Sunday, March 31, 2013

Characteristics of artist Jogen Chowdhury’s practice

Jogen Chowdhury’s career graph has been quite impressive. His early works contain figuration that extends to his later works as well. The artist has once commented that, in these works, the space projected a simple iconic presence. He had elaborated: “A spatial sequence was worked out but the space was not complex. The background seemed to vanish."His formative years in Kolkata were full of political movements, which had a definite influence on his works. Socio-political occurrences like the famine, the Partition, and the food movement all had a role to play.

As a result, a quality of darkness may be noticed to in his work. Yet as well as an indicator of sadness, this darkness can be considered to evoke an aura of mystery. The effect is enhanced in some of his recent works, which increasingly crop the central image. Earlier the figures were noticeable for their natural bearings, which came through expressionistic stylization and the weight of reality was greater. "There is an effect of distancing today. The idea is to hide some parts. The moment I show the entire figure, the interest in the details would be lost," he has explained.

Acknowledged as the unbroken line’s master, he has been influenced by the linear Kalighat tradition. His lines though are emotive, expressing the inner character of a person. He does so by opting to distort the form sans breaking the line. His protagonists are often caricatures; their faces are imaginary but the psyche real.

The artist was in spotlight after an ink and pastel work of his, entitled 'Day Dreaming', fetched a record £3,73,250 (Rs 2.9 crores) at the Sotheby's sale of Indian art held in London. It bettered his previous record of Rs 1.55 crore in 2009. The essence and the spirit of his works spanning over more than four decades have also been captured in a book ‘Enigmatic Visions’ by Glenbarra Art Museum, Japan. In fact, Jogen Chowdhury happens to be the first artist from India whose works have been compiled into a book form by the famed museum.

‘Eternal Recurrence’ at Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke

Parul Thacker makes use of light much like a draughtsman using a pen. It defines and articulates her vision. Through its manipulation she explores the universe both within and without. The artist’s unique trans-disciplinary constructs portray the beauty of coincidental symmetries in nature and technology.

The synthetic syncretizes with the organic, defining the domain of her canvas through the strength, beauty and purity of materials that she delineates in geometric structures. In ‘Eternal Recurrence’ - her first solo exhibition at Mumbai's Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke, she vitalizes tendencies toward material, method and space in an elaborate body of work which includes sculpture, installation, drawing and photography.

After completing a Bachelor’s Degree in textile design at the Sophia Polytechnic College of Art and Design in Mumbai, she undertook a course in surface ornamentation at The National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad. Her background in weaving and embroidery led her to explore the invention of new stitches and forms, while a research of unconventional pigments such as ash led to the casting of material in new and ever-changing contexts.

Her multi-media installations play with the idea of surface and depth creating a magical tension between material and form. Sometimes the forms rise in spectral, sinuous shapes that are reminiscent of nature’s forces: the curling of waves, the spinning of a tornado. Sometimes they are like vast lunar landscapes.

The crystal – an absolute system of linkage – is key to Parul’s compositions. Re-defining techniques from her study of the art of embroidery, weaving and stitching, she structures myriad materials – nylon monofilaments, acrylic tubes, translucent gels and pigments – that hold crystals at their core. Her juxtapositions probe the visible and invisible systems of organic patterns and our material environment; they portray the beauty of coincidental symmetry of nature and technology; and they comment on the filigree compounds of society and subject in our day-to-day world.

The artist has shown her works at ART HK 12, Hong Kong International Art Fair, Hong Kong; Mumbai Gallery Weekend, Taj Lands End; Art Dubai; and India Art Summit, New Delhi.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

A photographer who captures ‘the usually unseen’

An exhibition of offbeat albeit engrossing photo images by Sooni Taraporevala at Mumbai-based Chemould Prescott Road revolves around her seminal book on the Parsi community. It also comprises many of works, yet unseen. The photographs have been shown across the world, but this is the first exhibition in Mumbai, her city of inspiration.

Though Sooni Taraporevala spent her childhood surrounded by captivating images in an art-loving family of avid amateur photo artists, she only took to photographing in 1977. As an undergraduate at the renonwed Harvard University she, in fact, borrowed money from one of her roommates to get a Nikkormat, her first camera.

Her foray into the domain of photography was mostly self-taught. Henri Cartier Bresson is the photographer she most admired and still does. The blending of love for geometry and that decisive moment found a precise echo in her black & and white works. She reveals a similar instinct to capturing the usually unseen.

In 1982 she met Raghubir Singh, a maestro of colour photography,who saw amongst her eclectic collection of photos the subject, which had been staring her in the face, but something she had failed to notice: a photographic study of Parsis, the community she belonged to. What had started as a nostalgic and personal trip, her passion gradually grew into a more objective project, encompassing a world larger than her family.

Encouraged by Raghubir Singh, she began to take pictures in color. Whilst she documented the community in all its aspects in her book, the exhibit is a journey through a sensitive and observant photographer’s eye, of images, which continually draw you in, and reveal a depth, bringing something new to the viewer each time.

Sooni Taraporevala is also an award-winning screenwriter (Such A Long Journey; Salaam Bombay! Mississippi Masala; The Namesake) and filmmaker (Little Zizou). Photographs from ‘PARSIS A Photographic Journey’ have been included in Tate Modern’s Century City: Art and Culture in the Modern Metropolis in 2001; ‘India Moderna’ at the Institut Valencia d’Art Modern, Spain in 2008; and ‘Photoquai’, Musee de Quai Branly, Paris in 2009.

Tracing a veteran artist’s life and career

Born in 1937 in Surendranagar in the state of Gujarat, a highly respected and critically acclaimed artist, educationist and writer Gulammohammed Sheikh's work has spanned more than five decades. A founder-member of Group 1890, he as an artist and educationist has always emphasized the need for engagement with the historical narrative, and the importance in locating it within contemporary art, in order to build a critical discourse.

While being associated with MS University of Baroda, initially as a lecturer in Art History (1960-63, 1967-80) and then as a professor in the Painting department (1982-93), he instilled in his students the rigor of art historical research, a discipline which he holds as central to his own artistic practice. As a writer he has published several books and monographs on Indian art, other than editing the Vrishchik journal of arts and ideas with Bhupen Khakhar, and contributions to Gujarati literature in the form of prose and poetry.

A recipient of the Padmashri award, he has invested his knowledge further in the field by being part of several national committees and organizations in change of policy and institutional advocacy. It is under his curatorial authority that some of the most seminal exhibitions in the last three decades have been conceptualized. These include ‘Benodebihari Mukherjee Retrospective’ (2006-7) co-curated with R.Siva Kumar; ‘New Art from India: Home, Street, Shrine, Bazaar, Museum’ (2002); ‘Birth and Life of Modernity’ (1989), co-curated with Geeta Kapur; and Anis Farooqi, ‘Retrospective Exhibition: KG Subramanyan’ (1981) among others.

His major solo exhibitions include ‘Mappings’ (2004), ‘Palimpsest’ (2001), ’Kahat Kabir’ (1998), ‘Pathvipath’ (1991) and ‘Returning Home’ at Centre George Pompidou (1985), apart from numerous group shows.

His literary sensibility is as highly evolved as his acute artistic sensibility. Also a distinguished poet, a prime source of his pictorial language is poetry and all the indelible impressions of the early years of his life especially, the tales and the myths that he grew up with, finding expression in both his poetry and paintings.

Friday, March 29, 2013

How Indian art evolved in the 1960s

Following the tumultuous decades of the 1940s-50s, largely dominated by the core aesthetic values of School of Paris, our art scene in the 1960s was witness to a major shift and subtle change in direction: the idiom of traditional Indian art was back in reckoning; many artists entered into an active dialogue with India’s traditional visual language. They reinvented their own unique contexts.

Jagdish Swaminathan opposed the modernist aesthetics imposed by the colonial powers. Prof. K. G. Subramanyan played a huge role in propagating the serene Santiniketan philosophy. He underlined the fact that traditional visual language was indeed a rich art historical treasure. He employed traditional elements laced with a modernist sensibility and gave a new direction to the visual language.

For record, Rabindranath Tagore founded a school at Santiniketan in 1901 and later an art school, Kala Bhavan, in 1919 that became a part of the Visvabharati University. Utilizing diverse artistic strategies in terms of theme and medium, artists like BB Mukherjee, Ram Kinker Baij and Nandalal Bose charted a pictorial history in juxtaposition of its fight for freedom.

As if taking cue from them, a strong sense of nationhood was very much palpable even by the early 60s. KCS Panikar formed the Cholamandalam artists’ community. Several artists of the era looked anew at traditional sources. Ganesh Pyne’s personal and artistic sensibilities prompted him delve into his own heritage, to revisit tradition. Following his exposure to European art, Jogen Chowdhury paused for a while only to evolve a visual language that carried resonances of local traditions.

The throbbing creative ferment in Baroda, India’s premier art center, led to experiments with both the narrative mode and fascinating figuration. Bhupen Khakhar, Gulammohammed Sheikh, Neelima Sheikh, Jyoti Bhatt, and Laxma Goud among others tread a new course. Visual traditions, classical, folk and popular, colored the imagination of several artists in Baroda where Subramanyan played the role of a catalyst.

These artists were largely inspired by the living traditions and past practices. They looked anew at murals, illuminated manuscripts, texts and miniature art. Their fertile imagination and perception absorbed the vitality of decorative elements of India’s rich tribal & folk arts.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

A mixture of hyper-realism and fantasy, photo and painting

With media culture becoming universal, reflecting and representing post modern forms, photorealist art has acquired a contemporary hue with artists logically and instinctively turning to it for inspiration. Several Indian artists carefully sift through the barrage of visual content with an idea of recreating and relocating these references on canvas. For them, the process is not a mere reproduction or a dispassionate reportage. They rediscover the visual references to add a new dimension through their intellectual inputs, to fill the images with alternative meanings.

Photorealist art, if one closely inspects, is a kind of hyper-formalism; more about surface, form, and technique. The genre is essentially about the skill and vision to build a precise representation of reality with a touch of imagination. Photo-realism, often known as super-realism, is an art movement, which began in the US in the 1960s.

As the term suggests, photo-realist painters took photography as base and inspiration to create highly illusionistic images. Artists like Ralph Goings, Richard Estes, Robert Bechtle, Chuck Close, and Audrey Flack tried to reproduce with paintbrush what the camera lens could record. Sculptors such as the Americans John De Andrea and Duane Hanson were associated with the movement, too. Though the mediums were different, the binding thread was to achieve a simulated reality.

Among the contemporary Indian artists, celebrated painter Atul Dodiya has gradually switched to an allegorical dramatization of his painterly dilemmas in the epoch of intriguing installation through a combination of self- portraits and witty tableaux. Subodh Gupta imparts surrealist touches to a pop/photorealist style. His ‘Vilas’ is an example of stark self-representation through a potent photo installation

Painters like Baiju Parthan, TV Santosh, Bose Krishnamachari and Shibu Natesan too have been experimenting with digital images in their works of art. The latter combines familiar images with bold, colorful palettes to enhance his unique, collage-like compilations. The image is a metaphor that he internalizes. The result is a mixture of hyper-realism and fantasy.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

India’s noteworthy contemporaries in NGMA collection

By the mid-1980s, art in India started charting a new path. The discourses, which earlier dominated the country’s art scene faded away slowly. The younger breed of practitioners echoed new concerns and explored fresh concepts.

A comprehensive collection of the NGMA comprises works of Sudhir Patwardhan, Vivan Sundaram, Arpita Singh, Nalini Malani, Arpana Caur, Amitava Das, Chittrovanu Majumdar, Jaya Ganguly, Jayashree Chakravarti, Paramjit Singh, Manu Parekh, Manjit Bawa, Rameshwar Broota, Jatin Das, Anjolie Ela Menon, Rekha Rodwittiya, Rajeev Lochan, Atul Dodiya, Jitish Kallat, Subodh Gupta, Veena Bhargava, Hema Upadhaya, Chintan Upadhaya, Riyas Komu, Probir Gupta, Anju Dodiya, Anandajit Ray, and NS Harsha among others to testify the trend. 

Capturing the new eclectic spirit of emerging art practices, the NGMA website explains: “Post-modern ideas left their mark. They experimented with new media, material and techniques, they rethought the scale of the work attempting site-specific three-dimensional installations and they were prepared to negotiate with both global and local stimuli. Themes involving gender, environment and urban crisis began to surface in images. The vibrancy of popular culture worked as a major trigger in image-making.

“Some of the younger artists, even when they were working with representational forms eschewed narrative elements even as they gave vent to whimsy. In sum, contemporary art tore through the silken veils of the exclusive private gallery ambience and donned an assertive dynamism, a colorful vitality.”

Run and administered as a subordinate office to the Department of Culture, Government of India, the Gallery is the premier institution of its kind in India. A repository of the cultural ethos of the country, it showcases the changing art forms through the passage of the last more than hundred and fifty five years starting from about 1857 in the field of Visual and Plastic arts. The NGMA collection today is undeniably the most significant collection of modern and contemporary art in the country today. 

The idea of a national art gallery to germinate and bear fruit was first mooted in 1949. NGMA’s inauguration was marked by an exhibition of sculptures. All the prominent sculptors of the time like Debi Prasad Roy Chowdhury, Ramkinkar Baij, Sankho Chaudhuri, Dhanraj Bhagat, Sarbari Roy Chowdhury and others had participated.

The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts

The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts was established in 1987. In accordance with Andy Warhol's will, its mission is the advancement of the visual arts. Here is a quick look at its mission and objectives:

Background of the foundation
When Andy Warhol died unexpectedly on February 22, 1987, he left a vast and complicated inventory of works of art and personal possessions. His will dictated that his entire estate, with the exception of a few modest legacies to family members, should be used to create a foundation dedicated to the "advancement of the visual arts."
In its early days, the Foundation brought artists, curators, administrators, educators, critics and others together to help it shape a responsive, committed and engaged philanthropic organization.  The grant-making program that grew out of these meetings and the Foundation’s ongoing efforts to protect and enhance its founder’s creative legacy ensure that Warhol’s inventive, open-minded spirit will have a profound impact on the visual arts for generations to come.
It’s focused primarily on supporting work of a challenging and often experimental nature, while noting that the interpretation of those terms may vary from place to place and culture to culture. In this regard the Foundation encourages curatorial research leading to new scholarship in the field of contemporary art.

Its other objective is to foster innovative artistic expression and the creative process by encouraging and supporting cultural organizations that in turn, directly or indirectly, support artists and their work. The Foundation values the contribution these organizations make to artists and audiences and to society as a whole by supporting, exhibiting and interpreting a broad spectrum of contemporary artistic practice.
Active advocacy role
A strong commitment to freedom of artistic expression led the Foundation to play an active advocacy role for artists during the culture wars of the 1990s and continues to inform its support of organizations that fight censorship, protect artists’ rights and defend their access to evolving technologies in the digital age.

Creating a perplexing parallel yet believable reality

Venkat Bothsa’s mystifying mix of brightly colored fascinating fulsome figuration is invariably inlayed with bewildering embellishments of all different kinds and forms. It is derived from either natural elements or drawn from media and photographs. It’s a curious mix of mythology, cinematic reverie and contemporary realities.

The intriguing collation of diverse influences appears familiar, light hearted and fun filled outwardly. But it grips us with slightly strange and surrealist streak on further inspection. The artist’s larger-than-life sculptures leave behind an exuberant dramatic effect.Born in 1961, he did his BFA from the University of Andhra Pradesh (1977-83) and later completed MFA from Benaras Hindu University (1983-85). A solo his works comprising three-dimensional objects was arranged at Gallery Sumukha, Bangalore (2007).

Apart from solo shows including ‘Steeped in Sanskriti’, at Canada’s Gibsone Jessop Gallery (in conjunction with the Seagull India Arts Foundation) in 2009, his work has formed part of several other important shows, such as 41st national exhibition in New Delhi by the LKA (1998), Ksetra Art Gallerym, Visakhapatnam (2004).

Besides sculpture projects for public commissions, he has participated in International artists' workshop in Orissa in 1995, 10th Triennale international sculptors' workshop courtesy Lalit Kala Akademy (2001) in Chandigarh, Sculptor's Workshop organized by Visakhapatnam Urban Development Authority (1998), and All India senior sculptors' camp in Visakhapatnam (1998).  He is also credited with conceiving and designing a tribal art and life museum, called Museum of Habitat in his home state.

Creating a perplexing parallel yet believable reality, he infuses elements of kitsch, albeit with a latent touch of lyricism, mapping a completely new, composite reality. The artist, in the process, defends and dodges many obvious compulsions of his own characters and the tumultuous clash amongst originally disconnected forms. His polychromatic realm of sculptures is soaked in spectacular dazzle. The viewers, as if, are drawn into an alluring phantasmagoria.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Collection of NGMA captures crux of Indian art trends

In the early 1970s and and the 80s, many Indian artists used narrative devices in different ways so as to transform the seemingly mundane into the magical. They located the mythic into a realm of memory, using fantasy to express their own fears and personal anxieties, imparting them with a dream-like intensity and feel. The strong fantasy or mythical content in their paintings was well evident. They continued to explore it and gave a new thrust to visual language.

KG Subramanyan and A Ramachandran

The former’s ‘Goddess at Goalpara’ at the NGMA is a witty pastoral image where the four armed goddess is seen chasing the buffalo demon. On another level, A Ramachandran endows the temporal with a sense of timelessness. In ‘Incarnation’, the beautiful tribal woman, framed by the blossoming flame of the forest tree, stands on a turtle, also a self portrait of the artist.
Prabhakar Barwe
Another artist who brought a metaphysical dimension to his images was Mumbai-based Prabhakar Barwe. In ‘Blue Lake’ at the NGMA, the fish form floating on the surface of the canvas and its skeletal reflection hint at disjunctive references from a dreamscape, and the realization of ultimate reality.
Madhvi Parekh and Gogi Saroj
Madhvi Parekh’s mythic world bristles with folk and tribal imagery of Gujarat. For Gogi Saroj Pal, the mythic image is the expression of a personal mythology. It is linked to the construct of women in a patriarchal society.
K Khosa and Ganesh Pyne
The former’s work is steeped in meta-reality. A ‘Happening’ is clearly located in an imagined Kafkaesque world, in which the real takes on an eerie, unreal quality, whereas a personal mythology also informs the shadowy image world of Ganesh Pyne. The experience of angst pervading the layers of existence harks to an umbral presence.
Jogen Chowdhury and Amit Ambalal
In the late 60s and early 70s, Jogen Chowdhury brought into the public domain personal erotic fantasies that burgeoned with a life of their own in a nocturnal ambience. Both Amit Ambalal and Dharmanarayan Dasgupta introduce a whimsical note into the fantasy images.

Art Dubai 2013

Held under the Patronage of HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE, Ruler of Dubai, Art Dubai has emerged as the leading international art fair in the MENASA (Middle East/North Africa/South Asia) over the last six years. It has become a cornerstone of the region’s booming contemporary art community.

Special events at Art Dubai include Design Days Dubai, the only fair in Asia dedicated to product and furniture design; Sikka, the fair run by Dubai Culture and Arts Authority (Dubai Culture) and dedicated to new work by UAE-based artists; and Galleries Nights, featuring 40 new exhibitions across Al Quoz and the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC); plus other projects, museum shows and major events throughout the Emirates, Qatar and the Gulf.

The seventh edition of Art Dubai took place from March 20 until March 23, 2013, at Madinat Jumeirah. Besides the gallery halls, the fair's extensive program included commissioned projects and performances, artists' and curators' residencies, educational workshops, the unveiling of works by the winners of the annual The Abraaj Group Art Prize and the critically acclaimed Global Art Forum.

Art Dubai is part of Art Week, an umbrella initiative that highlights the plethora of exhibitions, projects and events that now coincide with the fair each March, the most dynamic time in the UAE’s cultural calendar. It includes an extensive not-for-profit programme of curated projects, including artists’ and curators' residencies; commissioned site-specific and performative works; a pop-up radio network; The Hatch, a space for film and video; and a city-wide touring gallery. Each year, the fair also hosts the launch exhibition of works by the winners of the annual Abraaj Group Art Prize.

Founded and produced by Art Dubai, Global Art Forum is presented by the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority (Dubai Culture), and is held in partnership with Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art (Qatar Museums Authority). This year the forum, directed by Istanbul-based writer/editor HG Masters and commissioned by writer/curator Shumon Basar, explored the concept of ‘definitionism’: investigating the words, terms, clichés and misunderstandings that proliferate in the art world and beyond.

Exhibit 320, New Delhi; Experimenter, Kolkata; Grosvenor Vadehra, London/New Delhi; and Tasveer, Bangalore were among the Indian galleries that featured at the fair.

Understanding Hindol Brahmbhatt's artistic agenda

Artist Hindol Brahmbhatt's practice revolves around attainment of thematic and stylistic unity. Its broad objective is to form a language that calls for continuity and intuition.This infinity of composition reminds us that each work is a part of a greater body of images and ideas. These are schematic images of evolution, growth and creativity. The messages do not demand to be ‘analyzed and solved’, but just exist.

The artist belongs to an assertive, inquisitive new-generation Indian contemporary artists that invariably questions and challenges the prevailing notions of reality. His observations coupled with his imagination give a contextual dimension to his creations. They are intended not only to please the viewers’ eyes but also to touch their souls.

Collectively, his work resonates with an outward simplicity of the subject matter that subtly hides and progressively heightens inherent complexity of the message and the drama that the artist wants to convey. Hindol Brahmbhatt recreates and relocates the known and the imagined visual references, and fills them with alternative meanings.

Also, he chooses to distill his visual vocabulary to the minimum for the maximum effect. The artist has worked on several diptychs and triptychs that locate the relevance of the Gandhian philosophy in today’s context. Several of the artist’s creations juxtapose images of war and violence. He treats his work as a documentation of historical reality in contemporary context, and looks for clues of social changes.

Thus emerges a universe that the viewers can identify with, albeit from a new perspective! “I believe in the truth of opposites. For every argument there would be a counter-argument that can be equally valid. So I leave it to the viewers to interpret my work, and draw their own conclusions,” he concludes.

Elegiac figuration soaked in tragic modernism

A visionary link seems to exist between Ram Kumar’s paintings and his stories. If his landscapes appear remote and alien, the latter come with a tinge of sadness and a brooding feel to them. Stylistically and thematically, Ram Kumar’s amazing oeuvre grips your mind and heart.

His early works included elegiac figuration, exuding the excruciating spirit of tragic Modernism even as he drew upon exemplars such as Edward Hopper, Kathe Kollwitz, Georges Rouault and Gustave Courbet. Infused with a great ideological fervor, he dedicated himself to constructing an iconography of victimhood and depression. The paintings imbued with a touch of melancholic Realism not only reflected his acute disillusionment with the anonymity and monotony of urban existence, but also alluded to the disillusionment with unfulfilled promises after India’s Independence. These compositions represented a significant phase of the country’s post-Independence art.

Analyzing Ram Kumar’s growth trajectory, art critic Ranjit Hoskote has noted in an essay: "He spent the first decade of India's independence, perfecting an elegiac figuration imbued with the spirit of tragic modernism. To this period belong those lost souls: the monumental Picassoesque figures packed into a darkened picture-womb, terrorized workers, emaciated doll-women and the bewildered clerks trapped in the industrial city."

His wonderful works have been showcased in India and internationally over the last six decades and more at major venues across the world, apart from several group exhibitions, including 'Paper Trails', Vadehra, Delhi; 'The Progressives & Associates', Grosvenor Gallery, London; 'From Miniature to Modern', Rob Dean Art, London courtesy Pundole, Mumbai; 'Master Class', The Arts Trust, Mumbai (2010); 'Indian Art After Independence’, Emily Lowe Gallery, Hempstead; 'Progressive to Altermodern', Grosvenor, London, and 'Tracing Time', Bodhi Art, Mumbai (2009).

Retrospectives of his works have been held at NGMA (1994) and Jehangir Art Gallery courtesy Vadehra, Delhi (1994); Bharat Bhavan, Bhopal (1986), and Birla Museum, Kolkata (1980). Among his recent participations are '10th Anniversary Show', Tao gallery, Mumbai; annual exhibitions of Chawla Art Gallery, and Kumar Art Gallery, Delhi (2010); 'Paz Mandala', LKA, Delhi, and 'Moderns', Royal Cultural Centre, Amman, Jordan (2008-09). The veteran artist has won several honors and awards, such as Officers Arts et Letters, France (2003); Kalidas Samman, Madhya Pradesh government (1986); Padma Shri, Government of India (1972); J. D. Rockefeller III Fellowship, New York (1970), and the national awards (1956, 1958). 

Monday, March 25, 2013

An artist shaped by her global sojourns and influences

After studying graphic design and illustration at Ahmedabad’s National Institute of Design (NID), Angeli Sowani’s global sojourn began in 1988, taking her to several countries, including Hong Kong, Thailand, Nepal and the UK. Each geographical transition filled her mind with a moving or motivating experience, and shaped her thought processes.

It offered her a new enriching landscape - the sight of bloody sacrifices to deities in Nepal; the Ancestor paintings, seals and votive papers burnt in sacred offering to the Gods in HK; or the Buddhist imagery and usage of gold leaf in Thailand – the varied experiences left a permanent imprint on her sensitive mind. A case in point is her ‘Duality’, ‘Mantra’ and ‘Ancestor’ series (1997- 2002).

Each new voyage into unfamiliar terrains led to heightened sensitivity and enhanced curiosity. She has stated: “I found myself engulfed and enthralled by new visual imagery, stimuli and differing practices. Assimilating and internalizing them over time acted as an inspiration for my work. While the East led to a reinforcement of Hindu and Buddhist imagery and symbolism, the UK provided a sharp contrast in terms of color, light and even subject matter.

The vibrant colors, the hustle & the heat of the Orient gave way to the mellow textures and light filtering through the cathedrals’ stained glass windows. Her first London show, entitled ‘Identity in Abstraction’ (2004), underlined an apparent change in her choice of palette and motifs. The artist has revealed: “I was inspired by the flagstones and the interplay of light and shade in the interior of the Cathedral and the tree-lined streets of Winchester.”

Multiple influences and inspirations thanks to her exposure to different cultures, rituals and religions are blended into a harmonious construct of serene expression and deep meaning in her work. She indeed is an artist greatly shaped by her global sojourns and influences...

Alternative readings to popular culture

Ram Bali Chauhan’s work revolves around the concept of faceless, global terrorism that looms large. He has developed a unique visual language, which involves experimentation with intricate arrangement of line and form. His work invariably provokes a heightened viewer response and participation because it deals with their immediate concerns.

He did his Bachelor of Fine Arts (Sculpture) College of Art, New Delhi in 2001, and then completed his Master of Fine Arts (Sculpture) College of Art, New Delhi in 2003. Apart from  ‘Voice of Violence', The Stainless Gallery; The Mint, Delhi (2008), his other selected solo exhibitions are ‘Shadow Lives’, The Mint, Delhi in 2008;  and shows at Lalit Kala Akademi, Delhi (2006 and 2003).

Ram Bali Chauhan’s significant group exhibitions include ‘Insider’, Bodhi Art, Mumbai in 2007; All India Fine Art and Craft Society (AIFACS) show in a show Freedom Art Gallery, Delhi and a show Freedom Art Gallery, Delhi in 2000. His noteworthy participations include 'Miniscule Marvel', presented by Contemplate at Gallery BMB, Mumbai (2011); 12th Yuva Mahotsava Sahitya Kala Parisad, Delhi (2003); Indo Japan Art Symposium, India (2002-03); Ravi Jain Memorial Annual Art Exhibition at Dhoomimal Art Gallery, Delhi (2000-02); and Annual Art Exhibition, College of Art, Delhi (1998-2003). 

The artist with the help of human skeletons and animals reflects upon the theme from the common people’s perspective. In fact, animal as well as human skeletons or frames are a recurrent motif in his compositions. He consciously chooses to isolate specific contours and configurations of interest to him. He magnifies these in his creations creating a feel of immediacy.

In an introductory essay to his series, ‘Voice of Violence’, critic Deeksha Nath had mentioned: “His art provides alternative readings to popular culture and a public language of fracture, hostility and threat by exploring tactics of fear. His artwork comes from a creative rather than from a scientific, legal or historical speaking position.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

‘Uninterrupted Speech’ at Vadehra Art Gallery

A new series of works by acclaimed artist Shibu Natesan at New Delhi-based Vadehra Art Gallery is part of an ongoing ‘inner talk’ that he has with himself and his surroundings. These canvases capture two kinds of contrasting scenes that the artist experiences there – vast empty landscapes and a close view of human intimacy.

These new works are an articulation of his life in London where he experiences a loneliness that is both physical and existential. His paintings, however, are not complaints but are about his awareness of being inserted into a place and situation that is not his own.

Incidentally, ‘Uninterrupted Speech’ is Shibu Natesan’s first show in India after a gap of 8 years.  It is also an attempt on his part at refocusing attention to nature and landscape painting, which the artist feels is disappearing from the art scene in India. “But the idea is not so much about the landscape as it is about trying to capture the sense of an absent or present self within this landscape,” he says.

Shibu Natesan, who did his BFA in Painting from College of Fine Arts, Thiruvananthapuram, and his MA in Printmaking from MS University, Baroda, was one of the pioneers to bring back realism to the art scene in India in the 1990s. In the 1990s he was instrumental in initiating ‘Mediatic Realism’ in the Indian art scene. His new series is an extension of this style but is also more fluid than his previous work.

Born in 1966 in Vakkom, Kerala, he completed his BFA in Painting from College of Fine Arts, Thiruvananthapuram, in 1987. In 1991, he completed his MA in Printmaking from Maharaja Sayajirao University, Baroda. He has been an artist-in-residence at Rijksakademie Van Beeldende Kunsten, Amsterdam. He has participated in ARCOmadrid in Spain. His previous solo exhibition in India was in 2005; Existence of Instinct organized by Sakshi Art Gallery in New Delhi. His works have been displayed at the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, Japan; The World Economic Forum, Switzerland; Museum of Contemporary Art, Helsinki, Finland; Blackburn Museum, England etc. The artist lives and works in London.

(Information courtesy: Vadehra Art Gallery)

TEFAF Maastricht 2013

Presenting more than 250 of leading galleries from across the world, TEFAF Maastricht (15-24 March 2013) has established itself as a comprehensive showcase for the best of art currently available on the market. Apart from the traditional Old Master Paintings, visitors get to check a wide array of Classical Modern & Contemporary Art. They can also see and buy jewelry, 20th century design as well as works on paper.

Facets of TEFAF
The event (15-24 March 2013) celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2012 and is now universally regarded as the world’s leading art fair, setting the standard for excellence in the art market. The Fair truly is an event not to be missed by collectors and museum representatives. TEFAF Maastricht’s ground breaking vetting system involves no fewer than 175 international experts in 29 different categories.
Old Masters
From the outset TEFAF has been world famous for Old Masters. The fair offers an extensive collection of Flemish, Dutch, Italian, Spanish, French, German and English paintings, prints and drawings from the 13th to the 19th century. Art experts estimate that seventy percent of all the top quality Old Masters for sale in the world can be seen at TEFAF.
TEFAF Modern
This section offers classical modern and contemporary art. Around forty-five top dealers present a cross-section of 20th and 21st-century art from around the globe, including masterpieces by Renoir, Picasso, Poliakoff and Kandinsky. The pieces on offer are very diverse like sculptures, paintings, drawings, photographs and video installations. Big names like Henry Moore, Willem de Kooning and Rothko are there apart from contemporary artists like Damien Hirst, Anish Kapoor and Francis Bacon.
Design section
TEFAF Maastricht constantly evolves to reinforce its position as the world’s most influential art and antiques fair. In 2009 a new section, called TEFAF Design, was introduced to strengthen its appeal in a field which attracts a growing number of private and professional collectors. TEFAF Design highlights leading international specialists in twentieth-century design and applied arts.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Blending of decorative design, folk and mythology

Jayasri Burman has carved a niche for herself with her unique form, style and artistic sensitivity inspired by the Indian folk element. Born in Kolkata in 1960, she grasped nuances of painting at Kala Bhavan in Shantiniketan (1977-79), and later at Visual College of Art, Kolkata (1979-80). To start with, she was keen to become a sculptor instead of painter. She even learnt sculpture at the college, but later focused on paintings.

Her meticulousness and precise detailing can be attributed to her training in printmaking. She studied gouache and graphic arts during 1979-83. After marriage, she moved to Paris. There she happened to work with, Monsieur Ceizerzi, a printmaking master. In between, she also took part in a graphic art workshop with Paul Lingren.

Jayasri Burman’s reinterpreting of sacred texts placed in contemporary contexts is perhaps a streak she inherits from her uncle Sakti Burman, renowned for his imagery of Indian myths and fables. Her cousin Maya Burman’s works also carry a strong element of fantasy. Among the painters she most admires are Leonardo Da Vinci, Picasso and Van Gogh, who exudes a feeling of timelessness, as the artist reveals, something that she carries with her always.

Her other favorites are Botticelli, Chagall and Jogen Chowdhury. According to her, artist and husband Paresh Maity has taught her to enjoy life, and has helped her come out of a phase of intense struggle. She began painting with a new zest after suffering personal tragedies. The positive thoughts translated in bright colors and serene feel in her works.

For the past few years, Jayasri Burman has been regularly coming to ‘the epicenter of Indian traditions’ in Varanasi that has inspired the religious themes of many of her recent works. In one of her paintings she depicted the myth of Mayuri, albeit the female character in it is very much real and exists in every modern woman.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Images of 'new' India

‘Matter’ is a new series by photographer Bharat Sikka, featuring images in diverse formats, which blend studio, street, landscape and portrait photography. They present today’s India, amalgamating an ancient culture and contemporary realities.

The palette of ‘Matter’ on view at at Mumbai's Mehboob Studio courtesy Nature Morte is doggedly reductive; eschewing India's clichéd bright hues, he limits himself to blacks, greys, whites and silvers. Sikka does not shy away from exposing every side of India's uneven visual topography.

Bharat Sikka, born in 1973, completed a BFA degree at Parson's School of Design in New York In 2002. Solo exhibitions of his works have been held at Nature Morte in New Delhi (2009) and Berlin (2011), Bose Pacia Kolkata (2007), Otto Zoo in Milan and the National Museum in New Delhi (2008), Project 88 in Mumbai and the Sunaparanta Art Center in Goa (2010).

Sikka travels widely from his home in New Delhi, working as a photographer for numerous projects. His work has been published in prestigious newspapers and magazines such as The New York Times, GQ, Vogue India, Vogue Hommes International, I-D Magazine, Time Magazine, The New Yorker, and he has been a contributor to the Incredible India campaign.

All beautifully composed, the new photographs show moments of brooding and alienation, moments of sheer energy, moments of teenage irreverence and moments of macabre allure. Mixing high and low, he pits the natural against the artificial: the peaks of the Himalayas are echoed in the folds and creases of a plastic sheet, while the unsettling gleam of a masked figure contrasts with the sensuous portraits of young men and women.

The photographer adds, “From photographing the ordinary, to the dead and the alive, these images constitute things that evoke an impulsive emotion in me. They do not only merely determine my state of my mind, but also challenge the way I perceive my surroundings. Each of these images has their own story or perhaps none at all. From an impetuous decision of jotting a word down, to rather lifting my camera and making that picture, I am writing and making notes while also making images.”

‘A Tribute to Ganesh Pyne’

Ganesh Pyne’s signature style shaped from his own experiences of solitude, alienation, pain, horror and moods of tenderness and serenity comes to surface in each of his works. At times, these images were offshoots of an idea that might have flitted through his mind. At others, they tend to resonate lines from poems that might have made an impression on his mind.

The lines are bold, precise, controlled and the drawings that emerge are potent both in form and content. Stripped of color, they convey the architectonic quality in the structuring of the images. ‘A Tribute to Ganesh Pyne’ at New Delhi-based Vadehra Art traces various features of his oeuvre.
The foremost exponent of Bengal School of Art Ganesh Pyne blended romanticism, fantasy and inventive play of light and dark in his works wherein the labyrinths of subconscious have formulated the imagery of his paintings. His own experiences of pain, solitude, alienation, horror shaped up his signature style.

Ganesh Pyne was born in Kolkata and grew up in a decaying mansion. He also grew up on stories told by his grandmother --- fold stories, mythological stories, and fairy tales. He spent several evenings in smoky Kolkata cafes discussing communism and Picasso with his friends. "My childhood memories revolve around Kolkata. The sounds and smells of this city fill my being. I love Kolkata."

The artist was obsessed with death. He couldn't forget his first brush with death, in the summer of 1946, when communal riots had rocked Kolkata. His family was forced out of their crumbling mansion. As he roamed around the city, he stumbled upon a pile of dead bodies. On the top was the body of a stark naked old woman, with wounds on her breast. No wonder then his paintings rarely had light backgrounds, and blue and black happened to be his favorite colors. Death also finds its way back into his canvas through different motifs. Working mostly in tempera, his paintings are rich in imagery and symbolism.

Initially, Pyne painted watercolors and sketches of misty mornings and wayside temples. Equally devoted to cinema as he was to painting, Pyne also drew inspirations from movies made by Fellini and Ingmar Bergman. We pay homage to one of the foremost exponents of the Bengal School of art.

Paying tribute to a legend

Ganesh Pyne, who died at the age of 76, created disquieting work that portrayed a sort of tragic and dark world drawn from folklore and mythology. In an obituary, Shahnaz Habib in The UK Guardian, reveals influences on Ganesh Pyne's art included Rembrandt, Paul Klee as well as Abanindranath Tagore,

The Bengal school of art, a major artistic movement, which was aligned with the then prevailing nationalist aspirations did create an aesthetic deeply rooted in India’s own artistic traditions. Pyne thought belonged to it, his vision was far darker and sharper. He not only moved away from nationalist and romantic themes, but also explored more profound existential questions. The author makes the following observations about his art and life:
  • He was an impressionable child during the chaotic, violent years preceding Indian independence and later came of age as a young man in Kolkata at a time of intellectual and political upheaval. These early years grounded Pyne's art in dark, unsettling images, drawn from mythology and dreams.
  • There is an oft-repeated story about Pyne's first experience of death. During the riots that shook Kolkata in 1946, nine-year-old Pyne was living with his family in a hospital after being evacuated from their home. One day, he came across a handcart of corpses on their way to the mortuary. The body on top was that of an old woman. Even as blood flowed out of her body, her necklace shone.
  • In painting after painting by Pyne, skulls, skeletons, piercing arrows and phantasms indicate a vision of the world, that was, above all, tragic. Primary colours are rare in Pyne's universe. Instead, there are amber browns and ashy blues. Instead of precise blocks of colour, there are overlapping layers. Bodies often seem lit from within, as if they are burning from inside outwards.
  • Pyne started with watercolors, moved on to gouache, and finally found his medium in tempera, a medium that was popular in 15th-century Europe. He became a master at layering light and dark to create the intense glows that rendered his images so enigmatic. In Pyne's hands, the medium and the technique combined to create a mood of distortion, a world of misshaped people and demonic animals.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

“Wonderful to have a show in Mumbai’ - Anjolie Ela Menon

When you wish to present the artworks of a practitioner par excellence, with a vast oeuvre, it can indeed be quite a task. But the Institute of Contemporary Indian Art chairman, Vickram Sethi took it up and collated a show of around 45 paintings done by Anjolie Ela Menon over her illustrious career – right from 1970 until now. The artist is back in the city of Mumbai after a ‘hiatus’ of nearly eight years.

We highlight the thought processes and philosophy of the master artist that she reveals in a chat with Debarati S Sen of TNN. She talks of her art and also what exactly influences it, apart from speaking about her contemporaries.

  1. It is wonderful for me to have an exhibition in the city after so long. Mumbai was my home for many years and many of the paintings shown here were done in Mumbai and belong to Mumbai collectors. So, it is wonderful of this gallery that they have collected all the works from various collectors that cover a span of about 40 years. It is great for me to see the sampling of works over these many years. All of it put together, hung so well in this beautiful gallery, so that I can see them as a huge body of work.
  2. I have a long association with the owner of the gallery Vickram Sethi - so we have been going very often to wonderful art camps that have been held by this gallery. And each year it is sort of very refreshing to be able to come back here. As you all might know that my husband has been in the navy. We all have spent most of our lives near the sea and as I leave the airport I have a sort of particular whiff of Mumbai and my heart gladdens.
  3. I think in color and I paint directly on to the canvas without drawing. I do draw, the drawings are separate when I am doing a big work to a certain extent when you are doing a large work in oils it kinds of paints itself. One area leads to another and if you are drawing I think the work becomes more stilted more as though it has come out of a drawing board rather than coming out of the emotions and spontaneity of the artist.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Transformative and reflexive art

Art Plural Gallery and Streaming Museum present a new interesting public work by Tom Carr. ‘Arrival Departure’ by the Spanish artist is a digital video that shows silhouettes of urbanites who ascend and descend an escalator within the frame of a pinhole.

It’s a simple vignette of an instantly recognizable scene that tends to evoke contemplation about urban existence. Interestingly, while there is no escalator in the scene per se, the ubiquitous yet unique manner by which the people are moving is telling enough.

Tom Carr is known to reference staircases in his earlier sculptures. He never included figures, but insinuated human presence through the characteristics of the stairs. However, Arrival • Departure does quite the opposite. People are explicitly present but their environment is ambiguous.

However, reduced to mere silhouettes, these anonymous people are dematerialized, losing and regaining their shape as those ascending and descending the escalators cross paths in the two-dimensional space, where there is no distinction between foreground and background. They travel along the same path within the same space, and yet there is no communication. Depicting the individual as well as the archetype, the silhouettes portrays the universal condition of people in transit.

Tom Carr describes a hive of activity, where people constantly land and take off from hubs. Referencing airports and the capacity for human beings to be transported quasi-instantaneously from one place to another, the artist tells us about the loss of markers, about how people are flying over their life as if in planes. The work has already been shown on 23 BBC screens, in Melbourne’s Federation Square, and will soon be displayed in Bucharest as well as other many large-format public screens of the Streaming Museum across the world.

Tom Carr is internationally recognized for his formally-rigorous sculptural works, and since then he has gone on to create numerous large-scale projects, especially for outdoor public spaces. From monumental steel sculptures in Madrid to light sculptures in the French mountains, the prolific and versatile artist has materialized his creative vision in various locations all over the globe. Working with Swiss art dealer Frederic de Senarclens in 2010, Carr brought a site-specific light projection to Singapore’s shopping district. It transformed the sidewalk into a carpet of animated digital patterns, and was highly interactive.

An exhibit nearly 40k years in making

‘Ice Age Art’ broadly denotes figurative art done in Europe as well as Central Asia between say 40,000 and 12,000 years ago. When Jill Cook, the British Museum curator, describes the truly amazing works on view ‘deep-history art’, she indeed means it. Well, how many shows have you seen that can claim to present the oldest possible figurative art? Have you ever heard of an exhibit label describing the the “oldest known ceramic figure’ or ‘oldest known portrait of a woman’?

This is an opportunity to discover some exquisite masterpieces from the last Ice Age. They have all been drawn from across Europe as part of a new show at the British Museum. The exceptional pieces are being presented alongside several modern works by Mondrian, Matisse and Henry Moore, which illustrate the fundamental human desire for communicating and making art as a way of knowing ourselves and our place in this world.

Pieces attributed to Ice are mostly made of mammoth ivory and reindeer antler. They exude skilful, highly practised artists keen to experiment with perspectives, volumes, light, movement and scale, apart from showing eagerness to seek knowledge through imagination, illusion and abstraction. One of the most exciting pieces in this exhibit is a 23,000-year-old sculpture of an amazing abstract figure from Lespugue in France. Picasso was so fascinated with the fabulous figure that it greatly influenced his own sculptural works in 1930s.

Though an astonishing era divides us from these creative Ice Age minds, such evocative works underline the fact that expression and creativity have remained remarkably similar and vibrat across thousands of years despite passage of time. Created by artists with modern minds like our own, this is a great opportunity to check some of the world's oldest known sculptures, drawings and portraits.

What is perhaps less obvious, is the underlining significance of the figure’s nudity. According to the UK Telegraph writer Richard Dorment We believe that art started with the Greeks, and we tend to take nude figure almost for granted. However, the Ice Age got its name for a reason. People then went around wrapped in skins and furs. This means the representation of nudity, like the exaggeration and stylization of the body parts, had some symbolic meaning or was either an artistic convention.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

‘Organic dreams of electric sheep’ at The Guild

Exhibiting the works of Baiju Parthan, Pooja Iranna, Mithu Sen and Gigi Scaria, ‘Organic dreams of electric sheep: Image, Empathy and Pulse: After Philip K Dick’, at The Guild in Mumbai seeks to weave together an accumulation of questions indicated by the transference of images specifically across the forms of video and photography; as an accompanying note by Renuka Sawhney elaborates: 

“The implications of such transference on the image or images that make this journey, the subtle and perhaps meta changes this journey results in for the language of images, as well as the role of the image in language formation (by positing the logic of philosophy as indicated by Wittgenstein against the form of the logic used) and the ethical impulses of images so traveled that distance and reiteration begets the question of our relation to images as ‘electric sheep’, i.e. as fabrications with specific intent.”

For Baiju Parthan, reality is what you tend to make of it, and it’s up to you to extract the kind of meaning from it, based on your perceptual framework’s peculiarities. He looks to generate fresh metaphors and symbols that have the potential to expand the range of meanings that we can wrestle out of life and reality.

He has an eclectic and interesting academic background. Along with degrees in Painting, Botany, Philosophy, and a Post-grad diploma in Comparative mythology, he has done studies in computer game level design at the Pratt Institute Manhattan, USA. Some of his recent selected group shows include ‘India’, curated by Pieter Tjabbes and Tereza de Arruda, Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil in Rio de Janeiro and , Brazil and SESC Belenzinho Sao Paulo, Brazil; 'and Constructed Realities', curated by Gayatri Sinha at The Guild,

Gigi Scaria often poses pointed questions about the issues related to displacement and class prejudice. Born in 1973 in Kothanalloor, Kerala, he completed his Bachelor's degree in painting from the College of Fine Arts, Thiruvananthapuram, in 1995, and M.F.A. (painting) from Jamia Millia University, New Delhi in 1998.

Pooja Iranna and Mithu Sen are the other two artists featured in this must-watch group show. 

Implication of the human upon construct of the non-human

The works exhibited in a thematic group show, entitled ‘Organic dreams of electric sheep: Image, Empathy and Pulse: After Philip K Dick’, at Mumbai-based Guild gallery are positioned as ‘electric sheep’; as stand-ins for the focus of the conflict between the empathy and the image and therefore also an implication of the human upon the construct of the non-human, and thus activated by transference across forms resulting in not only a displacement of the image, but also of the displacement of time and of distance.

Art writer Renuka Sawhney elaborates that the exhibit asks in effect; if we are implicated in the predominance of the image in our language, and thus also in the consequent separation, fabrication, presentation and animation of images, then what ethical considerations arise when distance mitigates the relations between image as experiential and image as construct and lastly what is the agency of the artistic within the formation of ‘electric sheep’?

Among the participating artists, Pooja Iranna explores how the built urban structures order and articulate space and the response of the human body and the human psyche to these spaces. This particular visual idiom has existed in the blurred boundaries between painting, photography, mixed media collages and sculptures and between architecture, urban spatiality and abstraction.

“When looking at the photographic works we are aware firstly of the soaring access, of spatiality articulated as a spectacle. This free movement is aided but also ordered by the architectural elements, creating frames which are patterned by grids, reducing the magnificence to the manageable,” art critic Deeksha Nath has noted.

Mithu Sen’s drawings often extend into installation and other mediums in order to explore the elision of audio- visual experiences. Viewers are compelled to relate to her works at a personal level, through self-analysis of their own identity. The artist wants them to question prevailing societal values. Known for unconventional themes and forms, she represents the new wave of talent in contemporary Indian art, and often puts to use a wide range of media, such as sculptural projects, drawing, collage, objects, video works, and installation.

Baiju Parthan and Gigi Scaria are the other two artists featured in this must-watch group show.

Monday, March 18, 2013

South Asian Modern and Contemporary art in focus

Christie’s latest auction of South Asian Modern + Contemporary Art takes place on 20 March. It will present a vast selection of exceptional artworks as well as iconic masterpieces by top artists like Maqbool Fida Husain, Vasudeo S. Gaitonde, Tyeb Mehta, Syed Haider Raza and Jagdish Swaminathan, alongside contemporaries Rina Banerjee, Subodh Gupta, Bharti Kher, Atul Dodiya, Ravinder Reddy and Tayeba Begum Lipi, Bangladesh’s rising star.The sale will also include Zahoor ul Akhlaq, the Pakistani modernist alongside Abdur Rahman Chughtai, plus a group of contemporary practitioners from the region like Rashid Rana, Adeela Suleman and Imran Qureshi. 

Having traveled to the US, Syed Haider Raza was in Berkeley from 1962 until 1963. He was greatly impressed by the California sun. As a result, he painted the monumental Village en Fête (price estimate: $600,000-800,000) after returning to the South of France. A seminal painting, it’s among the earliest of his large-scaled artworks, which includes the top three global auction records: ‘Saurashtra in 1983; ‘La Terre’ in 1973 and ‘La Terre’ in 1985.It looks to express the joy of a humble village festival, the structures of streets and houses providing the perfect pretext for an intricately structured canvas bursting in colors, not least a celebration of his homeland’s vibrant hues.

Throughout his illustrious career, Husain did several paintings that combined the female form and music, two of his very favorite themes. A large untitled canvas as part of the sale depicts a divine female musician (price estimate: $450,000 – 600,000).  Done in the early 1970s, it demonstrates extraordinary command of this legendary artist over color & line in a large space.

The painting executed with enormous amount of vitality, something naturally present from very start of Husain’s career, was homage by him to classical Indian sculpture tradition through representation of the woman in the tribhanga (three bends) pose.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

India’s promising and talented art practitioners

Murali Cheeroth: His involvement with theatre coupled with continuing interest in cinema helps him in presenting his images through dramatic ambiance for an unusual perspective. Images he takes are from the industrial medium - of photography, of cinema, of the digital. Using these industrialized mediums as the basic iconography of his work, he then goes back and reframes and uses the processes of translation, transliteration, transmutation of the popular image.

Hindol Brahmbhatt: He treats his work as a documentation of historical reality in contemporary context, and looks for clues of social changes. Thus emerges a universe that the viewers can identify with, albeit from a new perspective! His artistic process revolves around attainment of thematic and stylistic unity. Its broad objective is to form a language that calls for continuity and intuition. This infinity of composition reminds us that each work is a part of a greater body of images and ideas. These are schematic images of evolution, growth and creativity.

Nitish Bhattacharjee: His work is a documentation of his memories, his impressions, and perceptions of his surroundings. For a recent show, he moved to abstract or ‘non-representational art’ as he termed it. His works mostly in patches of bright color (in acrylic) on paper and canvas are an outcome of bold brush strokes that denote a burgeoning energy, stemming from the cathartic creative processes. His pictorial plane is 'organized' by striking, flat color panels, which frame patches of skilful brushwork.

Sudarshan Shetty: An incongruous association of objects that might bear different meanings is intended on his part to form new meaning and in the process, create an abstract space for exploring the dark underbelly of the human-object relationship, the duality of free will as well as the inertness of things. His work hinges on a creative mix of intense observation and wit.

He takes apart ubiquitous objects without dismantling them, and decodes them, by revealing their inherent mechanical being. Looking to experiment with found objects in a wide array of media, he may combine the diverse forms in curious object-assemblages.

Christie’s keen to enhance its presence in India

People buy for several reasons—to store wealth, to surround themselves with beauty, to share it with others by publicly exhibiting it, and they all understand the core value of what they are purchasing. The way to imbibe the crux of buying art is doing your homework well.

Above observation was made by Menaka Kumari Shah of Christie's India during a recent talk on art and collecting. She stated that Indian buying was to the tune of $30 million in 2012, with most of them opting for modern & contemporary art as well as some exquisite jewelry and watches. She pointed out that buyers were getting ‘less conservative’, elaborating that it was not anymore about oil on canvas, but video art, installations and other new things, too.

Christie’s did signal its ongoing commitment to promoting the contemporary Indian art by its engagement with the latest edition of the India Art Fair that was hosted in New Delhi in January/February 2013. Amin Jaffer, their International Director (Asian Art) said: “We recognize its importance as a convening moment for all those passionate about the future of the Indian art market and are interested in India’s national artistic development.”

Christie’s further underlined its strategy by its partnership with ‘Homelands’, an exhibition of British contemporary arts from the British Council collection to tour to Mumbai, Kolkata and Bengaluru, which opened in the capital city of India earlier this year.

Menaka Kumari-Shah elaborated that ‘The ‘Homelands’ showcased the very best art being produced by leading contemporary artists in Britain – a fitting juxtaposition to our international sales of works by their South Asian contemporaries. Both, the fair and the exhibition were opportunities for the auction house to lend support to cultural and educational opportunities that are important milestones in India’s current cultural agenda.

According to a note on the site, Christie’s has had a long association with India. James Christie, the enigmatic founder of Christie’s, offered four India pictures painted on glass in his inaugural auction in London in 1776. In 1994, it opened an office in Mumbai, the only international auction house to have a consistent presence in India, and held its first sale of contemporary Indian art the following year.

Arpita Singh, Jogen Chowdhury and other artists in focus

Consigned by collector Amrita Jhaveri, it’s comprised several key Modern & Contemporary Indian artworks made during the second half of the 20th Century right through to the early 21st century. Here we catch another glimpse of some top-notch works up for grabs courtesy Sotheby’s:

The Horse that Looked Back
Throughout his career, Husain repeatedly represented the horse in his works, and they were depicted as wild symbols of power and raw energy. His interest in horses first began in his youth through religious stories relayed to him by his grandfather depicting the animal as both heroic and tragic. This 1963 composition was exhibited at the 2006 Asia House exhibition.

Untitled by Arpita Singh
One of the most important mid-generation female artists, she often portrays the role of the female within contemporary Indian society in her humorous and disturbing paintings. Her subjects are drawn from family, friends, neighbors and everyday objects. Singh was greatly influenced by Marc Chagall, not just in palette and composition, but also in imagery.
Untitled by Ram Kumar
It belongs to Ram Kumar’s early figurative phase which not only reflects his disillusionment with the monotony and anonymity of urban existence, but is also part of a larger commentary on the unrealized promises of Independence that had held hope for a better life for millions of Indians. The figures in these 5 paintings are reminiscent of the forlorn characters he portrays in his novel, Ghar Bane Ghar Toote, which depict the isolated and despairing urbanites of India who feel constrained by the city itself, its vast faceless population and the poverty and decay that surround them.
Ganesh with Crown
Jogen Chowdhury’s subjects are usually rendered against a black background, their fluid contours tightened with cross-hatching and heightened with touches of color. This 1979 work is part of the Ganesha series that he produced during the end of his tenureship where he plays on the popular characterization of the elephant god. It was formerly in the Chester and Davida Herwitz collection and was exhibited at Museum of Modern Art, Oxford, in 1982.