U. Kanad Chakrabarti, Clifford Torus, 2015, Courtesy of the artist

U. Kanad Chakrabarti

b. 1974, Ranchi, India

2013-2015 MA Painting, Slade School of Fine Art, London
1990-1994 BSc Electrical Engineering & Computer Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston, Massachusetts

Recent exhibitions

Group shows:
2015 LIMBO Arts Associate Members Exhibition, LIMBO Arts, Margate
2014 ‘Occupied Exhibition’, ArtsLav, London
2014 Slade Print Fair, Slade School, London
2014 Research Images as Art / Art Images as Research, UCL Doctoral School, London

Artist’s Statement

Installations allow for the creation of an idea-space, where the viewer can explore my own preoccupations, some of which, like higher maths or the history of banking, may not be immediately accessible to many - either because of specialised knowledge required or because of their inherently abstract and intangible nature.

In Clifford Torus, which grew out of a collaboration with UCL’s Mathematics Department, I was researching the life of William Kingdon Clifford, a Victorian-era mathematician at King’s College. He made important contributions in the treatment of higher-dimensional geometries, but also wrote copiously and incisively on ethics and religion. He loved the Mediterranean, was shipwrecked off Sicily, and died at an early age in Madeira.

In researching his life, I had to use my rudimentary and rusty knowledge of imaginary-number algebra and geometry, to work out what Clifford actually did. One of the analogies often used to explain his work to non-specialists is that of a projection: that is, how map-makers seek to ‘flatten’ a spherical Earth onto a sheet of paper, with the objective of minimising the inevitable distortion. My own performative process of seeking to understand, via drawing, proof, and derivation, were scanned, enlarged, and digitally dyed onto canvas.

But some other facets of Clifford’s life came back to me when I was in Sicily in 2014, not far from the site of his wreck, and the sensory overload of that multi-layered, radiant yet tragic island crept into this installation. Specifically, I recalled the carpets that often line the inside of small fishing boats in the port of Trapani, and those atop makeshift shrines to the recently departed in the dusty alleys of Palermo’s Arab-era Ballaro market. Then there is the pioneering map of the known world made by Al-Idrisi, court cartographer to Roger II, amongst the greatest rulers of Sicily’s Arabic-Norman-Swabian golden age. Lastly, I thought of Roger’s resplendent coronation cloak, dating from 1133 AD, now in Vienna’s Kunsthistoriches Museum, with its image of lions slaying camels, surmounted by elaborate Kufic text.

These rich historical images are today punctuated by the migrant crisis that Sicily is at the forefront of - literally thousands of migrants or refugees, many fleeing Syria and Eritrea, are landing every week. Their journey, as well as the struggles that Sicily, Italy, and the EU generally, are facing in accommodating them in a humane yet electorally sustainable way, are well documented elsewhere. However, it was the actual sight, in Siracusa’s harbour, of a rescued traffickers’ boat, with clothing and effects on the rust-eaten deck, that had the most visceral impact. I spoke with the Italian Coast Guard commander who described to me the horrors of the rescue. So, in a sense, the installation exploits a mathematical concept, the map, to bring together two hitories of the Mediterranean: the ancient and evocative symbols of fish and carpet, with the bleak contemporary condition of desperate migration and once-generous seas, now depleted by overfishing and pollution.