New Emissary

T.V. Santhosh’s Burning Flags

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New Emissary

T.V. Santhosh’s Burning Flags

A report from London on the latest media influenced exhibit by this prominent artist.

Global Art Report

(‘Global Art Report’ is a series of dispatches exploring Asian art from abroad, by Diplomat editorial assistant, Amy Foulds.)

Burning Flags

Formed from Gallery ArtsIndia in the US, Aicon has a space in New York, as well as its small but immaculate sister venue just off of London’s smart Regent Street. Providing a platform for established as well as upcoming artists from the Indian subcontinent, Aicon hosts a frequently changing array of exhibitions, with Simon Tegala among the recent notable contributors.

But it was T.V. Santhosh’s solo show Burning Flags I arrived to see this time. Being completely honest, I was not expecting a great deal—having seen two of his works lost amongst the neon in one of the rooms of the Saatchi group show I reported on last month—but I was pleasantly surprised.

The vibrant, almost luminous greens and yellows that make up the painted images of people caught in the turmoil and desperation of war are taken directly from media coverage and show great depth and a haunting quality against the stark white walls of the gallery space. I found myself turning back and looking again at works I’d already walked past and seeing them on whole new dimension. The eyes of the protagonists in the foreground always remained the strongest feature.

It is, perhaps these suites of paintings commenting on the ‘Fourth Estate’ that Santhosh is most well known for. In the artist’s own words, his recent works are ‘about how the media presents the world to us and how the media has the power and the means to reconstruct as well as manipulate our understanding of reality.’

Alongside these paintings, the show also presents two of Santhosh’s sculptural works. Both feature distressing messages conveyed through scrolling LEDs, which create a ghoulish air as they cast a red hue on the surrounding pristine white fibreglass. According to curator Niru Ratnam, these particular works ‘convey that most atrocities are committed by ordinary people rather than sociopaths,’ and I understood his point especially while taking in the empty, draped chair which makes up part of the installation piece Tracing Down the Path of your Angst.

Despite the dark and serious message of Santhosh’s works, I think he is successful in managing to get his ideas across without creating too heavy and uncomfortable an atmosphere. Indeed, the black and white watercolours that make up the final aspect of the exhibition are calmly subdued and somehow manage to appear both incredibly accomplished and child-like in their naivety.


This neat and concise exhibition does an excellent job of showcasing Santhosh’s point of view in a clean and succinct manner and, to my mind, is an excellent representation of how modern art can be an effective means for social and political commentary.

Burning Flags is currently on exhibit at the Aicon Gallery in London until June 20. Admission is free.