Counter Table of the Blackyard
Charcoal and acrylic on canvas
6.5 ft x 15 ft
Prabhakar Pachpute was born in the village of Sasti in Chandrapur district in Maharashtra. The town is essentially known as a mining town, which is its only industry. Pachpute is descended from three generations who have consecutively worked in the mines of what has come to be called the “city of black gold.”
Though he is familiar with the mines and the extreme difficulty working in them entails, he himself did not work there. He had always had a facility for drawing and working with his hands, and decided to enroll at the Khairagarh University for his Bachelors in Fine Arts degree. He chose sculpture as his medium, and graduated in 2009. He had been given the Certificate Award from the S.C.Z.C.C. in Nagpur the previous year.
Prabhakar moved to Baroda soon after graduating to join the M.S. University, where he again studied sculpture at the Faculty of Fine Arts, receiving his Masters in Fine Arts in 2011. The Professor Mahendra Pandya Foundation Award had been presented to him in 2010, when he was still in the middle of his M.F.A. He had also had his first exhibition that year, at the Red Earth Gallery in Baroda.
Pachpute’s work addresses directly the trauma of the mines. He has known people who have worked there. Loss of life is not unusual in the mines, and frequently large groups die because of ceiling collapses. His is art is therefore direct, and at the same time haunting. In 2012, he created “Canary in a Coal Mine” at Clark House in Mumbai. The work was situated in a small airless room with no lighting. A torch is required to see the work, which is painted and drawn onto all the surfaces in the room. Charcoal is the predominant medium, and with this work the artist was able to bring to the imagination the reality of being in coal mine. The curator Zasha Colah states that the work is “not just expressive of what it’s like to be in a mine, but offers an analysis of the lived reality (in mining areas) with so much attention to detail.” The exhibition traveled to the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven in the Netherlands in 2013. He was nominated for the Skoda Prize Breakthrough Artist Award for the work.
Prabhakar created a series, “The Land Eaters” in which he made a number of murals, with shades of black as the primary color. The works again address the story of coal miners, and depict the struggles of a farmers’ collective that has begun to stand up to the corporations that run the mining operations.
Pachpute has been exhibiting regularly since, and in 2015 participated in a show at the Museu d’Art Contemporani in Barcelona. He currently lives in Mumbai.