Tuesday, September 25, 2012

‘Transits of a Wholetimer’

New Delhi-based Gallery Espace is hosting a show, entitled ‘Transits of a Wholetimer’, comprising works by late J. Swaminathan, Rightfully considered one of the preeminent Indian modernist painters, he played an major role in shaping a generation of artists, critics, and art historians in India.

The show is curated by art critic, writer and son of the late artist, S. Kalidas, also the director of the J. Swaminathan Foundation. He states of the show: It’s a time capsule from my father’s archives; an art historical display that traces the metamorphosis of J. Swaminathan (1928-1994) from a left-wing political radical to an equally radical artist-critic.”

The exhibition features vignettes from his autobiographical notes, some early drawings, illustrations and sketches from his exercise sketchbooks, family photographs, letters written to him by his colleagues and friends, some of his early catalogs and photographs of works spanning 1952-1964, and some of J. Swaminathan’s works from the early 1960s.

An accompanying note by the proud son-curator’s mentions: "He was fond of quoting Mahatma Gandhi’s famous saying “My life is an indivisible whole”. So in his work, too, he completed the circle as it were, by returning to doing the kind of work at the end of his life that he had started out doing in the early 1960s. To trace the arch of his oeuvre, as it were, this showing also has some examples of his later paintings from the two most well-known stylistic periods of his life-'The Bird Tree Mountain' series and the Tribal/Folk inspired abstracts.

Resonating with his Tamil ancestry, the exhibition loosely observes the aham-puram demarcation of Sangam literature where aham the ‘inner space’ (themes of home/ women/ love) contrasts with puram the ‘outer space’ (themes of the city/man/heroism)”.

From the ’70s onward, he was an important figure in the Indian art scene. He held 30 solo shows and also featured in several influential group exhibitions. The artist served in several organizations and committees of the Government of India including the ICCR, LKA, Crafts Museum, and Festivals Of India. In the later part of his career, he returned to the tribal wall painting style that he had explored in the early 1960s.

J. Swaminathan breathed his last in 1994.

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