A group show celebrating the life and work of Manoj Nair, Gallery 46

‘All of us have been on a train journey; all of us will have to make the journey from childhood to adulthood. But mine was through six states, across seven rivers and via six languages. Two of them, Hindi and Malayalam, still flow within me, slow, up and down, browsing. I want to relish them like I savour an Onasadya’ – these profound words by writer, poet, critic, musician and journalist Manoj Nair will soon become a catalyst to ‘Fantasy of Having a Trailer Wagon All to Myself’, a group show celebrating the life and work of the man himself. The title of the exhibition is taken from an email Manoj sent to Dhritabrata Bhattacharya Tato to introduce his book on childhood train journeys and these words were found in his book.

Manoj Nair, in life, was said to be highly regarded by the artistic community for championing the work of so many artists and helping to bring their work to a wider audience through his writings, as well as for his role as the Editorial Director of the Kochi Murziris Biennale 2018-19. Following his untimely death in 2019, this exhibition is an acknowledgement of Manoj’s importance by the featured artists, many of whom had a personal connection with him and who were keen to acknowledge his international legacy.

An international roster of more than 20 artists from the UK, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Korea and Sri Lanka: curated by Tatiana de Stempel, the exhibition will include painting, photography, performance, film, sculpture, writing, music and digital artwork. These artists are coming together to celebrate the life of Indian writer, journalist, critic and curator, Manoj Nair and his contribution to arts and culture.

Maya Bastian, ‘Post – Memory’,  2016

Artist Tatiana de Stempel has secured established names including Fiona Banner, Gavin Turk and Harold Offeh, as well as more emerging names such as Xenia Bond, Janine Shroff and Opper Zaman. The intention is to create a cross-cultural platform of work which explores issues of diversity and core themes of excess, and death. The artists have been invited to imagine what lies beyond death, both for the individual and the ‘afterlife’ of their work.

Extending the exhibition beyond the physical offering, an online exhibition guest curated by Annoushka Hempel - including work by from Pakistan artists Marium Agha and Naima Dadabhoy and Sri Lankan artists, Maya Bastian, Vimukthi Jayasundera, Danushka Marasinghe, Jiva Parthian, Anoli Perera and Anup Vega, who was featured on ARTRA Magazine’s Aug-Sep 2017 E31 – will further extend the opportunity for global dialogue during this time of isolation.

Tatiana de Stempel has worked as an artist and lecturer for the past 20 years. Her work has been exhibited at many leading galleries both internationally and in London. Her role as Director of Light More Light Ltd enabled her to gain first-hand experience of organising exhibitions. Based in London she has been a Visiting Lecturer at Central St Martins, teaching drawing and performance for the past 17 years. She and Manoj set up an international art project ‘What Colour would you Choose’, which toured in India and London, looking atManoj Nair with curator and artist, the issue of racism. She has written a paper in response to Manoj’s Dictionary of An Alcoholic which will be available at the exhibition.

Bharat Thakur, ‘A Partial Disclosure’, 2017

Tatiana de Stempel said, “Manoj and I started on a train journey in a spirit of adventure, I never thought it would end tragically in his premature death. Prior to his death, Manoj was writing ‘The Dictionary of An Alcoholic’ and it was the intention of both of us that mental health and addiction be treated in an open way, without stigma. This became a springboard for me to explore the effects of excess as a death drive. This exhibition, a homage to my sometime collaborator and close friend Manoj, will throw up a multitude of differing responses to these themes, especially at a time when so many have died of Covid-19.” 

Manoj had strong connections to London. In his role as guest speaker on the Performance programme at Central Saint Martins, he often visited the capital, encouraging and working with a cross section of young artists on many ideas and projects. Contributing artist, Peter Bond, reflects: “Meeting Manoj truly inspired me to adjust my western practices as an educator and an artist. His death has cruelly cut short his many cultural conversations and those worldwide connections he made wherever he went. It is his legacy of transparent knowledge and joined up thinking that will be celebrated within this exhibition.”

Reflecting this collaborative spirit, the public will be invited to attend a programme of free talks, performances, and workshops, including music workshops exploring Bengali and Indian folk music and poetry workshops investigating Sanskrit writing. Several exhibiting artists are working with LGBTQ+ subjects, providing visitors with an ideal opportunity to engage with and explore themes around these issues. Launching on the 3rd of June 2021, ‘Fantasy of Having a Trailer Wagon All to Myself’ will take place at Gallery 46. 

Vimukthi Jayasundara

10th January, 2021 Visual Art | Conceptual