Excerpt from the exhibition essay by Corinne Erni:
We connect to allegories of our society, culture, and religion and attribute meaning to them because of how we grow up with them, what role they play in our childhood, how they make space for new experiences only to reappear, transformed, in our adult lives. In the latest body of work that the internationally noted Indian artist G.R. Iranna has created for his exhibition Floating Verses at Aicon Contemporary in New York City, he comes full circle with an element that he is most familiar with from his childhood growing up in a farmer's family: the tree. There is a tree in some shape or form in each of the paintings. In a subtle but multilayered richness of compositional and material explorations, these trees variably dissolve into a sky of cobalt blue, explode in pink blossoms, spread out in gold leaves, or become intricate labyrinths. Ghostlike clouds hover over some of these trees or double as ominous shadows.
Perhaps a culmination of the last 25 years of his socially, politically, morally, and spiritually engaged work, Iranna has produced an exquisite and joyous exhibition of large-scale paintings and a series of delicate, luminous works on paper. Since his first exhibition at Aicon Contemporary in 2006, his preoccupation with the human existence has deepened while he has moved away from the representational focus on the figure that inevitably leads to literal interpretation. In the past, Iranna would often depict humans, both in paintings and life-size sculptures, that seem stripped of any personality and look lost—blindfolded and huddled in masses, mute conformists to religion or consumerism, soldiers in meaningless war machines, and prisoners of social constructs.
This radical and intriguing shift away from the literal depiction of the human as a vulnerable lonely figure to a similarly obsessive focus on one of the most life spending elements of nature– the tree– may be a sign of the artist overcoming a certain existential angst. Iranna achieves this through abstraction, by letting materials and forms take hold of the canvas, he allows for specific narratives to be deconstructed, thus releasing energy, and inviting us to take a closer look at the subtle nuances of nature’s cycle, which we are a part of.
Iranna’s art comes from within. In a time when our relationship with each other and this earth are fractured, his art can help us to restore and reconcile these relationships. Trees represent resilience, wisdom, and growth. Iranna is asking us to be that tree.