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25 Years of The Guild


A. Ramachandran I Akbar Padamsee I Altaf I Amit Ambalal I Anupam Sud I Baiju Parthan I
Dilip Ranade I G. R. Iranna I Gieve Patel I Gigi Scaria I Gulammohammed Sheikh I
Jyoti Bhatt I K. G. Subramanyan I K. Laxma Goud I K. P. Reji I Krishen Khanna I
N. N. Rimzon I Nagji Patel I Navjot Altaf I Pooja Iranna I Prajakta Potnis I Rajkumar I
Rakhi Peswani I Ram Rahman I Rashmimala I Ravi Agarwal I Riyas Komu I
Sathyanand Mohan I Shadi Ghadirian I Shantibai I Shibu Natesan I Sudhir Patwardhan I
Sumedh Rajendran I T. V. Santhosh I Vidya Kamat I Vivan Sundaram I Zakkir Hussain

Preview: 19 August 2022

On view until 25 August 2022

at
CCA Galleries
Bikaner House
Pandara Road, New Delhi
 

  . INSTALLATION VIEWS                . EXHIBITION    

 

 

Amrita Gupta
 

             

The Artist’s Mind: Internationalism, Indigenism and Activism in Indian Modernism

Within the competing nature of Indian modernism is the assent of the myriad reactions that British academism caused, followed by the cultural nationalist turn, and the Partition in 1947 that stands on the axis of modern territorial politics in South Asia. If the Partition determined the course that art and artists would take in post-independent India, the responses of particular artists to western modernism as a global language and challenging the art-craft binary posited by colonialists’ is a compelling one in terms of the discursivity of such practices. Placing the modernists in this exhibition segment within such a historical framework, it is important to explore their personal-cultural lives from a contemporary psychoanalytic lens that ties the developmental and relational to subjective experience.

The quest for internationalism or Euro-American modernism deepened after Partition in the mandate of the Bombay Progressive Artists’ Group (formed in 1947) which rejected the revivalism of the Bengal School of Painting and British academism. Alongside, the PAG looked at Indian miniatures, Gupta sculpture and Hindu mythology for inspiration, through an aesthetic cosmopolitanism. From 1950 onward, the group included Akbar Padamsee (1928-2020) and Krishen Khanna (b.1925) – the former moved to Paris after his art graduation in 1951 on the invitation of S. H. Raza and returned to Bombay in the 1960s.

Padamsee read Sigmund Freud early in life, and working in the genres of landscape and figuration, he absorbed both eastern and western philosophical and artistic traditions in his experimental practice across painting, printmaking, sculpture photography and film. His preoccupation with depicting the human face was evident from his early paintings, while his shift to greys and sepia occurred in 1959 offering him vast formal possibilities of colour, scale, composition, and a distinct painterly language. It was not a rejection of colour, ‘but an exploration of colour as quantities of black and white, and tracing the invisible.’ His subject matter included chosen themes: prophets, heads, couples, still lifes, metascapes and mirror images. The series of heads in this exhibition are late works built up with shades of grey and sepia in watercolors, occupying the painted surface without perspectival depth or angularity of the human face – solitary and melancholic in their psychological expressiveness of the existential condition. For him, ‘expression was more powerful when it is about a solitary figure.’

Krishen Khanna’s subjectivity is intrinsically tied to the experience of Partition when his family was displaced from Faisalabad (now in Pakistan) to India, and later to its turbulent political history, including the Emergency. If Padamsee spoke of tracing the invisible, Khanna has described ‘his technique as a process of welcoming the unpredictable.’ Relocating from Lahore to Shimla in 1947, Khanna came to Bombay in 1948 and became part of the Bombay Progressives, and moved back to Delhi in the early 1960s. Chronicling urban subaltern life alongside plural sacred mythologies, his practice spanned painting, murals, sculpture and photography. These early drawings speak of experiences dredged from memory in tonalities of blacks and greys, in lines and silhouettes – with the strained human figure being central. If there is pastoral and community life, there are also citizens migrating across borders or huddled together – distraught in displacement. His ‘engagement with politics and identity remains tied to question of humanity, serving as an artistic document of time in modern India.’

Addressing the post-independence legacies of the Arts and Crafts Movement, K. G. Subramanyan (1924–2016), an artist, designer, writer, and teacher was critical of the tradition-modernity divide. He was attentive to innovations in the creative process that traditional craftspeople engage with through their own aesthetic language and experience. Involved in the independence struggle as a youth, his view of tradition as a ‘dynamic space of change’ was shaped by his experience at Santiniketan (1944 onward) where the emphasis was to create a ‘context sensitive modernism’ through one’s own historical position. If Cubism, Expressionism and F. N. Souza were inspirations, Subramanyan was deeply influenced by the artistic traditions of Patachitra and Kalighat painting, Indian court painting, classical sculpture, popular theatre (including Jatra) and memories of his childhood in Kerala. These paintings in oil, gouache and enamel are emblematic of his style with human figures, animals, plants, windows, rooms, soil and clouds with ornamental patterns and motifs that are a synthesis of fluid traditions to create a new modernist lingua franca through a Gandhian-Marxist lens.

A painter-printmaker, photographer and teacher, Jyoti Bhatt’s (b. 1934) interest in the folk arts and popular culture has had both documentative and aesthetic values. He found a mentor in K. G. Subramanyan, who moved to teach in Baroda from Santiniketan in 1951. Invoking the indigenist-modernist paradigm within a postcolonial identity, Bhatt’s practice encapsulates folk and tribal art, ritualistic drawings, traditional textiles, text, media, and street culture. Like Subramanyan, his early work reflected internationalist trends and, in particular, Krishna Reddy’s intaglios proved to be a defining moment of a commitment to printmaking, a medium which complemented his individual sensibilities of being non-exclusive. Examining the identarian contrasts of the East-West in modern India, Bhatt’s series of heads/faces are revisited with new markings on old prints: the self as presence-absence is inscribed with the Devanagari word hun, which means ‘I’ in Gujarati, superimposed with geometric design or with the photograph of a peacock – a childhood memory. This bird was a regular visitor at his parents’ home in Bhavnagar and is also the national emblem. The Chair (2021) is a sharp critique of contemporary politics and the power dynamics of our time, expressing signature signs in his work.

Altaf Mohammedi (1942–2005) a painter and cultural activist returned to Bombay in 1967 from the UK after his study in various art institutions that influenced the politics of his early career as an artist. Altaf was a member of the Young Communist League (YCL) in London and joined PROYOM (Progressive Youth Movement) in Bombay which was Marxist-Leninist in approach. Politically and socially conscious, Altaf took pamphlets and posters to the streets, labour camps, chawls, bastis, construction sites, and his paintings to Dalit colonies of Mumbai, and engaged with students passionately. Deeply influenced by Albert Camus and Francis Bacon, his paintings from the 1960s–2000s engaged with the Emergency, the Bhopal Gas Tragedy, the coal mafia belt at Dhanbad, and the political upheavals of Mumbai (1992–93) and Gujarat (2002). Alongside, his personal anxieties with death and the existential human condition informed his work: the portraits in this exhibition in sombre colours employ the grid within which human heads/faces are placed, with the loneliness and absurdism of the individual’s struggle to find meaning in a meaningless world, and the epistemic inability of reason to understand reality being depicted in these paintings.

© Author and The Guild

 

     

Akbar Padamsee
 

                 
           

Untitled
, 2003, watercolour
on paper, 15 x 11 inches
 
Untitled
, 2003, watercolour
on paper, 15 x 11 inches
 
Untitled
, 2004, watercolour
on paper, 15 x 11 inches
 
Untitled
, 2002, watercolour
on paper, 15 x 11 inches
     
                   
               

Untitled
, 1990, watercolour
on paper, 17 x 15 inches



 
 
Untitled
, 2006, watercolour
on paper, 22.5 x 15 inches
             
Altaf
 
                 
             

Portrait of a Lonesome Writer
1998, oil on canvas,
36 x 25 inches



 
 
Untitled, acrylic on canvas,
36 x 24 inches
 
Fire-3, 2000, oil on canvas,
24 x 12 inches
         
Jyoti Bhatt
 
                 
           

A Face (with peacock)
, 2021, Hand painting in acrylic on serigraph of (1972),
19.5 x 15.8 inches
 
Four Faces, 2021, Hand painting in acrylic on etching (1972),
10 x 10 inches
 
Mayuri, 2021, Hand painting in acrylic on etching (2001),
13 x 9.8 inches
 
Krishna-Leela
, 2021, Hand painting in acrylic on etching (2021),
9.6 x 13 inches
     
                   
             

New Kolam
, 2015, Hand painting in acrylic on etching (2009),
12 x 9 inches



 
 
The Chair
, 2021, Hand painting in acrylic on etching (2021),
19.5 x 15.8 inches
 
Two Faces
, Hand painting in
acrylic on intaglio (1972),
10 x 13 inches
         
K. G. Subramanyan
 
                 
           

Untitled, oil on canvas,
30 x 30 inches
 
Untitled
, 2005, Reverse painting on plastic sheet in gouache and oils,
12 x 9 inches
 
Untitled
, 2005, Reverse painting on plastic sheet in gouache and oils,
12 x 9 inches
 
Untitled, 2005, gouache on handmade paper,
10.5 x 9.5 inches
     
                   
             

Untitled, 2002, Enamel,
12 x 12 inches



 
 
Untitled
, 2002, Enamel,
12 x 12 inches
 
Untitled
, 2002, Enamel,
12 x 12 inches
         
Krishen Khanna
 
                 
           

Untitled, graphite and mixed media on paper, 30 x 22 inches
 
Untitled
, Ink on paper, 6 x 5 inches
 
Untitled
, graphite on paper,
12 x 18 inches
 
Untitled
, graphite on paper,
12 x 18 inches
     
                   
           

Untitled
, 1964, watercolour on paper, 10.5 x 14 inches
 
Untitled
, Ink on paper, 6 x 8 inches
 
Untitled
, Ink on paper, 6 x 8 inches
 
Untitled
, 1966, Ink and watercolour on paper, 6 x 11 inches
     
                   
                   
                   
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                 
               
               
   

 

 

 

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