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Windows: World's Within Yogesh Rawal

Dimension : 12m x 2m

Windows: World's Within

Wood, Mixed media, Paper

Yogesh Rawal’s installation of windows and doors assembled formally, look cheerful with breaks of treated wood between his signature colourful collages. But these windows and doors once opened into the rooms of mill workers, the erstwhile immigrants who came to the city to work in the once booming cotton mills. The chawls ,or low cost housing blocks that they lived in,had rooms"measuring a mere 10 feet by 10 feet shared by 20 people. There would be a single window and a single door,"says Rawal.

With no privacy, high-density population, cramped and often unsanitary quarters, and 4-5 toilets to be shared by the inhabitants of entire floor, the chawls are testimony to the inhuman conditions that labour was expected to live and work in. Despite these adverse conditions, the migrants put down roots in the city, influencing its economy, politics and culture. Travelling from various parts of the country, they gave the city its now famous cosmopolitan character.

"The workers would live in shifts, where the first set of workers would go for work, and the second set would come to the room to rest. Most of their families lived in their native place, which was located in the Konkan and Vidarbha region of Maharashtra. These labourers are the people who have actually built this city initially, with their blood and sweat,"says Rawal.

As chawls were broken down to make way for malls, luxury apartments and commercial complexes, the windows and doors were sold to scrap vendors. It took Rawal four to six years to source the pieces used in this work."I wanted to use the original woodwork and elements rather than make new ones. The texture and feel of replicas would have been completely different. They would have completely lacked authenticity."

Papering the shutters of the windows and doors, inserting collaged panels, and louvres, Rawal has constructed a complex assemblage loaded with his iconographic symbolism. The wooden panels are treated and painted black, symbolising the worker’s bleak existence. The collaged panels are patterned in torn pieces of bright turquoise, vermillion, green and mustard yellow papers, that seem to be painted rather than glued. Coaxed into myriad shapes, these translucent forms suggest the ephemeral joys shared by the migrant labourers living together in the chawls. The louvred windows, which are automated to swing open and shut, are collaged in tissue paper and cellulose, symbols of their migrations and aspirations.In addition to the papers, Rawal has also included non-reflective mirrors, on which motifs associated with airports and flights have been etched, as a nod to the artwork’s location.

Yogesh Rawal

Growing up in Mumbai's Shivaji Park, Yogesh Rawal's longstanding exploration of collage as a medium began when he decided to use inexpensive tissue paper used to make the streamers for the annual Ganesh utsav in lieu of paints he could scarcely afford. Over the years, Rawal has mastered the technique, refining it to the point where his collages appear painted rather than glued, creating luminous worlds populated by simple geometric forms, myriad shapes coaxed out of torn scraps of paper, and fields of colour.

In line with most abstract manifestos, Rawal's work evinces a return to the essentials - the fundamentals of point, line, colour and most importantly, of light. Exploring the emotive potency of light has since been a preoccupation in Rawal's vast oeuvre encompassing collage, sculpture, printmaking, and painting.

Often non-narrative and non-figurative, his works are - to paraphrase Rawal himself - inner conversations or personal dialogues that are then processed through varied techniques and media. Radiant with an inner vision and energy, Rawal's works are able to convey movement, alternation, and rhythm using the most basic geometric forms such as squares, triangles, parallelograms, and circles. His intuitive use of colour and tonality evokes the immaterial world of the mind, at times rejoicing in layered arabesques of vivid colour and at others, lapsing into meditative quietness, bleached of all but the purest whites and sedate creams.

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