The Bough Breaks - Camden Art Centre

This major solo exhibition presents a body of new work, including paintings and works on paper that form the expansive world of Krishanu's artistic practice.

Matthew Krishanu (b.1980, Bradford, UK) paints atmospheric, pared-back compositions including scenes from the artist’s life, particularly his childhood years in Bangladesh growing up with his brother, and their parents who were Christian missionaries. In the paintings, seemingly familiar narratives are alluded to but destabilised. The viewer’s own projections are called upon to fulfil the interpretive loop, raising questions about childhood, religion, race, power, and the legacies of empire.

These personal stories are told through layers of memory, imagination, and conversations with the history of painting. Drawing on multiple influences including El Greco, Gwen John, Noah Davis, and the Ajanta cave paintings, Krishanu’s work often explores how representations in the canon of Western art have shaped our collective unconscious around questions of race and gender. Working in ongoing series that include Another Country, Mission, and Holy Family, one painting segues into the next as a natural telling of the artist’s own journey through the joys and sorrows of life, with deeply personal subject matter that speaks to the human condition in all its complexity.

The exhibition’s title, The Bough Breaks, proceeds from the artist’s recent exhibition On a Limb (Jhaveri Contemporary, Mumbai, 2023). Both exhibitions relate to images from Krishanu’s Two Boys series, in which the artist and his brother are depicted perched on, and to some extent dwarfed by, the majestic branches, or ‘limbs’, of the banyan tree—an iconic symbol in Indian culture. The potential failure of this security—if the bough was to break—alludes to the dark undertones of the nursery rhyme Rock-a-bye Baby, as well as to the evident failure of the structures that should protect, provide for, and perpetuate society: a poignant metaphor for contemporary life.

Krishanu’s practice is at once an exploration of subject and medium, where by deeply personal subject matter is a means of approaching his primary, painterly concerns. The compositions provide multiple entry points—at times holding the viewer at bay and, at others, inviting them in. Meaning is implied rather than dictated, barring the path to reductive biographical readings.

Just as the paintings offer an immersion in surfaces, this major showcase of primarily new work by the artist will also foreground Krishanu’s drawings and works on paper—what he describes as the generative heartbeat of the exhibition.

A new essay by British broadcaster and journalist Bidisha Mamata will be published as the latest edition of Camden Art Centre’s File Note series.

Images The Artist Artist Film

The Artist

Matthew Krishanu (b.1980) was born in Bradford and is based in London. He completed an MA in Fine Art at Central Saint Martins in 2009. Recent solo exhibitions include On a Limb, Jhaveri Contemporary, Mumbai (2023); Playground, Niru Ratnam, London (2022); Undercurrents, LGDR, New York (2022); Arrow and Pulpit, Tanya Leighton, Berlin (2021); House of Crows, Matt’s Gallery, London (2019); A Murder of Crows, Ikon Gallery, Birmingham (2019); The Sun Never Sets, Midlands Arts Centre, Birmingham (2019) and Huddersfield Art Gallery (2018). Recent group exhibitions include Beyond the Page; Milton Keynes Gallery (2023) and The Box, Plymouth (2024); Life is More Important than Art, Whitechapel Gallery, London (2023); Dhaka Art Summit, Dhaka (2023); The Kingfisher’s Wing, GRIMM, New York (2022); Prophecy, Mead Gallery, Warwick Arts Centre (2022); Mixing It Up: Painting Today, Hayward Gallery, London (2021); Coventry Biennial, Leamington Spa Art Gallery & Museum and Herbert Art Gallery & Museum (2021); Everyday Heroes, Hayward Gallery/Southbank Centre (2020); A Rich Tapestry, Ikon, Lahore Biennale (2020); and Childhood Now, Compton Verney (2019).

Matthew Krishanu on his exhibition 'The Bough Breaks'. This film was produced by Reynir Hutber on the occasion of 'The Bough Breaks', at Camden Art Centre, 26 April - 23 June 2024.