Michael Rush
New Media in Late 20th-Century Art
Thames and Hudson
Popular Indian painter Ranbir Kaleka (b. 1953, India) also turned to video as an extension of his working on canvas. His meticulously crafted world include Man Threading a Needle (1998-99) and Crossings: Two Stories (2005), both of which show video footage superimposed on paintings, creating a seemingly living tableau on a Canvas and screen. In Man Threading a Needle, the painting of a man sits on an easel and slowly pulsates as the man moves his fingers. The multiple screens of Crossings Two Stories, an installation addressing culturally charged issues including turban- Wearing among men in the Sikh tradition, contains an indelible image of a man seated before a horse; the horse, clearly I painting, interacts with the man through the magic of superimposed filmed footage. Further reading
Chaitanya Sambrani
Hungry God, Indian Contemporary Art
Arario Gallery
Transience, migration and displacement are an inevitable part of modernisation,. Histories of modernism are populated by travellers who cross cultures and undertake transformative journeys. The destiny of personal and civilisational memory through these journeys and transformations figures as a way of making way-stations. Memory appears in the work of the three artists considered here not as a concrete manifestations that can be grasped, but as an elusive and multivalent phantom whose fights can at best be traced, but never captured. Further reading
Chaitanya Sambrani
On the Double Edge of Desire
Art Asia Society and Gallery of Western Australia
A significantly different take on the song-and-dance vitality of popular culture is embodied in the thoughtful, joyous as well as melancholic work of Ranbir Kaleka. His video Windows (2002) features here under a colourful circus tent, and is projected on a wheeled screen, as though ready for travel as part of a wandering village show. Windows can be read as a bittersweet love story, with its evocative soundtrack of lilting melodies from vintage Hindi movies. It is at one level a commonplace story without heroic grandeur. At the same time though, the work suggests potential for the extraordinary. Kaleka takes up everyday dreams, joys and sorrows as his material, and extracts from it an essential, existential sorrow, and a meditation on the fleetingness of emotion even as light fleets across the screen to create images. Kaleka’s work in video is distinguished by its insistence on holding the momentary, acknowledging its passing nature, meditating on its impermanence, gently grinding away at two ends of the video—first as incomplete narrative and then again as impermanent apparition. Further reading
David Olivant
Bose Pacia Gallery, NewYork
Ranbir Kaleka’s paintings from the Nineties are at once a slap in the face to our accepted standards of taste and decency and a polite cajoling and caressing; they embrace us like an over-zealous lover, only to reject or mystify us when we have finally succumbed. It is this bizarre and ambiguous, erotically tinged, ritual of their communication that is most unsettling and a large part of what marks them as unique. This communication, (almost a type of courtship display) has been tempered somewhat in the forge of the artist’s studies in London and Chandigarh, acquiring a stylistic repertoire derived from artist/teachers like Peter De Francia and Ken Kiff, in addition to European masters on the fringes of Cubism, notably Marc Chagall, and Heinrich Campendonk. However this accumulation of art historical credibility has done nothing to mute the insistently ambiguous mating calls, indeed it has added yet greater complexity and sophistication to the rhetoric. Further reading
Michael Wörgötter
Bose Pacia Gallery, NewYork
Despite having certain insights into the context of contemporary Indian art, as a German-speaking foreigner with different cultural origins, the range of poetry and drama and the specific cultural references contained therein may not be accessible to me in their entirety. I will not therefore attempt to grapple with the specific and subtle complexity of the cultural connotations in the works of Ranbir Kaleka, instead I cite the nature of the strong appeal exerted by his works and my delight in reflecting about them. Before approaching Ranbir Kaleka’s work more closely I should like first of all to emphasize something that, from the very start, surprised me in his work and which has continued to fascinate me more and more.The issue here is the question of the new in art. Hereby a brief and possibly somewhat banal insight that nevertheless is still worth recalling from time to time: if you see an artwork for the first time this does not necessarily mean that you are faced with something essentially new. It is something that was previously unknown to you and, at first, it may seem incomprehensible but then you search for explanatory texts, the artist’s biography etc and, as a rule, this “new” thing, this thing that had seemed foreign can pretty soon be allotted to a particular segment of your mental archive. Further reading
Gayatri Sinha
After Dark
Sakshi Gallery, Mumbai
In the painting Boy Without Reflection the centrality of vision belongs to a young boy-man caught up in the vision an apocalypse. In Ranbir Kaleka language and interpretative quality belong to the realm of metaphor and myth, rather than text or reportage. The large howling dog that straddles the painting dominates and determines the destiny of the other elements. In Kaleka’s painting water as reflection, multiples and distorts, even as it serves as a mirror image. In the baying, mutilated dogs, the wounded cocks, Kaleka presents an image of devastation, that relates to the boy-man who sits impotently, even as miniaturised cities are dominated by beasts on the rampage As the only human interlocutor the boy man is a helpless visitant, observing but unable to reign in the violence. From the implicit comment of contemporary India Kaleka’s vision expands laterally and inwards. Further reading
Nancy Adajania
ZOOM! Art in Contemporary India
Culturgest-Lisbon, Portugal
...the painter and installator Ranbir Kaleka retains the sensuous quality of painterliness in his video installation, Man with Cockerel. Rendered with the hypnotic aura and pace of a black-and white silent film, the video operates with a minimal narrative, calibrated gestures. The action of the loop is simple, yet rewards phenomenonologial scrutiny: a man enters the frame, holding on to a cockerel, perfectly mirrored by his reflection,, He look at the viewer, as though for confirmation of his existence, his possession of the bird. At this point, his image breaks up; but as suddenly, reappears, while the cockerel makes good its escape. The synchrony between person and reflection breaks down, as the man pursues the runaway cockerel, leaving his reflection behind. Further reading
Geeta Kapur
BODY•CITY siting contemporary culture in India
The House of World Cultures, Berlin, Tulika Books, India
In exact contrast ... ‘is’ the video-work of Ranbir Kaleka, whose aesthetic is based on the principle of liminality. The use of the digital medium allows him to achieve a transparency, a hallucinatory quality where the (male) character/person/body is both present and absent, reducible to a pixelpuzzle and conjured as a simulacrum — a copy of that which does not exist in material terms or just enough to throw a shadow and create a contemplative moment of identification. Or, on the other hand, to tantalize vision itself with a fleeting grasp of desire. Whether it is his pock-marked model in a vest, a carpenter threading a needle in a superimposed image, at once painting and video-shot (Man Threading Needle, 1998–99), or a placid bald man with the face of the buddha clutching and letting go then clutching and letting go a plumed fowl (Man with Cockere l, 2001: (fig. 11), Kaleka presents the body as an index of mortality — at the edge of its dissolution, and disappearance. Precise name, identity, gender and p rofession are subordinated to a fragile sense of being where no assertion, no action is necessary except that which trusts in a minimal continuum of survival; the form itself resembles a haiku in that the hypothesis it offers is p rofoundly about a lived life that needs no backing of proof. Further reading
Kunsthalle Wien Hatje Cantz
Angelika Fitz, Michael Wörgötter: glimpses of a conversation with Ranbir Kaleka
M W: In painting you have been working on various sorts of rooms since a long time. Now you have shifted into a new media, using video in your work.

R K: I don’t think that changing to a new medium or using technology in my work has greatly shifted in what I have always been interested in. You rightly mentioned rooms. Most of my earlier paintings did consist of interiors. it took me a long time to venture out of that interior where I introduced the landscape. But that landscape also in many ways is like a large and closed space. That space does interest me. Again as a space of an event, and that’s a psychological event. And the actual happening of the event, when art happens, that happens outside of the frame of the painting. There are indications, t h e re are gestures, there is a trajectory from the eye travelling fro m one point to the other. But if we need to experience as to what is happening, then we have to close our eyes and let the event happen. Further reading
Kunsthalle Wien Hatje Cantz
Madan Gopal Singh on Ranbir Kaleka
There once existed an aperture before the mind's eye. Images would pass through the defile in a stop-go movement weaving narratives of tender melos before dissolving into the continuum of life. The flood of images mingled with forgotten songs of celebration. These imaginings were more like plaintive wakes within the heart of remembrance - as possibilities of sleep. They seemed to rise from clearings of light and volumes. Were these choices of technique? Compulsions of memory? Or just a unique way of reclaiming history put under erasure? So many cellars of remembrance would resonate in unison. The musty aroma of time, the muted sounds of uncertainly beckoning ghosts. Further reading
Neville Tulir
The Flamed Mosaic Indian Contemporary Painting
However, the brilliance of an artist such as Ranbir Kalek, has progressed with the overwhelming motivation of knowing oneself, and the limits by which one can allow uncertainty a freedom before imposing a structure. A result is his ability to create an unexplainable unity from a sea of chaotic imagery. The erotic thread in his recent work paradoxically maintains the discipline amid the swirl of intense colouration and fantasy. Works such as Family-11 (oil, 1993) and Scroll with a Sculpture (oil, 1995) best manifest this inner cohesion which cannot help but doubt itself, taunt itself, glorify itself, and renew itself, simultaneously. Further reading
Kenneth Kiff
solo show: Art Today
When considering this preface, Ranbir came to see me an we had a long talk about the difficulty of writing about and discussing painting. It seemed to us both that the artist wants the painting to be ‘right’, or to ‘speak’, or to ‘sing’ - and is very likely thinking of the whole painting ‘speaking’ or ‘singing’, not just a part of it - and in using these or other such words has in mind something which is ultimately not illustration, or propaganda: or ‘formal’ picturemaking. This has nothing to do with mystification, nor mysticism, nor religion. Further reading
Madan Gopal Singh
solo show: Art Today
The earth in observance of the nymphs buried them all, preserving in them still their music, and they by an everlasting sentence and decree of the muses breathe out a voice.
–Longus, Daphins and Chloe

It is the narrative of a libido that encounters, beyond he recognized law and the recognizable meaning., the sensation without sense of the free elements, light that does not elucidate or clarify, wind-intoned musicality without a text, sun thatfecundates an inhuman progeny in an orphan libido.
–Alphonso Lingis, Deleuze on a Deserted Island Further reading
Peter de Francia
Seventeen Indian painters
Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai
The work of Ranbir Kaleka strikes me as being exceptional for several reasons. First and formost it is in the manner in which his paintings – and especially his more recent work – reflect an ability to incorportate personal experience with wider and more general issues. But in addition, the pictorial language that he is in the process of developing, seems admirably suited to express what I take to be his increasing preoccupaton with myth. Further reading