A sculptor, mixed media artist and sound artist, Navin Thomas uses found objects, discarded materials, outmoded technology and audio compositions to explore the relationship between natural and man-made elements in urban environments.
Thomas was born in Madras (now Chennai), Tamil Nadu, and obtained diplomas in graphic design and cinematography from the Karnataka Film and Technical Training Centre, Bengaluru. His early work used discarded material from scrap yards, recycling plants and flea markets, along with the soundscape of various Indian cities, as in Transit (2004), which consisted of installations that emitted street sounds recorded at train stations and public transport in Bengaluru, Chennai, Delhi and Mumbai. He continued experimenting with urban audio-spatial environments in S.U.M.I.T (2008), a musical composition comprising house flies, rats, mechanical birds and ultrasonic insect repellent.
Thomas’s works also examine the behaviour of insects, animals and people as they experience and interact with the sonic frequencies he creates. However, the use of live birds in his work attracted criticism from animal rights organisations; in 2012, when his work Its Sound Sculpture (2010) was exhibited at the Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi, was criticised for confining pigeons to a room.
In his later works, such as My love is an icy cold fever (2011), Symphony for swine (2011) and You make me glow like radiation (2011), he continued exploring the relationships between living beings, built structures and sonic environments. Other works operate in a more abstract realm, such as Long Live the New Flesh (2014), which consisted of two archery targets exchanging only the sound of arrows being shot. His experiments with “electro-acoustic ecology” formed the basis of The Weather Report in 3 Parts by the Phantom Orchestra (2018), an installation that featured instruments discarded by a military brass band playing a musical score inspired by the sounds of ecological disasters and climate change.
Thomas is represented by GALLERYSKE, Bengaluru, where he also debuted his work in 2004. He has since exhibited at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Paris (2005); Devi Art Foundation, New Delhi (2008); Krinzinger Projekte, Vienna (2008); Bose Pacia, Kolkata (2009); Kochi-Muziris Biennale (2014); Institute for Contemporary Art, Singapore (2015); and PHOTOINK, New Delhi (2016). He has been a part of various residency projects, including at the Mattress Factory, Pittsburgh (2007); the KHOJ International Sonic Art Residency, New Delhi (2008); Art and Ecology KHOJ, New Delhi (2011); Pro-Helvetica, Bern (2015); and Whitebox Studios and Ebenbockhaus, Munich (2017). He received a grant from the Sarai Programme, New Delhi, in 2003, and an extended arts practice grant from the Indian Foundation for the Arts (IFA) in 2015.
As of writing, Thomas lives and works in Bengaluru.
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