Namrata Arjun

Two moments (unsuccessfully) cannibalize each other. Namrata Arjun paints the resulting indigestion. One of these moments tends to be imaged by a nude body (normatively read as the “female” body), marking the painting’s frame perpendicularly in the first-person perspective. It interrupts the assumption of universal subjectivity and refuses to neutrally cater to a detached or objective viewer standing at a certain “visual” distance. Positioned as a personal framing or measuring device, it articulates its ongoing gender-based misrecognition by enacting a politics of dis-identification, of making strange and productive dis-inheritance by refusing to assimilate with memories, as “evidenced” by photographs—particularly images from her family’s photographic archive—and by handling personal objects or re-enacting cultural rituals outside of their permissible contexts.

In Queer Phenomenology, Sara Ahmed notes that phenomenology offers a queer angle “by bringing objects to life in their loss of place, in their failure to gather to keep things in their place” and points to hands as crucial sites of disorientation. In Namrata’s practice, time and place as performed by images from personal and collective memory are conflated, compositionally positioned on a transversal plane, and transformed, through paint, into a re-enactment that the perpendicular body (in first-person perspective) queers by refusing a normative cohesion with. As a compositional strategy, oscillating between both blurs the distinction between the frame’s center (embodiment) and periphery (disassociation). Ambiguous space is created by playing with ideas of the painted surface both enacting ground and seeming upright, marked by the body in intentionally complicated ways—whether it’s standing or lying, swallowed up, angled, or set against it in fuzzy or delineated ways. The ground is reconfigured into a perpetually shifting negative or in-between space disoriented by multiple perspectives, and the figure(s) alternate between dysphoria and joy.

Formulating painterly space into a site for queering time by denoting a warp-weft, rather than linear, relationship with the past through the use of perpendicular and traversal axes, her compositions act as a way to interrupt straight or linear time. Time is rendered, or performed, as non-linear and layered, articulating a queer temporality that invokes the logic of the time of trauma, memory, or excavation. Through the device of nesting time within itself using the differentiated markers of the body in first-person perspective, photographic objects, and gestures from performance traditions, her practice seeks to push back against inherited disappearances.

Title: Playing God IV

Medium: Oil on Panel

Size: 20 x 16 inches

50.8 x 40.6 cm

Year: 2020

Title: Playing God I

Medium: Oil on Panel

Size: 12 x 12 in

30.5 x 30.5 cm

Year: 2020