The Shock of the Now Issue 49
Featured Exhibition Text
Harminder Judge
'Rising Skin from Rock and Chin' Solo Exhibition
The Sunday Painter
13th July 2022

Upon enrolling at the Royal Academy Schools in 2017, Harminder Judge‘s aim was to initiate an art-making practice more akin to a dutiful daily spiritual practice. By maintaining a strict studio regime, he sought to reproduce the therapeutic effects of repetitive labour experienced during a previous period spent refurbishing an old property outside of Sheffield, a project that also introduced him to the medium that would come to define his artistic output, plaster.

Working on flat casting tables, Judge produces artworks that exist at the intersection of painting and sculpture, self-contained structures akin to mystical monoliths or stone slabs. Pouring an initial pool of wet plaster that will eventually form the frontispiece in a process reminiscent of Indian reverse glass painting, he then works backwards, layering further pigmented plaster and occasional idiosyncratic additions. In command of colour and a gestural manipulation of the medium, a certain degree of control is surrendered to chance or happenstance, as Judge embraces the material’s unpredictability and sensitivity to outside influences such as heat or humidity. Finally, the artist excavates the exposed surfaces, carving into their substrate supports, sanding and polishing to reveal corporeal cosmic compositions.

In his earlier existence as a performance artist in the mid 00s, Judge would merge Hindu philosophy and mythology with western music and popular culture, exploring his own heritage as part of 'live colour field paintings’ that incorporated installation, sound and olfactory elements. A similar investigation of identity is evident in the artworks on display at The Sunday Painter, themselves the proud product of a wide range of influences from Abstract Expressionism and Modernism to talismanic and Neo-Tantric Indian art. The satisfying symmetry that so underpins Gulam Rasool Santosh’s geometric or diagrammatic abstractions - created first and foremost with a formal meditative function in mind, independent of overly aesthetic or artistic considerations - can be seen within the larger diptychs that Judge has been developing for the past couple of years. Previously described by the artist as ‘portals’, due to the artwork’s ovular or annular shape and their ability to engage the gaze of a viewer and illicit protracted considered contemplation, these recent bi-fold behemoths are more evocative of doors or gateways, inviting you to step-in and enter their alluring, inviting expanse. With their scale somewhat prescribed by the artist’s physique, similar to Mark Wallinger’s Rorschach renderings restricted by his own reach and arm span, Judge casts both sides separately, attempting to remember, reverse and repeat each and every action and movement to manufacture the mirrored, reflective replicas. 

Also exhibited at The Sunday Painter is a suite of smaller works, largely monochromatic aside from the intercession of a recurrent red circle, playful pressure points that evoke the energy holding third-eye chakras or the crimson bindi’s that represent the former’s awakening. Such actions and accoutrements of religious ritual or spiritual service have long informed both Judge’s worldview and supplemental art practice, with his titling regularly referencing a fundamentally formative experience from his teenage years, that being the exposure to and engagement in the funerary rites of his grandfather. A moving memoir, brought to the fore for the first time at this latest exhibition, tells of the ceremonial de-clothing and cleansing of the body before its burning on a cremation pyre stoked throughout the night by the adolescent artist. Witnessing first-hand the transformation of a human body to ashes engendered within Judge an apprehension of our own inherent materiality and, in addition, our impending immateriality. It is perhaps unsurprising, therefore, that each of his artworks are imbued with an atomic awareness, an empathy for the painterly pigments’ incalculable intentions and an appreciation of their almost unexplainable alchemy.

All images courtesy The Sunday Painter, 2022.
Photo credit: Ollie Hammick.