Annotations 3: Sarnath Banerjee

The Many Half Lives of Vasundhara Rangarajan

Sarnath BanerjeeThe Many Half Lives of Vasundhara Rangarajan, 2017Pen and ink on paper, 35 x 30cm.



Drawing Room is pleased to announce a new work by Sarnath Banerjee, the third Annotations artist to create work for – and inspired by – Drawing Room’s Outset Study. Best known for his graphic novels and films that tell stories through a combination of free hand drawings and text, Banerjee has developed a new work which brings together Indian classical music and libraries.
The Many Half Lives of Vasundhara Rangarajan is an immersive installation consisting of sound and a suite of fifteen drawings. Discovering art historian Ernst Gombrich’s book ‘Meditations on a hobby horse : and other essays on the theory of art’ on the library bookshelves inspired Banerjee. Research then led him to the work of Gombrich fellow art historian Aby Warburg. A trip to the Warburg Institute in London influenced the development of Banerjee’s installation.
The Many Half Lives of Vasundhara Rangarajan is a work of fragmented narrative, pieced together from episodes in one woman’s life. Consisting of fifteen separate scenes, these drawings are held together by a single raga – Raag Bilawal. Ms Rangarajan first heard Raag Bilawal as a child. Every time Bilawal plays it awakens images from her past, incidents barely remembered, yet fondly recollected. These play tricks on her mind, creating nostalgia for places she has not encountered and incidents that never took place.
The artist conceived these drawings while walking though parts of north west London, listening to Raag Bilawal. To achieve the tonal universe that surrounds the life of Ms Vasundhara Rangarajan, Banerjee abandoned his usual method of combining text with images, and instead allowed himself to be carried by three particular renditions of Raag Bilawal. These renditions, performed by Kishori Amonkar, Pandit Bhimsen Joshi and Ustad Rashid Khan have been installed in audio shelves in the library, and accompany Bannerjee’s wall based constellation of drawings.
A Raaga is often played at a specific time during the course of a day or season. Bilawal in particular is a morning raga, often performed during the summer months.  It is usually sung with plaintive lyrics due to its melodic mood, and with a feeling of deep devotion and repose. One theory, though likely apocryphal, suggests its name comes from the bael or bilwa-patra leaf, used in most religious rituals. The Raag Bilwal, like the leaf, with its shuddh (pure) notes, was to be used for composing music for religious observances and expressing the purest form of devotion.
Banerjee equates his struggles to capture the complex and elusive personality and emotions of his central character with those of the raga composer to achieve the desired tonality. Whilst the cover of a book marks the beginning of a journey, Banerjee’s drawings stand in for book covers that mark the finish of his journey.

Banerjee was the first recipient of the Outset Wadham residency. Annotations is a series of artist residencies resulting in new commissions for Outset Study. Supported by Veronique Parke and Outset Contemporary Art Fund.

More info on Annotations here.

Sarnath Banerjee (b. 1972, Kolkata, IN) lives and works in Berlin, DE. Studied (BSc Hons.) Biochemistry, University of Delhi, IN and (M.A) Image and Communication, Goldsmiths College, University of London, UK (2003). Awarded Best Young Publisher Award, the British Council (2008); nominated for The Television Network award, Hong Kong for his debut film 12 Years after…on the Bhopal Gas tragedy. Selected solo exhibitions: Frieze Art Fair, New York, US (2015); Barwa Khiladi, Project 88, Mumbai, IN (2012);  Frieze Art Fair, London, UK (2009);  Tito Years, Project 88, Mumbai, IN (2008); Complex systems, Karton Gallery, Budapest, HU (2007). Selected group exhibitions: Doublethink: Doublevision, Pera Museum, Instabul, TR (2016); Corruption: Everybody Knows, e-flux, New York, US (2015); Being an Island, DAAD, Berlin, DE (2013);  Lines of Control, Johnson Museum, Cornell University, US (2012); Frieze London, with Project 88, Mumbai (2012); Paris-Delhi-Bombay… Centre Pompidou, Paris, FR (2011).

Annotations Outset Study Commissions are supported by Veronique Parke and Outset Contemporary Art Fund.