Justin Ponmany: Inward Clearing

19 December 2014 – 9 January 2015

Opening Reception: Saturday 20 December, 6pm–9pm


The title of the solo presentation by the Bombay-based artist Justin Ponmany refers to a term from banking, 'inward clearing’, found on passbooks, and bank statements. This inward accounting of cheque amounts between different banks, is a process of verification that money has left an account, an acknowledgement of a transaction. Happening a few days after the event, this small printed sentence ‘Inward clearing’ has the capacity to raise within us a brief wondering and recall, a tensile reckoning that the transaction has indeed taken place with our knowing.


The artist perhaps puts into focus - framed by the sharp analytic lens of a cool white cube gallery, amidst the busy-eventful heat of a chaotic Bombay market - the artistic journey itself: how an artist goes through a process of recalling, re-joining the dots of a work a second time, verifying its value, before the work can have currency in the public realm. Here we find an exhibition talking about the brink, the self-conscious verification in the art process. And it is fascinating, with the quality of discovery; of objects under sand, of walking on the beach, conscious of our location in a city itself at sea.  

To call this a non-referential exhibition would not be accurate, as these processes can and do relate to the world outside, to fears connected with security, and to surveillance, to the banking system and its loopholes and scams, but they relate also to a world internal to its own grammar, where art looks inward to its own language. 


Justin Ponmany is the artist whose work, while seemingly referential, straying away from pure conceptualism, or minimalism, most takes up the exploration of art languages themselves, in plural, as the central connection between all his work, from the exploratory experiments he made with photocopy machines in the defining period of the early 1990s at Sir JJ School of Art, to his experimentation with the special silvery inks used in security holograms which he used in paintings, to comic graphic language transferred to three-dimension, to the present exhibition with its linking of the world of banking, the graphics of security, with the history of art movements, of Vorticism and dazzle paintings, that preceded the First World War and were used on war ships, submarines, later appearing on textile as army uniforms. 


The security hologram acts as an antidote to easy counterfeiting through photocopying. Another aspect of the exhibition, returns to the photocopier and hologram, using the Xerox machine to 'blow up’, to enlarge a hologram found on credit cards, but charging the process with the mystery and suspense of Antonioni’s film of the same name. It is also a relevant comparison, when the photocopier is no longer used for this purpose. Yet, were one were to zoom into a given image digitally over photo-shop, the image at a certain point can enlarge no further, reaching a stage of pixelated abstract coloured squares. On the other hand, the photocopier can continue to enlarge an image till the machine starts to find its own patterns, making a portrait of itself, able to continue as if to infinity, unless somehow leashed. 

Since the artist presents with each exhibition and work, a discovery, what accompanies the work is a rare form of generosity, of an opening, a clearing in an inward forest of signs. Things might exist, ultimately going to the outside world, but are preceded by a security check, a kind of internal awareness and self-consiousness, before dispersing a value, useful and usable outside. 


Ponmany brings into view in this exhibition, several art languages, but most vividly, one historically tied to the art forms of the city - the making of elaborate ritualised rangoli. Among the practitioners is an expert, making idol images on the ground, refined over the last 46 years, on which visitors would generally leave coins for the gods. This folk form has a rare concentration within a room that is so square, it even parodies Doherty’s white cube. 


- Zasha Colah


 The artist and Mumbai Art Room would like to thank: Ajit Shirke, Sandeep Jathari, Shkhar, rangoli artists; Janek Simon and Amol Patil.