While setting in motion a plan to expose his father’s killer by staging a play, William Shakespeare’s Hamlet lauds actors as ‘abstract and brief chronicles of the time’. It is unclear why Shakespeare used the word ‘abstract’ to describe the actor’s craft, for it has always meant ‘detached’, or “separated from material objects or practical matters”. A chronicle, on the other hand, refers to a factual written account of a sequence of events. The idea of an ‘abstract chronicle’ must have been an oxymoron, or at least contained a grain of contradictoriness in Shakespeare’s time. The paradox at the heart of the phrase has only deepened with the tying of the term ‘abstract’ to a style of art that flourished in Europe a hundred years ago, having its origins in mysticism and later turning into a formalist discourse about medium specificity.

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The show Abstract Chronicles uses that sense of contradiction and paradox to
highlight contemporary art practices that share a close affinity with the century
old transnational tradition of abstraction while also being tied to specific
histories, particular events, material realities, or natural processes.

Jitish Kallat makes paintings whose patterns are conditioned by drops of rain and the blowing wind.
Manish Nai chronicles accidental beauty and mystery in billboards left empty by a recession in advertising budgets.
Fabien Charuau runs photographs of couples through an algorithm that progressively removes identifiable aspects of the image, transforming them into colour-suffused patterns.
Parul Gupta begins with minimalist photographs of room corners and extends them through the use of drawn lines.
Minal Damani employs a physical part of her personal history, the tiled floor of her now destroyed home, into two-dimensional compositions that speak to spatial divisions in Indian homes.
Tanya Goel creates grids that echo colour swatches, incorporating into the pigment she uses pulverised grit from demolished buildings.

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