhavathi Meppayil: Recent Works review

Art
4 out of 5 stars
Prabhavathi Meppayil: Recent Works review
Prabhavathi Meppayil, detail of 'I/forty four' (2019) © the artist. Image courtesy of Pace Gallery

Some art screams and shouts its existence, but other art stakes its claim a little more quietly. Prabhavathi Meppayil’s art is of the silent type. The Indian artist creates ultra-minimal white canvases, totally monochrome but highly textured works that are so subtle they’re barely there.

The images are indented with perfectly identical marks: sequences of lines or repeating geometric shapes like bite or claw marks on paper. The patterns come from her family’s goldsmith’s tools: Meppayil is taking artisanal craft and pushing it into the abstract. You might think that makes a craft like goldsmithing into something more ephemeral, nebulous, less easy to grasp, but it actually does the opposite. She’s boiled it all down to its essence, removed everything but the tools and their impact.

If you were being a bit cruel you could say the works look like wallpaper or – sorry – textured toilet paper. But by being so simple, quiet and repetitive they manage to drag you into their world. You get lost in the patterns and shapes, and before you know it, this white nothingness actually feels full: full of shape, nuance and shadow.

The central wall is dotted with metal cubes indented with the same shapes you see in the canvases, little leaves and almonds, stuttering in geometric repetition.

Meppayil has made work here that condenses down artisanal beauty, craft knowledge and long, rich family history into simple, but perfectly elegant minimalism. If it does look a bit like TP, it’s the fanciest TP the world’s ever seen.

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