Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Images of a pre-modernized India by Derry Moore at ICIA

An exhibition of photographs by renowned British photographer Derry Moore, entitled 'Evening Ragas' courtesy Tasveer takes place at Institute of Contemporary Indian Art (ICIA) in Mumbai. On display are over 60 limited edition signed prints from an ongoing project that he started in the country in 1976 during a series of purposeful visits.

Derry Moore was primarily influenced by his studies with Oskar Kokoshka and subsequently Bill Brandt. He made his name photographing the interiors and portraits on the European aristocracy, including those of Queen Elizabeth II and the late Queen Mother. Following his education at Eton, he studied painting at Oskar Kokoschka’s School of Seeing in Salzburg, Austria, and later took up photography lessons under the guidance of the Bill Brandt.

His work appears in such magazines as Town & Country, Vogue, Architectural Digest, Men's Vogue, Nest and Country Life. He has published over a dozen books, notably Evening Ragas documenting ‘a changing India from 1976-1992’, ‘The Dream Come True’ (Great Houses of Los Angeles), ‘The Englishman's Room’, and, most recently, ‘Great Gardens of Italy’ with Monty Don. Moore has published over a dozen books and his photographs can be found in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, The National Portrait Gallery, London, The Royal Collection and the Bibliotheque Nationale, as well as in numerous private collections.

The subjects of his India series combine portraits, interiors and landscapes, and poignantly document what may be the last relics and aesthetics of a pre-modernized India. As the photo-artist reveals, “To take most of these photographs today would be impossible, so much of India having changed beyond recognition over the past 22 years. This is apparent not only in the buildings, which have been largely replaced by tower blocks in a style that it would be charitable to describe as ‘international mediocrity’, but also in the people, who are increasingly losing individuality in their looks.

“If I were asked what I look for when I take a photograph, the answer would be surprise. When I think back to my early visits to India, I remember being in a constant state of surprise and corresponding awareness. Today I must actively seek out ‘subjects’ to a far greater extent. That said, when found, the occasions are just as exciting; it’s rather like fishing in an increasingly emptied sea.”

‘Born from The Terrain’ at Latitude 28

New-Delhi based Latitude 28 hosts a debut solo by Sarika Mehta, an artist from Ahmedabad. Its title, ‘Born from The Terrain’, according to her tends to allude to the curious reality that ‘something, which can grow in a barren desert, cannot or will not grow in a forest. In her work, for example, what she is showing as landscapes doesn’t bear any name. Born from the terrain, it’s surreal in nature. It’s her first expression, and nature is also born out of the terrain. 

Born to a known architect-businessman father, she did her Diploma first from C.N.College of Fine arts (Painting) in 2000, and worked at Kanoria Centre for Arts’s studio space. She completed her post diploma (printmaking) from M.S.University, Baroda, in 2004, and began working at Priyasri Art studio while in Baroda. She moved to Ahmedabad after marriage.

Her debut solo, ‘Pulled out from the roots’ was held at Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke, Mumbai in 2008, serving as a major break for the artist, who consequently took part in an artist residency program (printmaking) at New York’s Jean-Yves Noblet Contemporary Prints Studio. Another of her series ‘A Fragile Storm’ at Lemongrasshopper in Ahmedabad and in M.S.University, Baroda in 2009 Jean-Yves Noblet Contemporary Prints Studio was also critically acclaimed.

The series is comprised of oils on canvas works, pencil drawings on rice paper, watercolors, and an installation apart from pencil drawings doe on art spectrum paper. Bhavna Kakar, the Latitude 28 director, describes Sarika Mehta as a promising, young and talented practitioner whose artistic journey in a way parallels her apprenticeship as a keen printmaker followed by a shift to painting gradually.

But what really makes her works stand out important and makes them thought-provoking are the varied possibilities that the artist offers in grasping the present psyche of mankind and our surrounding or environment. The creations force us to pause and mull over demography, the dying human settlements and also the debris of the past - long lost gone and almost endangered. She has employed for her installation a rather unusual setting - the winding staircase’s the hidden corners that come alive with an amazing algae-like composition.

Monday, April 29, 2013

A series of captivating and thought-provoking paintings

Sarika Mehta’s exquisite, captivating and thought-provoking paintings tend to reflect a sense of enchantment as well as keen engagement with both the space and silence inhabiting within them. We take a quick look at some of the works that form part of an ongoing solo at New Delhi-based Latitude 28.

Paintings inspired from silence and wildness
Her works depicting a row of roots and a solitary bird derive inspiration from their own silence and wildness. The background and foreground lose their individuality and exchange places to create the poise. Solid objects like sticks, leaves and bird decompose themselves into subtle vibrations within and beyond the work. The thought here is that everything is stable till you mess with it, and suddenly it becomes beautiful when it is most unexpected.
A keen eye for inner beauty
Another work that depicts a bunch of decaying roots amidst melting ice cubes is about the fact that beauty lies in everything. One just has to have an eye to see and feel it. “Roots are so deep rooted that one cannot separate them. This work is a moment to cherish my inner self (my baby) when she was a three-month-old in my womb, the mixed feeling of being in present. I cherished the deep rooted roots with this melting ice, which is so opposite to each other in that present moment.”
Capturing a captive soul
In a work depicting a ladder, the starting point becomes the ending point and the ending point becomes the starting point. “I strongly connect with the fact that in the current social, political and psychological scenario, we are no longer growing up with a sense of freedom and lightness but are instead living as a captive soul. Each morning we wake-up, our thoughts clouded with tension, panic and the heavy feeling of claustrophobia. But if we can see the beauty behind it on a closer look, one observes that every individual space is talking about its own hidden stories in the same frame. And that leads to a beautiful starting point.”
Most of Sarika Mehta’s paintings are done in muted shades. ‘Born from The Terrain’, a solo show by this talented and emerging artist  from, Ahmedabad, continues till May 20, 2013.

Searching for the ‘silent’ truth from the mundane

“Our generation is characterized by living patterns of noise, din and clutter. l intend to understand and decipher these patterns. The attempt would be to churn out a silent order out of this chaos, to try and unfold the mundane layers of everyday life to reach the silence in between each layer. Hence, searching the truth within is my inspiration.

"Thus, my visual vocabulary is centerd on the reflection of emotions, struggle, fear and the burden of responsibilities in day to day life,” so says Ahmedabad-based artist Sarika Mehta, whose latest solo show takes place at Latitude 28, New Delhi.

She adds, “My conscious effort has been to make art lighter, look at issues deeper and specific to human space, and understand the problems that reflect in our day to day life and somewhere also offer an individual perspective to those issues.” An accompanying note elaborates that her works are sparse and untitled too; they are untitled because so many times, the artist doesn’t like to restrict the viewer to see the way she sees her work. Mehta rather wants them to see them beyond the boundaries.”

Apart from her paintings, Mehta is also making a site specific installation that will flow like an algae-like form around the airconditioning pipes in the gallery staircase. Titled Flow, the installation will be made from wet towels painted with oil pigments and is a reference to the emotions that are raw and untamed and spread like algae. That one must not believe in repressing or suppressing or containing.

Sarika Mehta’ paperworks, full of playfulness and spontaneity, are equally muted and sparse in their appearance. Her works have a tactile feeling, and that is how she mostly begins herself. “I like my objects in front of me to touch and feel them. If I can bring my object in my studio, I always do. Stones, sticks, sand, ladder and natural things will always find a place in my studio. I love to go to my object, live with them, observe them and understand their character.”

Lessons learnt from life around reflect in Upendranath T.R.’s practice

What defines the intriguing process of creation of art is the process. It’s something that’s in a state of constant flux for Kerala-born Upendranath T.R. It doesn’t necessarily culminate with the materialization of a work he executes.

The artist from Ponnurunni in Kochi, worked as a mechanic before he actually found his artistic calling. Sans any formal training in art, he takes a cue from the experience gained during his travels as a mechanic across the state as ‘his true masters, just without the degree certificate’. One might argue that it served him far better than time spent in a formal art institution.

Upendranath T.R. continues to draw from the outside world and life around him for his art. Spelling out the unique features of his art practice, an elaborate profile on the Kochi Muziris Biennale notes that working within the offbeat medium of collage, his process primarily relies on adaptation. Both circumstance and available or chosen materials tend to influence the end outcome, as he doesn’t tie himself down to any specific space or fixed idea of his work.

The essay mentions that in speaking with him it’s plainly obvious that he is a person affected heavily by the happenings around him. Though not necessarily intending to pass overt political messages through his works of art, the symbolism rendered especially in his latest series is quite potent. This though, might have occurred at a subconscious level, as he doesn’t like to position himself as an activist.

The piece began with a series of several self-portraits. Head shaven and Naked, the artist denotes this metaphorical and literal ‘stripping down’ as the taking away his mask so as to reveal his true inner identity. By doing so and revealing his true self he is inviting in this way all of us to ‘see his reality’. The shaving particularly exhibiting his earnest desire to be seen as simply ‘human’ – unburdened with the clichéd connotations of (biased) representation. The photographs formed the core of his recent series – snapped in different positions, laid out in collage format with sundry scraps of art magazines. They send a clear message.

He holds a baby palm tree in place of a gun, serving a connection between the artist, the artwork and the Biennale. Palm trees are abundant in Kerala; the name is derived etymologically from Kera (coconut tree) and Lam (land), hence giving the meaning ‘land of the coconut trees’. The baby tree, signifying new life, in place of a gun clearly ties the protagonist (the artist) to his homeland and propagates peace.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Depicting futility of war and human conquest

As Upendranath T. R. has evolved as an artist, his practice has turned inadvertently politicized in a sense. Though unintentional and not done to nudge the viewer towards predefined conclusions, insertion of text in his latest series points to the artist’s preoccupation with twin themes of equality and emptiness.

The term ‘WARTIST’, as Lydia Randall mentions in a profile hosted on the Kochi Muziris Biennale website, reflects a recurring sentiment throughout the series and touches on the artist’s inner struggle – his fight against the emotions caused by real fighting and real wars. Perhaps the most poignant of statements to adorn his work is the slogan: ‘the political and religious views of domestic animals’.

The contradiction of this statement points to a bigger picture – as a race we’re all caught up in wars inherited from generations passed, for reasons not our own. The artist sees the lives of domesticated animals as an allegory for peace; without political or religious agendas, they live out simple lives. “We’re conquering Jupiter and Mars and at the same time we are fighting for small pieces of land,”

For Upendranath, the truth is emptiness. Our wars, our past and the differing perspectives that we bring really mean nothing when, underneath it all, we're all essentially the same. In his words, “In war, the killer and the killed are no different”.The medium of collage and the transposing of his image onto art magazines and the works of artists before him, speaks to this message of equality. He is creating an equal plane, one which invites the viewer to shake off existing connotations and see with fresh perspective.

For this reason the artist’s space at the historic building Aspinwall House – a collection of rooms – were treated as if they had been found. The raw, unfinished aesthetic (complete with rusted, ancient electronics) was closely connected with the subject matter, Lydia Randall elaborates.

Upendranath hopes that the Kochi-Muziris Biennale will act as a catalyst. Its vast potential to improve art infrastructure in the region, and to connect younger art students as well as local people with art is an exciting prospect for him. He believes Kochi has the potential to become a thriving cultural metropolis and that the event sure will create a new roadmap for art awareness and education.

India- past and present

A new traveling show courtesy Tasveer offers an introduction to Magnum’s vast and rich archive denoting its continual engagement with India’s socio-political scene through the keen eyes of eight photographers, whose careers span the agency’s glorious past, present and immense promise for the future. Having been presented at Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore, it will now travel to Kolkata and Ahmedabad.

Magnum’s earliest group projects
Although not part of this selection it must be noted that Magnum’s engagement with India began in its early years, with founder member Henri Cartier-Bresson’s famous photographs of the last days and funeral of Gandhi in 1948. Two years later the Swiss photographer Werner Bischof traveled to India and photographed a young temple dancer for one of Magnum’s earliest group projects, Generation X. Her portrait is included here amongst his selection of exquisitely composed images.
Images of pilgrimage and meditation
In 1959 Marilyn Silverstone was sent on a three-month assignment to India, but ended up moving to New Delhi and was based there until 1973. This exhibition features a selection of her portraits of Indian society. Included is one of the Dalai Lama, significant to Silverstone’s personal story, in that she was later to become a Buddhist monk. The Iranian photographer Abbas has returned many times to India as part of his exploration of global religions. His selection includes images of pilgrimage and meditation.
Indian street life and social realities
Bruno Barbey’s color and Scianna’s bold black & white photographs capture the ebb and flow of Indian street life in the 1980s. A master of colour and light Steve McCurry’s photography is strongly associated with this part of the world. Notable not just for their vibrant palate, his portraits employ the direct gaze of the subject to create an immediate engagement with the viewer. One of Magnum’s youngest members, Olivia Arthur, joined Magnum in 2008. Now an associate, she is represented here by a series of portraits of the Ramani sect, a group of untouchables whose unique tattoos are a form of protest against the Indian cast system.
The above works will be on view at Seagull Foundation for the Arts, Kolkata (8 May - 28 May, 2013) and National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad (5 July - 14 July, 2013).

Saturday, April 27, 2013

A survey exhibition of artist Sheila Makhijani

Talwar Gallery presents a major survey exhibition of New Delhi-based artist Sheila Makhijani’s works done over the past two decades. It reveals an expansive body of work–exploring varied intricacies of line, form and texture through works on paper, sculpture, and painting from 1992 to 2013.

For a few years now, states an accompanying note, she has been morphing her paintings on paper into sculptures. The delicate, yet deliberate paper folds add another dimension to already intricate drawings– incorporating shadows and creases as essential components of the work.

Born in 1962 in New Delhi, Makhijani received her Bachelor and Masters of Fine Art from the College of Art, New Delhi. In 1993, she studied in Japan at Kanazawa Bijutsu Kogei Daigaku, Kanazawa, Japan. Her works have been on view in exhibitions at The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), NY; Perth Institute of Contemporary Art, Australia; Kuntsthal Rotterdam, Netherlands; Gemeente Museum, Netherlands, and at National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi, India. She has also been featured at the 7th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art at the Queensland Art Gallery/ Gallery of Modern Art in Brisbane.

In her works, line is not used to represent an image; line is the image. In her paintings, variations in brush strokes–moving in opposing directions, in different forms and contours–and the finely scratched out areas alongside more thickly layered paint, emphasize that the notion of ‘line’ retains its independence, regardless of its specific location or form. While in small, complex gouaches, intricate networks of lines in varying thickness, direction, length and tone mesh together in overlapping planes, the visual relationship between the lines is in constant transition.

In the early works from 1992, which Makhjani created while in Japan, the raw dynamism is palpable as the bold strokes of the brush seem to have just swept across the paper, leaving behind a commanding reminder of its performance. Also highlighted in the exhibition is the artist’s unconventional use of traditional media. From the sprawling twenty-five foot ‘As far as I can stretch’ (2000) in which fabric is cut, sown and painted on, to small forms barely an inch across, floating on paper in ‘cha cha cha’ (1999), the works on view impart a rare broad view of Makhijani’s imaginative and playful, yet deliberate experimentation with space, color and motion.

Spanning two decades of the artist’s practice, this comprehensive exhibition, it continues until May 4, 2013.

A work that captures the vivacity and vitality of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s practice

Christie's upcoming Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Auction will showcase a monumental work by Jean-Michel Basquiat. Done almost twenty years ago at the peak of his creative sojourn and fame, the painting serves as an epitome of his signature style in terms of in both ambition and scale. ‘Dustheads’, executed with a combustive palette, becomes a sort of intuitive, gorgeously gestural whirlwind during the creative heights of his practice. It is expected to break Basquiat’s earlier record ($26.4 million), achieved in November 2012 in New York, with an estimated value of $25-35 million.
  • Monumental, yet intensely personal, Dustheads succinctly captures the vitality and vivacity of Basquiat’s artistic practice during this key period of the artist’s career. The pair of ghost-like figures portrayed in Dustheads is composed of a rich symphony of brushstrokes and marks that Basquiat draws together into an opus of line, color and form.
  • Composed of broad brushstrokes of acrylic paint, entwined with expressive scrawls of oilstick plus accents of spray enamel and metallic paint, the resulting marks vary greatly in their variety, depth and rhythmic clarity. Expressionist in its exuberance, the frenetic brushwork acts as the framework for the rest of the composition, built up methodically through layers of drips, scrawls and passages of pigment massaged with the artists own fingers.
  • Basquiat had always been considered an outsider by the art world establishment, yet the everlasting power, relevance and integrity of his work have gradually identified him as the creative leader of his generation. Only since Pollock has a painter come to personify such artistic freedom and irreverence. Dustheads, a portrait of two figures doped up on 'angel dust', exemplifies Basquiat's artistic creation with 'no strings attached'. It's perhaps the last great masterpiece to come to auction,” stated Loic Gouzer, International Specialist of Post-War and Contemporary Art.
Set against a bewildering backdrop of intense, inky blackness, the brightly painted figures it embodies Basquiat’s painterly oeuvre. A masterpiece from a key year in his career, this painting stands for his ability to combine raw expressive emotion even while displaying a deft draughtmanship unrivaled in modern painting.
(Information courtesy: Christie’s)

Friday, April 26, 2013

Sotheby’s claims to auction the ‘world’s most valuable’ document

Sotheby’s New York is set to auction off, what it claims, to be among the finest-surviving rare Bay Psalm Book copies, the first ever book printed in America. No example of it has made an appearance at any auction since the year 1947, when incidentally another copy scaled a record price for any of the printed books at the time –, including Shakespeare’s ‘First Folio’, Audubon’s ‘Birds of America’ and the Gutenberg Bible, in that period.

The present example from collection of the Old South Church comes to Sotheby’s New York auction with $15/30 million as a pre-sale estimate. It was on view in their York Avenue galleries a few days ago, prior to embarking on a traveling show in cities like Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Dallas and Chicago in the coming months. It will return in New York just before the auction in the week preceding the Thanksgiving holiday.

The director of Sotheby’s Books Department (Special Projects & Worldwide Chairman), David Redden stated: “The Bay Psalm Book, not only the first book ever printed in the US and also the first one written in the country, served as a precursor to Lexington and Concord, and to American political independence, ultimately.

“With this tiny book of 1640, New England had announced its independence from the Church of England. It’s a mythical rarity, not seen for over two generations on the marketplace, and thus has become a precious collectible.” According to him, the precious document printed in the American wilderness embodies the values, which created the nation: religious liberty and political freedom.

In search of religious freedom, the Congregationalist Puritans emigrating to Massachusetts Bay, set about translating and producing the Book of Psalms version - the Hebrew original’s a much closer paraphrase than the existing one that they had carried over from Britain. The 1st edition of the subsequent book was duly printed in 1640 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Sotheby’s is going to auction one of the only 11 surviving copies in the upcoming dedicated auction event. Its proceeds will benefit the mission of the Old South Church right in the heart of Boston.

Showcasing India’s rich artistic, philosophical and spiritual traditions

Two upcoming shows at the world’s most renowned and respected international institutions will bring to the fore rich artistic, philosophical and spiritual traditions of India. We give you a preview of the significant showcases:

‘From India East’
This will be a year-long exhibition presented and described by Rubin Museum of Art curators of the treasury of Asian works held by the Brooklyn Museum to let it present for the first time examples from far beyond the Himalayan region, including art from Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Thailand, Korea, and Japan.

The Rubin Museum has made a careful selection of objects according to a concept that connects with its own collection: tracing back the origins of Buddhist and Hindu sculptural art in Asia to its roots, showing the stylistic evolution by both geographic distribution and time period. This means that the oldest examples of Indian art, be they Buddhist or Hindu in origin, have been chosen as various kinds of prototypes by which a more wide-spread evolution of Asian art can be identified.
‘Yoga: The Art of Transformation’
Through masterpieces of Indian sculpture and painting, the show at Arthur M. Sackler Gallery courtesy Smithsonian’s Museum of Asian Art will explore yoga’s goals; its Hindu as well as Buddhist, Jain, and Sufi manifestations; its means of transforming body and consciousness; and its profound philosophical foundations. The first exhibition to present this leitmotif of Indian visual culture, it will also examine the roles yogis and yoginis played in Indian society over 2000 years. 
The presentation will include over 120 works dating from the third to the early 20th century. Temple sculptures, devotional icons, illustrated manuscripts, and court paintings—as well as colonial and early modern photographs, books, and films—illuminate yoga’s central tenets and its obscured histories. Highlights include an installation, reuniting for the first time three monumental stone yogini goddesses from a 10h-century Chola temple; ten folios from the first illustrated compilation of asanas (yogic postures), made for a Mughal emperor in 1602, never before exhibited together; and Thomas Edison’s ‘Hindoo Fakir’ (1906), the first movie ever produced about India.
The artworks loan for the ‘From India East’ has been made possible by the Brooklyn Museum’s temporary closing of its Asian art galleries. ‘Yoga: The Art of Transformation’ borrows extensively from more than twenty museums and prestigious private collections across India, Europe, and the US.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Exuding mastery over form, texture and her subject matter

Manisha Parekh aspires that all that is created within the confines of studio should share direct connections with daily life. An appropriate metaphor for her art practice is perhaps the cyclical germination of growing forms, involving continuity and evolution.

Within a short span of time, she has established herself as an innovative artist, who is keen to experiment with diverse themes, forms and genre. This is testified by her works in ink and gouache, paintings and intricate layered pieces on board, or her conceptual, site-specific installations. The fluid rhythmic structure she seamlessly creates though her deft usage of closely linked harmonious forms, unfolds a larger vision.

Known for her proficiency for form, texture and clear, scientific structure, Manisha Parekh breathes life into inanimate objects, which may resemble the human body. According to her, the handling of figures in her creations is done in such a way as ‘to relax both muscular and pictorial tension.’ Her foray into art was not surprising since Manu and Madhavi Parekh, her parents, have both been well known painters. Analyzing her work, British artist- lecturer Lin Holland has noted:

“She witnesses her artworks emerge in both subjective and objective frames of mind. As a prominent female artist of the postmodern era, she is intent on her art practice being enriched by human relationships, daily rituals, and enjoyment of the essential routines of living. It’s important to her that the work does not exist in isolation from these elements, in fact they often fuel her creative practice, and the artist pursues quite a close interface between the two (aspects).”

Her keen relationship along with her ability to respond to the intrinsic quality of each individual material is the essence of her practice. She has stated: “I relish working with the purity of a material, narrowing down the boundaries in order to explore in greater depth. Qualities of fiber, surface, opacity and translucency become revealed over time and with regular handling.”

Modernist Art from India: Radical Terrain

‘Modernist Art from India: Radical Terrain’, a major exhibition focusing on Modernist Art from India is set to conclude. It’s the third exhibition taking place in the much acclaimed series on art from India at Rubin Museum of Artthat highlights meticulous exploration of its art landscape for the generation especially after independence. What are the other highlights of the show? Let us take a quick look:

Landscape is the theme
The exhibition features new work by international contemporary artists of diverse backgrounds currently working in and identifying with landscape. This is both a response to the modernist paintings on view and to work towards a nuanced conceptual understanding of what ‘landscape’ in art is. The modernist paintings in the exhibition suggests that landscape became a recognizable form of expression in this period as a means for artists to come to terms with the vastness and diversity of India as a newly sovereign nation.

Explorations of landscape – especially rural landscapes-- by painters inadvertently paralleled official initiatives of government organizations like the Films Division of India, which commissioned many films of rural and distant regions like Orissa and Himachal Pradesh for a primary audience of citizens in urban centers. These activities reflect a country creating a new identity.
Highlighting contemporary interventions
‘Radical Terrain’ shows the great variety of landscapes created by artists in India after independence from British rule – including figural and abstract landscapes, specific sites and conceptual landscapes painted in a wide range of styles and from many social, political, and formal perspectives. The contemporary interventions in the exhibition will be in various modes and media, reflecting the diversity of what landscape means to contemporary artists of various backgrounds. 

 The artists on view include Lisi Raskin, Seher Shah, Marc Handelman, and Janaina Tschäpe, among others. The show curated by Beth Citron, continues at the museum based in New York until April 29.

Mapping the art journey of artist Sakti Burman

During his college days, a restless albeit highly talented young artist would travel around the city, sketching the people and life around, during his graduation at the Government Art College in Kolkata.

It was only after visiting Paris on a scholarship from the French Government that Sakti Burman found a real direction and vision to his artistic agenda. He honed his artistic skills at L'Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux Art. During this period, he frequently visited Italy, and was inspired by the frescoes and paintings of the Renaissance period.

Apart from a series of solos, his works have been included in several group participations, such as the Paris Biennales (1963, 65, 67); the Salon d’Automne, Grand Palais, Paris (1975, 1994); 'Peintres Visionnaires', Belford Museum; Contemporary Indian Art, Yokohoma (1993); 'Contemporary French Painters', Iran (1975); 5th International Triennale, Delhi, (1982); 'Sigmund Freud's Interpretation of Dreams', Historische Museum der Stadt Wien, Vienna (2000); 'Art of Bengal, Past and Present', National Gallery of Modern Art, Mumbai and CIMA, Kolkata, (2001).

His characteristic imagery inadvertently resembled the weathered frescos. He returned to India as if to soak in the glory of Ajanta, Ellora and Konark for a fresh perspective of ancient Indian art traditions. It is understandable why his pictorial sensibility is immersed in the finesse of Italian frescoes and serenity of bewildering Buddhist cave murals, coupled with European influences, often reminding one of fabulous French tapestry.

Summing up his philosophy, Sakti Burman had stated: “We are always looking for something which we don’t know. We are always running after that unknown thing. It’s a perpetual search. I’m not someone who is jumping from one thing to another. I am trying to follow a line and trying to go deep within myself because an artist must remain true to his or her instincts and do things he (or she) thinks are the absolute truth.”

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Mystique of a master artist’s painterly realm

His captivating canvases rediscover a lost paradise, where all curious creatures coexist harmoniously. The mythical creatures along with human characters and godly images evoke memories of ancient tempered frescoes.There is abundant beauty and joy inherent in his incandescent paintings that weave a phantasmagoria with contemporary tableaux where the reality mingles with imaginary realm...

Sakti Burman's compositions reverberate with fables and lyricism.Though he has lived in Paris for over five decades, the artist has remained in touch with the Indian culture, traditions, heritage and ethos. In essence, he has embraced two contrasting cultures and merged them to construct a unique vision — his enraptured gaze - through which he revisits his roots, his childhood memories and that transitory world of innocence…

Considered one of India’s internationally celebrated masters, his oeuvre imbibes influences of both Indian tradition and Western culture. He incorporates medieval icons and other mesmerizing motifs, to cultivate dream-like scenarios through a marbling effect that entails blending of oil and acrylic paint. His paintings - rich in detailed and soaked in bold, bright hues - exude romanticism and fantasy.

They narrate timeless tales of courtly romances, and bring to life an enchanting world, comprising comely maidens, flutists, birds, beasts, fruit laden trees and exotic flowers. Since 1954, he has had 40 one-man exhibitions in various cities worldwide, including 'Archetype', Aicon Gallery, London (2009); 'Encaptured Gaze' in New York, Mumbai and New Delhi (2008-09).

The prominent group exhibitions in which work has recently been featured are 'Aureus 2011', Gallerie Nvya, Delhi (2011); '10 x 10', Gallery Threshold, Delhi; 'Dali's Elephant', Aicon, London; 'The Living Insignia', Gallery Ensign, Delhi and 'Modern Folk’, Aicon, New York (all in 2010). He has participated in Paris Biennales (1963, 1965 and ’67) apart from presenting his work in leading museums in France. Incidentally, his wife Maite Delteil is a noted French artist. His daughter Maya Burman and niece Jayasri Burman (who is married to Paresh Maity) have carved a niche for themselves in the world of art.

Reflections of restless mind nudge this artist

Known to be a passionate painter-printmaker, Meetali Singh blends the strengths of the respective mediums, often overlapping their finer aspects in her oeuvre. This reflects in the fact that her prints and paintings harbor basic similarities. In other words, her painting takes off at a point where the print ends and vice versa.

At a more fundamental level, she is more concerned with the meticulous treatment of space. In essence, first launched as an exploration to fathom this element, the process has resulted in gradual evolution of her creative processes and simultaneous affirmation of her artistic philosophy. The printmaking technique crops up in her paintings or it can be other way round as well.

In the process, she tries to free herself an artist from the earlier bounds of linearity present in her work, now evident in the immaculate treatment of her intriguing images and space. This medium allows her to achieve a certain amount of softness, which was not possible in the process of graphics. The versatile and prolific artist spontaneously paints what she visualizes at a given point of time; something that captivates her mind at that moment. She lets the canvas chart its own course, and her composition is seldom planned, logically arranged or sequentially defined.

When she starts conceptualizing it, there’s only a faint idea as what she is going to paint, though its germ has taken its root in her mind, developed at a sub-conscious level. She reveals, “An artist has no control over the start, the end or even the intermittent pauses. I let a painting take its own course, and opt not to direct or divert its flow. I am involved in it, but still feel detached from it.”

Portrayal of her emotions acquires a more mystical touch in her paintings that also gives shape to her desires in a surrealistic way, further enhanced by the lyrical feel of this medium, which she believes, ably accentuates the aspect of feminine concerns.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Renovated Rijksmuseum reopens after a decade

The Rijksmuseum, the proud Dutch riposte to the lavish Louvre, has just been thrown open to art lovers after almost a decade-long shutdown. Under an ambitious rebuilding project worth €375m supervised by Cruz y Ortiz, the Spanish architects, its two halves are now united by an undercroft, which joins its courtyards. The extensive remodeling means only ‘Night Watch’ by Rembrandt stays in its original location out of total 8,000 objects in its more than 75 rooms. Here’s an essay on the museum’s proud legacy and new facelift:
  • Each year, the Rijksmuseum creates first impressions for hundreds of thousands of people: they get a first impression of the museum as they stare a real Rembrandt ‘in the eye’ and get a taste of history. But it does not end there. In this day and age, in our quickly-changing society, that is quite an important task.  The revamped museum is completely in step with the 21st century, according to its General-Director Wim Pijbes.
  • The Rijksmuseum will continue to dazzle art and history lovers, develop educational programs and play a role in society. In addition to displaying the collection superbly, the Rijksmuseum will continue to undergo changes. Art and history are not merely a thing of the past and the Rijksmuseum is a modern museum - a museum where unique events take place, non-stop.
  • The Rijksmuseum has been a working museum for more than 125 years. The current building, which was designed by the architect Pierre Cuypers, was opened in 1885. After more than a century of intensive use, this huge building needed a radical makeover. In the year 2000, the government of the day gave the go-ahead. After a lengthy period of preparation, work finally started in 2004. Following its refit, this internationally renowned museum is now fully compliant with the requirements of our modern age.
  • The architects had the following challenge: strip the building of its later additions, ensure that it is once again a coherent whole and restore Cuypers’ clear layout. The design combines the grandeur that defines the Rijksmuseum, plus facilities such as a museum café, a shop and, to preserve the art, climate-control and security features which are completely in line with today’s requirements.

‘Panopticon Letters: Missive I’ at Talwar Gallery

Set against the technical descriptions of architectural plans for ostensibly an ideal prison, British philosopher-social reformer Jeremy Bentham’s film ‘The Panopticon’ (1748-1832) composed of images and sounds of sky as well as water followed the course of the Thames. Using a series of methods so as to play with notions of disorienting and falsified representations, Alia Syed employs Bentham’s core ideas about the gaze as a controlling albeit benign tool.

In an effort to re-envision the more traditional British landscape style of painting through the peculiar prism of contemporary filmmaking, artist Alia Syed’s ‘Panopticon Letters: Missive I’ at Talwar Gallery’s New York venue shifts narratives from past to present that emerge from a correspondence of letters.

Born in Swansea, Wales and working from London, UK, she has been involved in experimental filmmaking for ore than two decades. Her films have been featured at the Museum of Modern Art, New York (2010);  Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid (2009); XV Sydney Biennale (2006); Hayward Gallery, London (2005); and Tate Britain, London (2003); among other institutes. A curatorial note makes following important points about the exhibitions:
  • Set against textural, rhythmic imagery, the various elements of the film at times work in parallel and opposition to each other in a restructuring of conventional narrative forms, while following the passage of time by the rising and setting of the sun.
  • The uniqueness of Panopticon Letters lies in Syed’s paring down elements of sky and water into minimal gradations of light and color. The serial architectonics of panopticism is evoked by filmic sleights of hand – working with, parallel to, and at counter purpose to the soundtrack, setting up a framework of counterpoint strategies – between components of the image, between image and sound, and within the construction of the soundtrack itself.
  • Alia Syed’s work examines memory, representation and colonialism through narratives constructed from both personal and historical realities. As the artist remarks, “Through my dérive along the Thames I encountered further histories. These geographies provoked memories of trauma, creating new narratives that have shaped the film. The voice of Bentham’s benign paternalism is fissured through my own fictionalized narratives.”
In conjunction with her film, the exhibit features new photographic works. It continues until May 18, 2013.

'Return Of The Hangul' by Suman Gupta

Born in1964 in Jammu, Suman Gupta graduated with a law degree from the University of Jammu in 1988. A self taught artist, his practice revolves around landscapes encompassing the natural beauty and simple but tough life of people he has grown up watching from his childhood.

He did his Bachelor of commerce with Economics, Accountancy and English, thus enjoying little background in art. But he imbibed the nuances of art based on his own instinct. His anthropological and meticulously detailed work is rooted in the culture of the region.

It stands out for his well composed narratives executed with finesse in a colorful palette. Working in tempera or watercolors on paper as well as oils and acrylic on canvas, the artist skillfully brings alive the region’s natural beauty with its flora fauna, mountains, landscapes and folklore. There are musicians as well as simple folks in his realistic and calm photo- feature like compositions that are multilayered and aim to high light local existential concerns.

In 2012 he was invited to showcase his work at the India Special Exhibition at 5th Beijing International Art Biennale, China. He was awarded ‘Lorenzo Il Magnifico’ for his work ‘In Trance’ at Florence Biennial 2011, and was invited to participate in the 8th edition of the Florence Biennale, Italy.

He was also nominated as one of the jury member for 52nd National Exhibition of Arts by Lalit Kala Akademi. In 2006 he won the National Academy Award for ‘Blue River and the God of Fish’ and also won an award of honor presented by Central Mahajan Sabha, Jammu apart from the J&K State Award for ‘Jay’s Remain’.

Suman's Gupta’s work has been exhibited in a number of solo and group shows within India. A few prestigious solo exhibitions have been at the UN headquarters in Switzerland; and a solo show in 2012 at Norway. The artist works out of his studio based in Jammu. 'Return Of The Hangul', a solo exhibition by the artist, takes place at Gallerie Nvya, Delhi.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Socially relevant art of Sahmat group on view in Chicago

A new exhibition at Smart Museum of Art in Chicago introduces one of India’s most renowned and active art-activist collaborations to the American audiences. The New Delhi-based, Sahmat group, serves as a platform for artists, writers, musicians, actors, poets, and artist-activists for creating and presenting creative works.

Its aim is to promote freedom of expression apart from celebrating secular, egalitarian values. It was formed after playwright-activist Safdar Hashmi’s murder while performing a street play. In over two decades since, it has drawn on the country’s secular heritage plus an expansive group of ambitious collaborators for projects, which nurtures socio-political engagement through a powerful mix of high art and street culture.

Socially relevant art of Sahmat group is a major turn in India’s recent art history that the Chicago-based institution has decided to focus on, something which is quite significant. An introductory essay mentions: “Animated by the urgent belief that art can propel change and that culture can reach across boundaries, Sahmat has offered a platform for an expansive group of artists and collaborators to present powerful works of art that defend freedom of expression and battle intolerance within India's often divisive political landscape.”

The Sahmat showcase includes works done in a wide array of media by artists such as Manjeet Bawa, Zarina Hashmi, Atul Dodiya, Rummana Husain, Subodh Gupta, Pushpamala N., Bharti Kher, Gigi Scaria, Nalini Malani, Vivan Sundaram and Nilima Sheikh among others.

A kaleidoscopic survey of art and ephemera looks to assess the impact of this unique and at times controversial group focused on contemporary Indian art and society in general. The exhibit is accompanied by a publication, which gives new interdisciplinary perspectives on the collective and investigations into the country’s history, politics, and culture.

Situating the collective within not only the political sphere in India, but also contemporary art trends from around the world, it contains both critical essays on the art produced by Sahmat and insightful texts on the prevailing artistic, political and social climate in India.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Digital portraits of Parkinson's patients

Artist Timothy Cumming has digitally created heart-touching portraits of Parkinson's patients, an exhibition of which was just held at the Gallery Oxo in London.

He elaborated, “It's all about a special group of people - those involved in today's Parkinson's story. Right now it's a pretty remarkable moment in the history of this disease - cures are emerging from labs. There's hope, but still a way to go before affordable, safe meds are available. So this show was necessary. I want these portraits to illuminate the personalities and roles of a heroic community because for me, art has a valuable role to play in charity, both as a communicator of ideas and as a hub for philanthropy.”

That's why he is backing The Cure Parkinson's Trust and donating all proceeds of the exhibition to it. As potential cures are emerging and clinical trials are gaining in both efficacy and size, now is a great moment to spread the word about people who live with, care for, support, cure or fundraise for Parkinson's.

Revealing what prompted him to paint, the artist adds: “Many of us know people with Parkinson's. For me, it's two young women who are at differing stages of their illness, dealing with the loss of strength, dexterity, energy and until recently, an uncertain future. I hope this show can throw light on their needs, and help to fund the medical research necessary to the final closure on this disease.”

Timothy Cumming is a Scottish artist working mainly in digital oils and acrylics. A painter of both abstract figurative paintings and portraits, he has developed digital canvas and portraiture techniques that reflect both the sitter and the location. He works with local and natural materials as much as possible, because they bring a touch of reality to the work, according to him. 

Cumming works in mixed, print and large-format digital media. A late entrant in the domain of art, he studied engineering at Glasgow University, and has worked in the creative industries - mainly music, design, photography, web and software - both as artist and technician. He's based in Wiltshire, UK.

A vivacious venue that offers unmatched art experience

Le Sutra, probably India’s one and only art hotel, was in spotlight at the just-concluded Great Indian Travel Bazaar event in Jaipur.
It’s not merely a transit stopover but one that invariably stirs up those quiescent values, deeply ingrained, through its vivacious architecture. Driven by India’s mythological traditions and rich visual heritage, it brings a unique experience for the visitors with 'Sutra' that means thread or rope (in Sanskrit) holding things together.

The bewildering boutique hotel located in suburban Mumbai is built around the theme of 'gunas' that encapsulate the broader worldview in our philosophy. Its look and feel is based on mythological and mystical characters, presenting an enchanting voyage in philosophical and human evolution that evokes characteristics intrinsic to the qualities of love, sensuality, and purification. The space architecturally conveys, 'Rajas', 'Sattva’ and 'Tamas' virtues. If the floor denoting Tamas is colorful, intricate and opulent, the Rajas one depicts desire and indulgence. On other hand, Sattva floor is at best minimalist, ethereal aesthetic and celestial.

According to its general manager, Sunil Potey, the hotel takes a cue from an intriguing palette of myth, art, and history. He has been quoted as saying in an interview with Rachna Singh of TNN that in keeping with the core concept, each room is presented as a virtual canvas wherein the tale narrated creates unique experience for the guest subtly conveyed through paintings, artifacts, sculptures, chairs and inlays – all playing their part in terms of showcasing diverse philosophies and themes.

Working around this concept, several designers, artists, curators and visualizers have played their part in creating the hotel ambience based on a tomb of deep research. Intense brainstorming has gone into conceptualizing and constructing India’s first ever art hotel.

With a clear focus on the meaningful display of contemporary Indian art and its social relevance, the exhibition venue serves as a throbbing platform for exhibition-cum-research. Established in 2011, it hosts both emerging and established artists from India as well as across the world.

Encapsulating the rich Indian art tradition

The history of Indian art can be termed as old as the Indian and global civilization. Every major period of history has made way for newer modes of expression and more fascinating forms of art in India. Heritage structures and temples in different parts of the country give an ample hint of the curious mix of mysticism and eroticism seeped into the Indian art tradition. A theory goes that the sculptures on the Khajuraho’s rock temples illustrate the famous Hindu text on love-making, the Kama Sutra.
The artful temples were built over a period of a century and a half, giving an idea of the effort and thought that has gone into making them. India was well connected to the world outside via both sea and land routes. The influence of art & culture of other lands always had been quite pronounced. In an important development, the questioning of the Western thoughts, along with a conscious effort to resuscitate the apparently suppressed cultural identity, started in early 1900. This was in line with the ongoing nationalist movement.

A case in point was the artistic rejection of the Romanticization of Indian reality by the then Company Painters and the mannered portraits of Ravi Varma and his ardent followers. This gave way to the Bengal School of Painting. The themes consciously stuck to the principles of painting discerned in Indian miniature paintings and sculpture traditions. Tempera and ink, the Japanese wash technique and watercolor were preferred over oils, apparently a Western medium.Nandalal Bose, D.P. Roy Choudhury, Abanindranath Tagore, Kshitindranath Mazumdar, A.K. Haldar and Kshitindranath Mazumdar were among the artists who belonged to this school.

Those like Rabindranath and Gagnendranath Tagore preferred more personal idioms through Santiniketan Institute. On the other hand, Benode Behari Mukherjee and Ramkinkar Baij opted to express their love for nature and its rhythms. Inspired by the spirit of Mahatma Gandhi's teachings, Jamini Roy drew his strength from the simplicity of Indian folk art.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Fascinating female portraits in Indian miniature

India’s leading online auction house, Saffronart, will be hosting an auction of Indian miniature paintings. Among the works on offer are some fascinating female portraits – from a princess to a humble Yogini. For example, an opaque watercolor work heightened skillfully with gold on paper shows the latter meditating outside of her hut. Another watercolor depicts composite horse with a female rider. ‘A Lady Drinking’ is another magnificent miniature being presented.   

Yogini in Meditation
The female worshipper loosely holds a rosary in her fingers while a yogapatta, a band passing around her knees and waist, holds her posture. To her left, an emaciated dog, often found in images of yogis and siddhas, keeps her company. This composition follows the Murshidabad convention where the main image is placed in the middle juxtaposed with the natural background. Murshidabad at one point of time was the centre of Muslim government for Bengal, Bihar and Orissa. A school for provincial Mughal painting was established there. It flourished until the end of the eighteenth century before European patronage began to influence the artists, hailing the arrival of the Company School style.
Composite Horse with a Female Rider
The work suggests how composite animals’ representations were popular during King Akbar's reign. It’s a representation of a composite horse within a Murshidabad background. Various animal, birds, fish and human figures compose the horse. It is not clear what the meaning of composite animals is, but it seems they could have represented earth spirits perhaps of Sufi inspiration.
A Lady Drinking
This opaque watercolor on paper is one of the best examples of Southern Rajasthani painting showing European influences in their style. This miniature painting is based on the European emblematic image of mother and child. Here the artist has used his imagination to replace the child with a bottle of wine.
A Portrait of a Princess    
In this miniature, a princess is represented in the Deccani style. Following Deccani traditions, the figure is tall and slender with an elongated face and she is adorned with beautiful jewels. In their portraits, Deccani artists moved away from Mughal realism to almost idealized figures. The adorned borders around the image tell us that this illustration was once part of a larger album of miniature paintings.
The auction of Indian Miniature Paintings will take place online starting April 24, 2013.

(Information courtesy: Saffronart)

Magnificent Indian miniature paintings on offer

India’s leading online auction house, Saffronart, will be hosting an auction of Indian miniature paintings. Among the works on offer are some that exude a sense of ardent devotion. An opaque watercolor work heightened further with gold on paper denotes how devotional Hindu themes were very popular at Kishangarh’s Rajasthani School. Another opaque watercolor on paper depicts Lord Rama, Sita, and Lakshman being worshiped apparently by a Sikh ruler    
One of the miniatures depicts Sita escorted by Lakshmana to visit Rama. Although Kishangarh was founded early in the seventeenth century, there is little evidence of paintings from there until the eighteenth century when artists painted miniatures of courtly love, with depictions of Radha and Krishna being particularly popular. Artists were often commissioned to paint portraits of the ruler and his mistress dressed as Radha and Krishna, a custom that continued after his reign.

Another ones shows a Sikh nobleman and his companion followed by attendants paying homage at the forest adobe of Lord Rama and Sita. Two devotees prostrate before Lord Rama with Sita at his side. Lakshman is standing behind them holding a morchal, a whisk made of peacock feathers. Further, to his left side, a Sadhu or holy man is seated in adoration of the Lord.

Mention must be made of an elaborately detailed work that represents Krishna and a consort seated in discussion in a pavilion, while maidens are illustrated in the chambers above. It’s thought to be part of the Rasikapriya composed by Keshava Das in 1591. It consists of a series of poems describing and cataloguing types of male and female lovers: nayakas and nayikas.

Sets of paintings illustrating verses from this text are found from many centers of art and a number from this particular group are known. The architecture is sumptuous and the decoration of the room elegant. The large floral forms in the foreground at the right add a bold decorative touch.
The auction of Indian Miniature Paintings will take place online starting April 24, 2013.

(Information courtesy: Saffronart)

A twentieth century art masterpiece in focus

Christie’s will be presenting a 20th Century masterpiece by artist Jackson Pollock on 15 May 2013 as one of the major highlights of its upcoming spring Contemporary Art Evening Auction event. ‘Number 19’ was done during the most important phase (1947-1950) of his career.

The year 1948 marked the moment that Pollock gained complete mastery over the drip technique and the beginning of its expansion into paintings that were less compositions on a theme than fields of painterly activity and self-expression. 

‘Number 19’ is one of the great drip paintings Jackson Pollock did in a legendary three-year burst of creativity between 1947 and 1950 that completely revolutionized American painting and reshaped the history of twentieth century art. Displaying a fascinatingly intricate, dense, dynamic and animated abstract surface - one that reveals the artist’s complete mastery of his radical new medium of pouring and dripping enamel paint onto an unprimed ground - the painting is one of the most engaging and successfully resolved of all these much-celebrated works. Employing black, and white plus silver, accented by red and green vibrant notes, he made a shimmering surface, celebrating his own iconic drip style.

Having developed his technique in the first great drip paintings of 1947, Pollock was also, by 1948, able to control to a great extent the way in which his thinned enamel paint fell and formed on the surfaces below it.  Partially the product of a dancing performance, working on the painting from all sides, Pollock, as many onlookers to his working method at this time observed, seemed to create these works by drawing and gesturing in the space above them.

As the gossamer-like lines of different color and the fascinating depth and space they create in ‘Number 19’, Pollock, in his finest creations, displayed an extraordinary command over both his medium and the complexity of the image generated. Chairman-International Head (Post-War and Contemporary Art), Brett Gorvy, mentions, “If Pollock’s drip paintings are among the best-known paintings of the 20th century, the sale of Number 19 this spring in New York is an exceptional and unique opportunity for collectors and institutions to acquire this iconic masterpiece. Innumerable layers of delicate dripped paint reveal the captivating circular movement of Pollock’s hand. Number 19 is one of those paintings you get lost in.”

Friday, April 19, 2013

Christie's allowed to hold its first ever auction in Shanghai

Christie's, the London auction house, is finally opening in the Republic of China for taking a bigger slice of nearly 5bn dollar (£3bn) art sales market in the country.

China is certainly among the world's biggest art auction markets. It makes up close to 25 percent of art sales global and with Christie's having got the go-ahead for holding its first auction ever in Shanghai in the coming autumn, it will be the first worldwide auction house to operate on the mainland independently.

Christie's and Sotheby's have operated in Hong Kong for quite long. Now the further opening up of the mainland market sure is give a major push to sales. Christie's chief executive, Steven Murphy, made following observations in a media interaction:
  • The art market continues to grow at a tremendous rate due to the burgeoning interest in art, particularly in Asia and China. There was a cooling of the market last year but looking at current figures, sales are ahead of the previous year.
  • We have been working on this for quite some time. For us now to have our own edifice here in Shanghai with our own auction room is hugely exciting. Christie's will work with clients in Shanghai in the same way that we have done in London, Paris, New York and Hong Kong.
The market has been largely restricted in the Republic of China; there are still constraints when it comes to selling off cultural relics. Mr Murphy stated that the move on part of Beijing to allow Christie's auction house indeed was ‘a major step forward for China culturally ‘. The total number of active clients from there bidding at global auctions of Christie's has almost doubled in the last five years.

The auction house already runs offices in Shanghai and Beijing; it’ll consider building its presence further through series private art sales/events all across the country, employing Shanghai as the flagship location for the region. Many of the country's home-grown local auction houses are expanding, too, with notable examples like Guardian and Poly International, two state-run businesses.

Meanwhile, Sotheby's has struck a joint venture with a state-owned firm, Gehua Cultural Development Group in Beijing, to hold auctions.

Picasso’s Woman in an Armchair (Eva)

A masterwork by Pablo Picasso from the world-renowned Leonard A. Lauder Cubist Collection is currently on view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The display of Picasso’s Woman in an Armchair (Eva) from 1913 gives a great opportunity to see one of the major pieces from the collection at the Met on view at the Museum’s Lila Acheson Wallace Wing for modern & contemporary art. Here's how MOMA elaborates on the monumental artist's philosophy and processes:

The greatest 20th century printmaker
Renowned for painting as well as sculpture, Picasso is arguably the greatest printmaker of the twentieth century. He created more than two thousand printed images, working primarily in intaglio techniques but also, for extended periods, in lithography and linoleum cut. It was usually the influence of a master craftsman in a collaborative workshop that served as the impetus for Picasso's printmaking, as new techniques fueled his imagination.
Picasso's early prints
They reflect his evolving artistic language and his place within the major modern movements. The Frugal Repast, of 1904...evokes a sense of mystery and nobility surrounding poverty, recalling the Symbolist aesthetic of Picasso's Blue and Rose periods. Two years later, a woodcut of his companion, Fernande Olivier, betrays the simplified forms he found in Iberian sculpture and a raw expressionism inspired by tribal art.
The Cubist idiom
Picasso's illustrations for ‘Saint Matorel’, with text by his friend Max Jacob, incorporate the Cubist idiom with which he is most closely associated. While this abstracted language of forms served him throughout his career, his work remained aligned with figurative imagery. In his great prints of the 1930s, created in collaboration with master printer Roger Lacourière, his allegorical inclinations are revealed, while these works also share Surrealist preoccupations with the unconscious.
Well into the later part of his career, Pablo Picasso was open to the intrinsic potential of a new painterly technique. The artist in the 1940s discovered lithography, at the Fernand Mourlot workshop in Paris. The series 'Woman in an Armchair' created there exists in thirty different experimental variations. He was stimulated by the varied possibilities (in the late 1950s and early 1960s) of linoleum cut under Hidalgo Arnéra's tutelage. The printer's shop was just near his art studio in southern France. A string of innovations continued, as evident in the one-block process that he devised for color printing process, noticed in the striking ‘Still Life with Glass under the Lamp’.

Paintings as lively narratives

Sumitro Basak describes his work as a ‘thin world created out of various shapes of varied colours and textures’. His current body of work on view at Kolkata-based CIMA gallery includes book making – also pop-up books - emerges seemingly out of a need to document the events of a specific time period.

In this way, his visual and personal chronicling of a time span is akin to literature, more specifically, to storytelling. The observant artist’s narrative paintings have to be not just seen, as we would see an image of still life or a cubist painting – but also heard. He acknowledges the influence of cinema and literature in his work

“Story telling maybe is the crux of my art practice, but I like to draw and relish the visual form,” says the artist, also an avid traveler who frequents the route between Kolkata, Burdwan and Bolpur often and photographs the changes around - the houses with LUX billboards, the increasing urbanization of the Mofussil and the multiplying, changing and glaring visual culture.

Sumitro Basak’s appropriation from popular visual culture; not only Indian but also Japanese Manga comics and Tokyo’s 60s cultural underground, symbolizes the departure from the heroic and classical vision of the artist, to one which focuses on his ludic and ironic questioning role. Perhaps in that respect, he shares an affinity with Andy Warhol. Both artists like to blur the distinctions between art and life; between the fine and plebeian. Even if the viewer sees the work as playacting, hyperbolic and comic, it is also deadly serious with almost a powerful sense of the penultimate.

In a way, he creates an ambiguous world – they are either true ‘false’ realities or false ‘true’ realities. His forms are constructed, collaged out of materials which are in their actual use, meant for celebratory purpose. However, the world the artist creates out of them are not about celebration – it is filled with shadows; the fragments of paper suggesting a relationship to a fragment of a memory.

Sumitro Basak’s ‘people’ are amorphous forms, they change, and shift and activate spaces randomly. There is a palpable tension between what is seen and unseen, a sense of a lurking presence. In many ways these unfilled areas complete or add to the spatial complexity; he creates this with minimal forms by making the empty spaces a part of the ‘picture’.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

An exhibit with new context to interpret modern Indian art

An ambitious and comprehensive showcase of art at selected from Chester & Davida Herwitz Collection of the , Massachusetts-based Peabody Essex Museum, spanning nearly three generations of Indian painters who changed the way we think of Indian art, includes nearly 70 wonderful works by more than 20 leading artists from the country. The collection is recognized internationally as one of the most important and largest assemblages of modern Indian art outside the country.

The works of art are presented alongside some conversational groupings of key pieces by several well-known artists from across the globe such as Paul Cézanne, Andrew Wyeth, and Marc Chagall, lending another curious context to the development of this movement in the wider realm of modern painting movement. In that sense, the exhibit offers a new context to interpret modern Indian art:

During a phase of enormous cultural and political upheaval, artists working in the post-independence era were able to express their own artistic visions, transcending the limits of the region's traditional  forms. From the 1940s to the '90s, they responded to art movements from around the world, developing original techniques, means of expression, and themes, .

The movement's proponents - among the most influential, Tyeb Mehta, Nasreen Mohamedi and M.F. Husain - faced a particular challenge as how to convey their personal concerns even while remaining true to their roots, and entering into a wider discourse based on modernism's principles of experimentation.

The exhibit in a way goes to reflect the reality of an interconnected global art world, and the way non-Western artists have participated in art movements at home, and as part of the overall unfolding of the world's art history, " said the Guest Curator Susan Bean. "With it, we offer a new framework for appreciating and interpreting modern Indian art."

•    Tyeb Mehta, (1925-2009), Sequence, 1981, Oil on canvas.

•    Andrew Wyeth, (1917-2009), Charlie Ervine, 1937, Tempera on panel.

•    Bikash Bhattacharjee, (1940-2006), The Lady with the Gas Cylinder, 1986, Oil on canvas.

•    Xu Beihong, Horse, 1943, Hanging Scroll, Ink on paper

•  M.F. Husain, Lightning Horses, ca. 1979, Oil on canvas.

‘Midnight to the Boom will be on view until April 21.

Herwitz Collection at PEM

The Chester and Davida Herwitz Collection of modern Indian art comprises 1,200 works by more than 70 of India's leading artists of the second half of the 20th century, including Nalini Malani, M. F. Husain  Ganesh Pyne, Manjit Bawa, Tyeb Mehta, Jogen Chowdhury, K. Laxma Goud,  Nasreen Mohamedi, Bhupen Khakhar, Gieve Patel, Sudhir Patwardhan, Gulammohammed Sheikh, Arpita Singh, and S. H. Raza.
  • This groundbreaking collection also includes a major international art library and an archive of letters, papers, and other documents. In 2003, the Peabody Essex Museum opened the Chester and Davida Herwitz Gallery of Contemporary Indian Art, the first gallery dedicated to India's modern and contemporary art by an American museum and featuring changing installations from the collection.
  • The Peabody Essex Museum presents art and culture from New England and around the world. The museum's collections are among the finest of their kind, showcasing an unrivaled spectrum of American art and architecture (including four National Historic Landmark buildings) and outstanding Asian, Asian Export, Native American, African, Oceanic, Maritime and Photography collections.
  • The Herwitz Gallery, named in honor of pioneering collectors Chester and Davida Herwitz, is the first American museum gallery dedicated to the modern and contemporary Indian art. Sculpture, textiles, ceramics and metalwork, brought back from India and southeast Asia to Salem by prominent merchants and global entrepreneurs, formed the basis of the PEM collection in 1799.
  • This is the nation's foremost collection of important Tibetan and Nepalese works and 19th- and 20th-century Bhutanese textile arts. PEM has one of the leading collections of Indian art from the 18th century to the present - including the most important collection of contemporary Indian art outside of India.
  • In addition to its vast collections, the museum offers a vibrant schedule of changing exhibitions and a hands‐on education center.
An ongoing exhibition of modern Indian art at the museum has been supported by the Chester and Davida Herwitz Charitable Trust, the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, Marguerite and Kent Srikanth Charugundla, Dr. Mahesh and Smita Patel, and Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi, among others.

‘Midnight to the Boom’ show

From the moment India achieved independence from British rule on August 15, 1947, through the global economic boom of the 1990s, a revolutionary art movement emerged. 

In this backdrop, one of the top US art institutions, Peabody Essex Museum, presents ‘Midnight to the Boom: Painting in India after Independence’. The works are drawn from the Peabody Essex Museum's Herwitz Collection.

In carefully selected juxtapositions throughout the exhibition, paintings by Indian artists are presented with works by international and local artists who resonated with their aesthetic preferences or techniques.  Artists' statements indicate just how such works of their contemporaries and others were used as creative resources. These comparisons expand our understanding of modernism as a global phenomenon and reflect its boundless spirit of exchange.

In the 1980s, Bikash Bhattacharjee rejected traditional themes in pursuit of emotionally charged and visually direct depictions of contemporary life, such as street scenes of Calcutta. After graduating from art school, Bhattacharjee encountered American artist Andrew Wyeth's paintings for the first time, recalling the way "...the differences of country, period and characters melted away."

Bhattacharjee became an avid collector of books on Wyeth, and he continued to explore Wyeth's brush techniques and thematic preferences. Bhattacharjee shared Wyeth's dramatic handling of light and shadow, creating scenes sympathetic in their compositional techniques and tonal gradations. In Midnight to the Boom, Andrew Wyeth's 1937 Charlie Ervine is considered alongside Bikash Bhattacharjee's 1986 The Lady with the Gas Cylinder.

M.F. Husain, perhaps the most famous of India's modern artists, found a source of artistic inspiration by looking eastward. While travelling in Beijing in 1951, Husain met the renowned artist Xu Beihong, and viewed his famous horse paintings for the first time. Struck by their exquisite grace and vitality, Husain returned to his studies of horses -- one of his favorite subjects --with a renewed vigor, drawing inspiration from Xu's treatment of the subject and pushing his work in a new direction.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Myth and mysteries surrounding Van Gogh

Van Gogh was prolific as an artist for just about a decade, the time period during which he created over 1000 watercolors, sketches and drawings apart from 1250 paintings that ranged from an intense, expressionistic style to a dark, Realist style one.

The Dutch painter’s life and work are legendary in the history of 19th- and 20th-century art. In the popular view, van Gogh has become the prototype of the misunderstood, tormented artist, who sold only one work in his lifetime—but whose ‘Irises’ (sold New York, Sotheby’s, 11 Nov 1987) achieved a record auction sale price of £49 million. Romantic clichés suggest that van Gogh paid with insanity for his genius, which was understood only by his supportive brother Theo (1857–91).

The Starry Night
A note on MOMA includes lines that van Gogh wrote to his brother Theo, from France. "This morning I saw the country from my window a long time before sunrise, with nothing but the morning star, which looked very big Rooted in imagination and memory.” The work embodies an inner, subjective expression of van Gogh’s response to nature. In thick, sweeping brushstrokes, a flamelike cypress unites the churning sky and the quiet village below. The village was partly invented, and the church spire evokes van Gogh's native land, the Netherlands.
‘Study by Candlelight’
Meanwhile, ‘A Real Van Gogh? –An Unsolved Art World Mystery’ at Nevada Museum of art’ focuses solely on his ‘Study by Candlelight’. In 1948, William Goetz, the famed Hollywood producer, head of Universal Pictures, and legendary art collector, purchased a painting attributed to Vincent Van Gogh for $50,000. Although it was acquired from a reputable art dealer and deemed genuine by a prominent Van Gogh expert at the time, debate about the painting’s authenticity ignited an art world controversy that impacted U.S. foreign affairs.

For decades, only a handful of people knew the whereabouts of the painting. Today, the Goetz family heirs hope to learn more about the provenance of the painting by drawing upon recent scientific developments in the study of artist materials and working methods. The exhibition re-visits its extraordinary story through archival documents, correspondence, photographs, and press materials that have never before been brought together in one place. The presentation invites viewers and scholars to draw their own conclusions and weigh in on this great Van Gogh debate.

Spotlight on an important 20th-century painter

Vasily Kandinsky, considered a pioneer of abstraction, believed that a painter’s job was to honestly reveal and convey his own inner world, instead of simply imitating the natural world.

The renowned Russian printmaker, painter, decorative artist, theorist and stage designer was one of the key figures in the development of 20th-century art, the transition to abstract from representational art, in particular. Kandinsky was known to work in a wide array of media. Also a teacher and theoretician, he spent his time mainly outside Russia. However, his Russian heritage remained a vital factor in his artistic development.

The painter had been closely linked to the Guggenheim Museum's history, as it proudly claims on eve of a new showcase. For instance, artist, art advisor, and its first director, Hilla Rebay, promoted non-objective painting above all other forms of abstraction. She happened to be particularly inspired by the writing and work of Kandinsky (born 1866, Moscow; died 1944, Neuilly-sur-Seine, France). The museum’s holdings have steadily grown to include over 150 works by Kandinsky, and focused exhibits of his artworks are regularly presented in the Kandinsky Gallery.

‘Kandinsky 1911–1913’, the current installation, highlights paintings completed at the moment he made rapid strides toward total abstraction and published his aesthetic treatise, ‘On the Spiritual in Art’ (1911, though dated 1912). Also featured are works by Robert Delaunay and Franz Marc exhibited alongside the work of Kandinsky and others in the landmark 1912 Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider) show at Munich's Moderne Galerie Heinrich Thannhauser.

An internationally renowned art museum and one of the most significant architectural icons of the 20th century, the Guggenheim Museum serves both as a cultural center and an educational institution. Visitors can experience special exhibitions of modern and contemporary art, lectures by artists and critics, performances and film screenings, and daily tours of the galleries. Founded on a collection of early modern masterpieces, it has established itself as an ever-evolving institution devoted to the art of the 20th century and beyond.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Art lovers relish browsing works ‘virtually’

While nothing really will beat viewing a work of art in real life and real time, the ability of examining it virtually to a finer level of detail apparently seems to be prompting visitors to linger around, as the Google Art Project indicates. Roughly one minute is the time spent on an average looking at a painting hosted on the Art Project site in comparison to just under 20 seconds in a museum (according to studies). A blog post by Amit Sood of Google Cultural Institute makes the following points:
  • Viewings of user galleries were in fact higher than any individual artist or painting. To date, 360,000 galleries have been created, 14,000 of which are public on the web. To mark World Art Day, we asked some of our partners to curate user galleries of their own. Take a look through the selections of eight museum directors here.
  • Given the list above, it’s clear the classics remain popular with viewers, but there is increasing interest in modern art as well, with Dali and Klimt featuring among the most searched for artists. The Internet has also allowed users to explore multiple genres in a single destination. More than 30 different mediums co-exist on Art Project with oil on canvas next to over 5,000 objects including silk textiles, sculptures and furniture. There can't be many places where you can find Brazilian street art alongside Botticelli.
  • Many partners who have contributed an art collection have also opted to put their museums on Street View. On average, visitors spend around two minutes exploring the interior of the buildings and viewing the paintings on display. The most-visited Street View destination on Art Project is The White House. As the majority of us will never get the opportunity to go inside, the Internet allows a rare glimpse into a global institution that also houses an extensive art collection.
With over 200 partners from more than 40.countries, Google continues its quest to make art accessible to professionals, students, amateur enthusiasts, and beginners. It also holds Art Talks series on its G+ page that looks to put people in touch with experts online.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Significance of the World Art Day

There are so many special days we’ve to celebrate all through the year: Peace Day, Women’s Day, Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, Worker’s Day, Theater Day, Valentines’ Day, and so on. However, we didn’t have any special day for art, which would unite the realm of creativity. In April 2011, the 17th General Assembly of AIAP / IAA World, while holding a meet (World Art Associations formed in 1954) voted the proposal put forward by Turkey, co-signed by many of the world delegate countries to accept the Leonardo da Vinci’s birth anniversary (April 15) as the ‘World Art Day’.

The official WAD site notes: “Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) is one of the greatest men of all times. Although he is known as one of the three most important artists of the High Renaissance, he has been a contemplative and creative thinker, an inventor as much as an artist, a genius by any standards.”

The celebrations started on April 15, 2012. The idea was to help spread ‘art awareness’ throughout the globe. The International Association of Art, IAA/AIAP, is an NGO in operational relationship with UNESCO comprising artists, who practise  painting, sculpturing, printmaking and  other forms of creative work in the visual arts.

The Internet giant, Google, also joined the World Art Day celebrations. An official blog post noted: “It's about two years since we launched Google Art Project. The Internet brings paintings to life and it seems that The Starry Night by van Gogh is the one that visitors to Art Project admire the most. In the past six months, this was the most viewed painting in gigapixel—an extremely high resolution painting which allows viewers to zoom in to brushstroke level.”

Google Art Project has no less than 40,000 artworks, and some of the ‘perennial favorites’ in user galleries are:
•    Botticelli: The Birth of Venus
•    Rembrandt: Self Portrait Drawing at a Window
•    van Gogh: The Bedroom
•    Manet: In the Conservatory
•    Bruegel (the Elder): The Harvesters
•    van Gogh: Sunflowers
•    Holbein (the Younger): The Ambassadors
•    van Gogh: Field with Flowers near Arles
•    Böcklin: The Isle of the Dead
‘The Starry Night’ is the most frequently included painting in user galleries, wherein individuals create and share their own virtual art collections.

A group show of Indian art in Dubai

Keeping in mind the cosmopolitan nature of Dubai, ProArt Gallery offers more than 200 artworks from 15 different countries. One can acquire lithographs, paintings and sculptures from masters such as Picasso, Dali, Chagall, Botero, Husain, Souza, Arman, Gen Paul, Dufy, Buffet, Hilaire, Marino Marini, Zao Wou-Ki, Romero Britto – just to name a few. 

Founded by the FAURE family, ProArt Gallery is providing an art market with unique types of works, which were not yet available in the UAE. Tatiana Faure, the director PROART, states:” An art Gallery plays a very important role in shaping up the society by providing people with proper understanding and appreciation of both creativity and culture.

In its endeavor to celebrate innovative art and collectibles, it just recently promoted the ‘Colors of Art Show of Indian Contemporary Art” that comprised the works of a selection of young Indian practitioners. The exhibition displayed over 40 art works and will showcase the paintings by over 15 Indian senior as well as known young artists like Ami Patel, Ompal Sasanwal, and Bhuwan Silhare to name a few to highlight how Indian contemporary art has spread its wings to a new display terrain where art connoisseurs and collectors are set for a visual treat.

A strong sense of design is also a characteristic of Indian art and can be observed in most of the artworks on display in different modern as well as in the traditional forms at the exhibition. Speaking on the eve of its new exhibition, the director elaborated:”This is the second year for an Indian exhibition and I’m sure once again our artists hailing from India would set a benchmark of high standards for its diverse cultural moorings and expressions.” The gallery is located at Palm Strip Shopping Mall on Jumeirah Beach Road. The Indian art exhibition was held in collaboration with Artland Gallery, Mumbai.

'Museums provide a touch of authenticity.'

Thomas P Campbell has been in charge of the world-renowned Metropolitan Museum of Art since 2009. Among the most prestigious international art institutions worldwide, it houses close to two million exquisite pieces and works of art, spanning over nearly 5,000 years of global culture and heritage. The art expert was on his debut visit to the country. In an elaborate interview with Madhavi Rajadhyaksha of TOI, he spoke about the relevance and importance of museums in backdrop of the technological advances and his engagement with India:
  • Technology is one of the most exciting things to have happened to museums today. However, one has to be careful about where one uses it. For instance, the internet provides an incredible opportunity for us to reach audiences around the world and further our educational mission. The Metropolitan Museum has all of the collections online, apart from the scholarly publications and catalogs since 1965.
  •  Where you’ve to be careful is introducing technology in the galleries because you want people looking at the objects, not the video screens. You want people to be in heads-up, not heads-down mode. I think the notion that museums are under threat because of technology is a total red herring. On the contrary, we live in an age of 24x7 newsreels, ins-tant information from around the world.
  • Museums are all the more important as places that can help explain the context of current affairs. They provide places of relaxation and inspiration. Most importantly, they’re a place of authenticity. We live in a world of reproductions — the objects in museums are real - a way to get away from the overload of digital technology.
  • We’ve just signed an MoU with the Indian ministry of culture that will hopefully be the umbrella under which we work on a number of projects with India. One of the first initiatives involves bringing conservators from Indian museums to the Metropolitan to train and work on areas of mutual study. We've had exhibitions involving Indian art like 'Wonders of The Age' showing Indian manuscript paintings. We did up the new Islamic galleries that have plenty of Indian art.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Contrivance promotes contemporary art and artists from West Bengal

A group from Bengal promotes contemporary art and artists

A group exhibit of paintings, graphics, sculptures and drawings done by the 'Contrivance' members was just held at the Nehru Centre Art Gallery, Mumbai.

'Contrivance' is a group of several talented contemporary artists fro, the state of West Bengal. It has come to be known as an innovative and creative coterie from Kolkata, revolving around contemporary art practices over time. 'Contrivance' celebrated 35 years of its fruitful journey through this show at Nehru Centre Art Gallery.

The artists who participated in this show were Ajay Das, Bikas Mukherjee, Avinash Biswas,  Dipankar Mukherjee, Malay Dutta, Mohi Paul, Joydeep Chatterjee, Nirmal Kumar Mallick, Pradip Sur, Srimanta Das, Nripen Nath, Sudip Saha, Swapan Denra, Sushanta Roy, Tanushree Ghosh, and Swarup Nandi.

The exhibition, as mentioned above, showcased work done in different forms, techniques and media by its members all presented on a common platform to let the viewer understand their vibrancy and diversity. They stood for myriad and mystical artistic expressions in oil, acrylic, watercolors, and charcoal apart from sculptures done in bronze and marble

Contrivance is a group of enthusiastic and multi-faceted artists who come from contrasting backgrounds and cultures, albeit with a common aim. Its founders and other members organize painting and sculpture shows in different galleries so as to promote art and artists. The nine enthusiastic young members who have effectively propagated art are Ajay Das, Dipak Ghosh, Bikas Mukherjee, Gopinath Roy, Mohi Paul, Kamal Sen, Pradip Sur, Tarun Ghosh, and Samir Mandal. They all have made immense contribution to this timeless and fruitful journey.

A TOI news report highlighted key features of the group and the show to mention that the works on view encompassed the spirit of modernism and Indian ethos, exuding both elegance and lively expressions.  It added: “These works encourage the understanding of modern art vis-a-vis the varied facets of contemporary art in different mediums and styles - for realistic work, abstract, landscapes, figurative works, portraits etc.”

Life and of Manisha Gera Baswani

Having done her post graduation (Fine Arts) from the Jamia Millia Islamia University, Manisha Gera Baswani later studied in Paris on the French Government Scholarship. A National Scholarship recipient for young emerging artists, she also secured Junior Fellowship. Between 1994 and 96, she worked as a Senior Artist at IGNCA (Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts) for a Multi-Media project under the supervision of Dr. Kapila Vatsyayan on Jayadeva’s 13th century poem, Gita Govinda. The project was hosted at some prominent museums around the world.

About four years ago, the artist was instrumental in launching a creative hub in New Delhi, called ‘Manthan. It envisioned a periodical event that would focus on bringing together professionals across diverse creative fields to share their ‘process and methodology’ so as to initiate a cross-cultural dialogue in.

She has also been photographing fellow artists in their creative spaces now for 9 years .Her project artists through the lens was shown by Devi Art Foundation, Gurgaon, during the concluded India Art Fair in 2012. Apart from a solo exhibition at Gallery Espace, New Delhi in 2012, she has shown her work at Palette Art Gallery, Delhi (2007) and Gallery Chemould, Mumbai (2005) to name a few.

The act of painting for her is a 360 degree exercise, allowing for meditative time, a structured discipline and immense personal gratification. She loves to explore different scales and mediums. After painting in the miniature format for a while, she has also worked on large scale canvases. Her oeuvre encompasses gouache and watercolors, oils and dry pastels that render themselves to different textures and sensibilities. She is more concerned with the deeper spiritual reality than the mundane existence of things. In the process, there is a range of worlds she creates. Her experiences are episodical – threaded together by a language, personalized through memories, beliefs and values.

In a series of works hosted at Gallery Espace in 2012, she took the viewer through one curious chapter of her life wherein she was seen juggling between the roles of a professional (artist) and a homemaker. They offered a peep into her life as an artist, wife, mother and homemaker.