Saturday, March 30, 2013

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.

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