-Ok this has been in my drafts for a while so let's try and glean something from this.
-Ok it's now been over a year since I last touched this. I feel a lot of my initial thoughts have changed but the over all premiss I still stand by.
Sandip Kuriakose is a New Delhi artist working in photographic collage to discuss issues of intimacy and queer culture (in India specifically). I stumbled upon their work while browsing SFC and was drawn to this still life aesthetic that is focused on showing the artist's hand.
So reading about Kuriakose's work lead me to more questions than it did answers and I partially blame that on the interview which focused on generalities instead of diving into the specifics of the visuals. This did allow for some freedom in interpreting the images which I always enjoy. Kuriakose talks about the interest in cruising culture in New Delhi and the effect social media has had on this culture (I think?) but nothing was said about how the images reflect this idea. I was particularly interested in the inclusion of natural elements in most, if not all, of the collages and I find my answer in the read down of Section 377 by the Delhi High Court in 2009 which decriminalized sexual acts 'against the order of nature'. This was the catalyst for Kuriakose's work and I find the inclusion of natural elements to be acknowledgement of this past idea of homosexuality going against nature.
But I didn't find that much interest in Kuriakose's ideas as they are similar to the thoughts and feelings of most queer male artists (myself included). What really drew me to this work was the aesthetic value of it. This style of photographic still life is popping up in a lot of photographic media I consume. Kuriakose states in the interview that "Collage in comparison felt lighter and more immediate, a means to an end. It allowed me to process ideas while simultaneously compressing production time." which makes sense to me. Complex ideas are often times hard to convey in one neatly succinct image. By incorporating multiple separate images together in one canvas you are opening the possibilities for understanding.
Using collage is one thing, but this specific type of collage, with its hyper saturated colors and amateurish construction is something I've been seeing a lot of. I notice the similarities between Kuriakose's work and the work of artists Sheida Soleimani and Rosemary Engstrom. The work is colorful, very obviously shot in a studio and definitely makes no attempts to hide that. Paper is a common material choice and rephotography is popular. These images lean into the taboos of photography and often opt for extremely obvious and asymmetrical lighting setups.
I call this style the "Crumpled Still Life" for it's rejection of the classic order of a still life and the affinity for the texture of crumpled paper. I think images like these are approachable ways of discussing polarizing topics. They aren't hiding behind the sophistication of a perfectly composed image (though these are still artfully composed) and are approachable in the recognition of their construction. This creates a nice contrast with the subject matter which is often uncomfortable, disturbing, or just plain gross. I think this style boils down to this idea of approachability and shock. Get people interested in the bright colors and confusing use of space and shock them with the hidden messages or underlying agenda.