Why You Should Consider a Textiles Course

Rumal from Kashmir, Featured at Saffronart, November 2012

Rumal from Kashmir, Featured at Saffronart, November 2012

London: When was the last time you walked into a store and marvelled at an intricately designed shawl, or a beautiful saree? Those delicate threads intertwining, forming pleasing patterns that you know would instantly uplift you. Or perhaps you walked in and decided there was nothing to your liking, and you’d rather design your own shawl. Or salwar. Did you ever think, I’d love to create something like that if only I had the time? Or the talent? Or both time and talent, but patience? All of the above?

Then your solution is here, packed compactly into two short courses on Indian Textiles and Asian Arts at the Morley College in London. And you may thank Jasleen Kandhari for that.

The Indian Textiles course will focus on India’s rich textile traditions. You will learn about regional variations of Indian textiles from the Punjab and Gujarat to Bengal and the Coromandel Coast, understand and appreciate the designs, patterns and techniques of stitching as well as the stylistic development of the designs like the boteh or paisley design in Kashmir shawls and discover Indian trade textiles to the west like chintz and to the east in South east Asia.

The Asian Art course will examine the vibrant arts of China, Japan, Korea, South Asia, South-east Asia and Tibet during visits to museums, galleries and temples in London and Oxford. You get to  explore a range of designs, artistic techniques and materials including paintings, illuminated manuscripts, sculpture, textiles and decorative arts in tutor led discussions and object study sessions.

Sign up while you have time.The courses begin soon, so drop an email to  Jasleen Kandhari or visit the Morley College website.

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Four Animals You’d Spot In South Indian Jewellery

Most already know that animal motifs aren’t included in jewellery simply to beautify. So what do these animals mean? Rashmi looks at how religion and symbolism extend to South Indian finery to form a part of daily life.


Animal motifs have been consistently popular down South. I’m not just pulling this truism out of thin air, though. The timing is perfect. The folks at Saffronart Delhi are holding an exhibition, “Jewels from South Indiatill April 30. For those who know their South Indian jewellery, you’re already familiar with the numerous stylised animals and gods you find on necklaces, earrings, rings, bracelets etc. Today, I’ll be looking at four animals, beginning with…

1. The Peacock

South Indian pendants effortlessly imbibe the motif of the peacock, and it’s not just because of the bird’s beauty and elegance. Talking about why the peacock is so important in Indian culture is almost trite—there’s no dearth of representations and allusions to the bird. In South Indian (especially Tamil) mythology, it is the vahana (vehicle) of Murugan/Kartikeya, the God of war, victory, love and wisdom. Readers familiar with the works of Raja Ravi Verma will recall his paintings of Kartikeya seated on a peacock with his two consorts, Valli and Deivayanai, and of Goddess Saraswati seated, while a peacock looks on. Known to spread its plumage at the start of spring, the peacock also gains metaphorical importance: it symbolises the blossoming of love.

2. The Parrot

In Hindu mythology, the parrot is associated with Lord Kama, the god of love. The bird is found as a motif in South Indian temples. Parrots symbolise fertility and desire—definitely worthy of imbibing in jewellery designs.

3. The Fish

The fish gains significance from the tale of Lord Vishnu’s very first avatar: the matsya. As a giant fish, Lord Vishnu saves Manu, believed to be the creator of mankind in Hinduism, by navigating his ship through a great deluge. After the deluge is over, Manu begins life afresh and propagates the race of humans. The fish is thus seen as an emblem of rebirth. The medieval temple of Koneswaram in Trincomalee, Tamil Nadu, which was destroyed in the 17th century, housed a shrine dedicated to Matsya.

A gowrishankaram pendant flanked by two fish motifs Source: http://www.saffronart.com/fixedjewelry/PieceDetails.aspx?iid=39818&pt=2&eid=3703

A Gowrishankaram Pendant flanked by Two Fish Motifs
Source: http://www.saffronart.com/fixedjewelry/PieceDetails.aspx?iid=39818&pt=2&eid=3703

4. The Elephant

Those who know their Hindu iconography know that the elephant is one of the most revered of animals. Lord Ganapati, the bringer of prosperity, immediately comes to mind. So does Airavat, the vahana of Indra, God of Heaven. Renowned historian and fine art consultant Dr. Usha R. Bala Krishnan, and writer Meera Sushil Kumar note that animals like the elephant are “…quintessential elements of jewellery design particularly in south India….[They are] regarded as an epiphany of God” (Dance of the Peacock: Jewellery Traditions of India, p244). The elephant is linked to royalty, abundance, richness and fertility.


These animal motifs are important as religion and symbolic references to romance are often intertwined.  With other motifs, the function is more specific. Fruit and flower motifs are symbolic of romance. Motifs of Gods take on a purely religious function.

More to follow soon, so keep dropping by.

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Souza’s Rare Book Illustrations

Do they explain, or do they simply exist to confuse? Rashmi looks at what illustrations have always meant to her before decoding Souza’s illustrations.

The other day, I stumbled upon a book with illustrations by F.N. Souza. The book is Polish writer Jerzy Peterkiewicz’s “Inner Circle”, first published in 1966, which featured in an earlier auction of Saffronart. Peterkiewicz had migrated to England in 1940, and had won acclaim for his previous novels. To summarise “Inner Circle”, it’s a triptych. Each of the stories unravels in an alternate past, present and future. An obit to Peterkiewicz in the Guardian describes the book as “…a futuristic vision of a hopelessly overcrowded Britain, without greenery”: this comes across quite vividly in Book One (the first part). It’s a hard book to categorise, with elements of magic realism blending with sci-fi and dystopia. And it’s hard to follow. I enjoy books that come across as cryptic—it gives me a reason to go back to them. But perhaps some of us crave clarity and linearity. When in doubt, I turn to illustrations.

Peterkiewicz’s “Inner Circle” sold at a previous Saffronart auction for $264, or Rs. 11,500

Peterkiewicz’s “Inner Circle” sold at a previous Saffronart auction for $264, or Rs. 11,500

Except that Souza isn’t exactly the kind of artist I’d imagine making book illustrations. Perhaps it’s owing to my partiality to delicately-made illustrations I’d find in children’s books, or accompanying folktales. And take the word “illustrate”—to shed light on, to illuminate. If Souza’s works are layered with meaning, how would his illustrations shed light on the story, especially for readers not familiar with the artist?

Before getting into this, I’ll admit I approach illustrations with a naive expectation from them. If you ask me to name an illustrated book that stands out distinctly in my head, it would have to be one with intricately detailed and impossibly delicate illustrations. Alan Lee’s illustrations for a Harper Collins edition of the Lord of the Rings surface immediately. I’m tempted to use the cliché “bring to life”, but Tolkien’s world is already replete with vivid descriptions of places, characters and scenes. What would be the role of Lee’s illustrations? Do they enhance Tolkien’s writing? Do they offer an interpretation of his writing through the mind of an artist? Does that, in turn, offer readers a filtered richness of Tolkien’s world? Illustrations are a reinterpretation in that sense: a simplification. Lee’s illustrations, through an astonishing delicacy of line and inherent luminosity, funnel the visual vibrance of the book—an added pleasure for the reader.

Bag End, as conceptualised by Alan Lee Frontispiece, “Chapter I: A Long-expected Party”, The Fellowship of the Ring

Bag End, as conceptualised by Alan Lee
Frontispiece, “Chapter I: A Long-expected Party”, The Fellowship of the Ring


The steeds of the Black Riders  Recto, p.192, “A Knife in the Dark”, The Fellowship of the Ring

The steeds of the Black Riders
Recto, p.192, “A Knife in the Dark”, The Fellowship of the Ring

Treebeard Recto, p.496,”Treebeard”, The Two Towers

Recto, p.496,”Treebeard”, The Two Towers


Shelob sneaking up on Frodo in Cirith Ungol Recto, p.752, “Shelob’s Lair”, The Two Towers

Shelob sneaking up on Frodo in Cirith Ungol
Recto, p.752, “Shelob’s Lair”, The Two Towers

But hey, I’m not entirely partial to sophisticated renderings. In contrast to Lee’s drawings, Tim Burton’s illustrations for his (incredibly witty) book of poems, “The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy”, come to mind. When I first picked up the book a few years ago, I found the hastily-etched, flat, pastel-shade drawings “cute”, and to my taste. When I finished reading the book and observed the sketches a second time, I realised how layered the poems actually were. Burton’s drawings were definitely not a “re-interpretation”; nor were they meant to guide the reader. The poems have been acknowledged to be darkly humourous and macabre—not in the sense of uneasy, horror-inducing macabre, but a more playful macabre. And here’s where the accompanying drawings add a subtle, barely palpable unsettlement—as if made by an angry child.

“Junk Girl”, pp.88-89

“Junk Girl”, pp.88-89

“The Pin Cushion Queen”, pp.92-93

“The Pin Cushion Queen”, pp.92-93

“Oyster Boy Steps Out”, pp.112-113

“Oyster Boy Steps Out”, pp.112-113

Before I return to Souza’s illustrations for “Inner Circle”, a few thoughts on Peterkiewicz’s book. It is obviously targeted at a mature reader, not just in content, but also in construction and characterisation. The plot unravels little by little, quite treacherously as well.  The characters names and dialogues serve as cues for the reader. Here’s one from Dover, the protagonist in Book One:

“Not that we went much by names. My second wife, for instance, was September. There were thousands of Septembers whirling about in this area between the Kent coast and the dried-up marshes of London. And the month of September apparently kept returning each year, though as a rule we didn’t bother about seasons and the months that were supposed to belong to them.”

Trapped under a giant dome on an overcrowded, barren island, clinging in a cluster to a “hygiene box”, the allusion to his wife suddenly becomes metaphorical. At one point, he tells her “Remember, remember, your month is September”—an oblique reference to Guy Fawkes’ Day (remember, remember, the 5th of November); this is a future built upon the remnants of an England that once was. Being his wife, September—the month—is attached to him. “Time” is attached to him. He is only vaguely aware that seasons change; this hints that his perception of time is muddled by more urgent requirements.

Point being: How does one grasp the abstract allusions and unfolding plot? I expected Souza’s drawings to provide clarity. They did nothing of the sort–or so I thought. It took me a while to realise I was wrong. He was primarily a figurative artist (take a look at the sketches). The same corrosive scepticism with which he’d render his disfigured, pock-marked subjects announces itself here. He’s given form to most of the physical descriptions and literal meanings in his signature style, but when I thought about it, their insecurities, their ignorance, their fears come to the fore. If Souza’s art is a comment on the hypocrisy of society, these drawings expose the flaws in Peterkiewicz’s characters. They’re vulnerable through his sketches, and this is something I missed in my initial reading.

Souza’s drawings go beyond filtering the story or adding another dimension to it. They co-exist, but they’re also independent. The drawings boldly churn out character nuances and mould them in twenty-seven pages. What I did end up finally seeing was very different from what I’d initially pictured in my head.

Inner Circle, “Book One”, p.11

Inner Circle, “Book One”, p.11

It’s interesting to consider the accompanying catalogue note from the Saffronart auction for the book:

“This narrative of ‘Inner Circle’, which navigates the past, present and future, seems to draw parallels with the seamless comingling of reality and fantasy in Souza’s art. It may have been for this reason, perhaps, that Souza agreed to design the jacket for this volume, and also to contribute twenty-seven drawings relating to the text, including an illustration of the author’s dedication on the last page.”

Peterkiewicz’s style may have fitted well with Souza’s idiom. What would you make of these illustrations?

In the Hygiene Box, "Book One"

Inside the Box, “Book One”

Rain and September hang from Leeds' arms

Rain and September hang from Leeds’ arms

The Tree on the Rock

The Tree on the Rock

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Closing of Elegant Design

Elizabeth Prendiville of Saffronart New York covers the results of the popular Elegant Design 24 hour sale.


New York: Tuesday March 25th marked the opening of Elegant Design, Saffronart’s premier vintage interior design sale. The sale was immediately followed by its twin auction, Works on Paper, opening on March 26th. Elegant Design featured 109 important vintage items in interior and decorative art including rugs, silver, and various furniture pieces. Each lot was carefully selected to represent the most pivotal periods in the decorative arts both in India and worldwide. An example of this can be seen in the campaign furniture, depicting the specific needs of the British army in the 18th and 19th century.


Spanning the most pivotal eras in interior design history, each lot also featured a variety of exquisite mediums and materials. The sale featured pieces made from a variety of rare woods such as rosewood, teakwood, mahogany and padauk wood. Graceful, small items such as A Rare Matched Pair of Kutch Silver Tea Cups (Lot 68) and large statement pieces such as An Indian Mother Of Pearl Door (Lot 105) all displayed a variety of excellent aesthetic detail appropriate for any space. Exhibiting equal parts beauty and function, each lot was an exceptional addition for any collection and home.

A STUNNING AND HIGHLY IMPORTANT EBONY HEADBOARD http://www.saffronart.com/customauctions/AuctionResults.aspx?eid=3658

A STUNNING AND HIGHLY IMPORTANT EBONY HEADBOARD http://www.saffronart.com/customauctions/AuctionResults.aspx?eid=3658

Due to the wide range of beautiful vintage pieces the sale received extremely positive media coverage from a variety of media publications including Elle India, ArtDaily and DNA India. The top ten valued items from the sale ranged from furniture to silver flatware to lighting fixtures. The highest winning lots included A Magnificent and Rare Art Deco Chandelier (Lot 25) coming in at $18,772 and A Stunning and Highly Important Ebony Sideboard (Lot 33) with a winning value of $9,447. Overall the most popular and sought after items varied greatly in materials, geography and design history. The sale concluded with sixty-six lots sold and a total winning value of $176,469. It is clear from the warm reception and enthusiasm for these beautiful items that vintage design and décor is still a lovely and timeless edition to any buyer’s collection.


To learn more about some of the items featured in Elegant Design visit Campaign Furniture: Historical Function and Design and click here for a full analysis of the overall sale.

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Which should I pick anyway?

Rashmi Rajgopal turns to well-known architect and interior designer Ashiesh Shah for his take on the lots featuring in Elegant Design, Saffronart’s upcoming auction

This is not a living room

Disclaimer: This is not a dining room

If not for that disclaimer, you’d probably be conjuring a very skewed image of someone’s dining room. Probably suggested by the juxtaposition of the drinks cabinet with the James Dixon & Sons tea service on the Art Deco dining table. And those Chinese ginger jars…?

But rest assured, it’s our Saffronart gallery all spruced up for the Elegant Design auction set to take place in four days.

You’re now thinking how lovely some of these would look in your home. But how are you going to pick and choose? Will the Art Deco table go with your existing set of chairs, or should you pick up our set of six European Lacquer chairs as well? You’re loving that Chinese canopy bed, but it’s pretty much a home in itself. Should you move in there instead? Don’t fret, we’ve got Ashiesh Shah to share his thoughts on some of our pieces.

Pictured: Ashiesh Shah Source: http://www.ashieshshah.com/profile.html

Pictured: Ashiesh Shah
Source: http://www.ashieshshah.com/profile.html

Me: I’m going straight for the kill. Which of the lots did you fancy?

Ashiesh: I believe the set of ten art deco dining chairs are a great find. One could design a metal or marble-top table to go with these chairs. Very contemporary and chic.

Me: Now, getting specific with regards to one of our furniture pieces. Most people tend to go for sleek, compact designs when it comes to furniture, rather than the more ornate, bulky ones. How do you picture something like the Chinese bed fitting into a contemporary setting?

Ashiesh: Something as large and ornate as the daybed could very easily turn into the focal point of any home. In a traditional space, it would add an architectural scale. In a more contemporary setting though, it would become an interesting talking point. This bed could be placed in a manner that it faces a specific direction, perhaps overlooking a turf, or even a loch.

Me: How about in a city like Mumbai? How does someone negotiate around spatial constraints?

Ashiesh: It need not be in a small apartment in Mumbai. While talking about homes we often forget about larger apartments and the spacious bungalows one would find not just in the city, but in Alibaug and other vicinities. It’s very easy to achieve a de-cluttered look by placing it right in the centre of a room. But having said that, one has to obviously consider if the furniture they are choosing goes with the look and feel of their space.

Kutch silver tea cups. Yay or nay?

Kutch silver tea cups. Yay or nay?

Me: Moving on to the silverware. What would you consider when it comes to silverware?

Ashiesh: The provenance is important. I would enquire about the kind of ownership the object might have gone through before buying it. It is an affirmation for its value and appeal. Something with a premium.

Me: How important do you think polishing any piece of  silverware is? Would you prefer an aged look as testament to its appeal, or would you prefer it brand new and sparkling?

Ashiesh: If I were to speak of silverware, a patina-look would imbibe a higher sense of value and appeal.

Me: Clearly the selection process of lots in an auction is a completely different ball game for a discerning client. Thank you for chatting with me.

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What’s with the Fascination with Paper?

Kanika Pruthi delves into the world of paper works in anticipation of Saffronart’s upcoming auction of Works on Paper

New York: March is a bustling time for us at Saffronart as we gear towards two auctions this month. Our upcoming Works on Paper sale will feature a collection of artworks on paper by modern and contemporary Indian artists. The focus on paper works enables connoisseurs and collectors to view a group of works in multiple contexts, which may otherwise elude their attention or take a back seat given the simplicity of the medium.

The use of paper in the arts of India has a long documented history.  Paper came to India from China via the famed Silk Route. Indian miniature tradition is the only available surviving evidence of the widespread use of this material in the arts from the sub-continent. The humble medium went on to become an integral part of the genesis and development of the modern and contemporary Indian art movement. Raja Ravi Varma, considered by many as the first Indian modern painter, developed an artistic style which has come to be associated with beginning of the modernist art movement. His grand canvases adorned with mythological themes and royal portraits played a vital role in shaping early modern Indian visuality. The assimilation of his iconic images in the popular culture of India was possible through the dissemination of his works to a wider audience. This was made possible through the intervention of printing press which reproduced his works as oleographs for mass circulation. The medium of paper made it possible for ordinary people to partake in the modern art movement in an unprecedented manner.

The early 20th century gave rise to the Bengal School of Art, the first revivalist nationalist art movement of India. The artistic enquiry and fervor at the turn of the century gave momentum to other art movements and independent artist initiatives over the proceeding decades, which have come to form the canon of modern Indian art. Art works on paper from different movements and artists abound and provide rich documentation of the trajectory of Indian art. Works in this sale cover the oeuvre of some of the seminal artists and artistic movement of the 20th century in India.

Gaganendranath Tagore, Untitled, 1907, Watercolor on paper

Gaganendranath Tagore, Untitled, 1907, Watercolor on paper

The continued use of paper as a medium of choice can be attributed to its ready availability, ease of usage and adaptability to different techniques and other mediums. As the group of paper works in the upcoming auction demonstrates, paper has lent its surface to ink, tempera, gouache, watercolor, pencil, acrylic, oil, pastel etc. In many cases it is indispensible to the technique employed by the artist, like in the case of lithographs, photography and select mixed media works.

M.F. Husain, Untitled, Pen and pencil on paper

M.F. Husain, Untitled, Pen and pencil on paper

Other than their usage, paper works have often time lent themselves to narrate untold stories and unknown episodes. From the 1950s onwards, many modernist painters travelled to Europe to enhance and expand their practice. Paper works produced during their travels give us a glimpse of their experiences and its impact on their art practice. At other times paper works inform us about the development of certain iconography and themes associated with artists- for example the many erotic drawings, nudes and portraits of F.N. Souza or the fissured bodies of Jogen Chowdhury- both of which are featured in the sale. In many cases the image on paper presents a fragment of a bigger work or a series undertaken by the artist- giving the viewer a chance to closely look at the elements of a work at closer proximity and in isolation from the larger narrative. Lot 85, a work by M.F. Husain brings together a collection of small jottings which bring to mind many of the iconic images that have graced his canvases.

Baiju Parthan, Caput Motum-7, 2008, Acrylic and transfers on arches paper

Baiju Parthan, Caput Motum-7, 2008, Acrylic and transfers on arches paper

Contemporary artists in recent years have used paper to produce large scale works as well. It is worth noting how the medium is adapted to their particular technique and artistic discourse.One of the larger works in the upcoming auction is Baiju Parthan’s Caput Motum -7a work teeming with visual tropes, drawing the viewer deeper, eyes wandering in an attempt to decipher the artist’s intention.

Our recent evening sale saw S.H. Raza’s “Haut De Cagnes” setting a record price for a work on paper by an Indian artist. Traditionally seen as a lesser form in the hierarchy of artworks, paper as a genre is claiming its rightful place. Our upcoming sale of Works on Paper further reinforces the significance of this medium and its marked position as an independent collecting category. 

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An Interview with V. Ramesh

Indrapramit Roy of Maharaja Sayajirao University, Baroda, in a candid interview with the artist

An exhibition titled “Remembrances of Voices Past” opened at the National Gallery of Modern Art, Bengaluru, on 5th Feb 2014. This one and a half month-long exhibition showcases a decade-long journey of Vedantabatla Ramesh, better known as V. Ramesh. It is a journey covering a period from 2003 to 2013 that is significant in its depth and ambition. It was not a common occurrence till a few years ago to have a show of an artist in his mid-fifties at the National Gallery, especially one as media-shy and self-effacing as Ramesh. Thankfully, things are changing for the better, and that calls for celebration.

I have not known many people who can so readily laugh at themselves and yet produce works of infinite intricacy that are breathtaking in their, if I may say so, spiritual depth. These are very deeply felt works of a person unconcerned with the ways of the art world digging a lonely furrow with a rare conviction.

Born in 1958, V. Ramesh had studied at the Faculty of Fine Arts, Maharaja Sayajirao University (M.S.U.) of Baroda, and spent most of his working life away from major art centres at Vishakhapatnam, where he has been teaching painting for nearly three decades at the Fine Arts Faculty of Andhra University. He works mostly in large format canvas and some small-scale watercolours. Ramesh’s oeuvre has through the years consistently revealed a preoccupation with a meditative terrain. His most recent works deal with women saint-poets from the Bhakti and Sufi traditions, conflating text and image in a mélange of layered narratives mixing painterly delight with contemplative depth. His intricate textures and transparent layering lends the imagery already replete with cultural memory a power that is at once recognizable and yet mysteriously majestic.

This interview was conducted over telephone and e-mail and Ramesh’s responses are precise and short in an almost Zen-like manner, so much so that sometime framing a question takes more space than the answers. Nevertheless, hopefully they will cast some light on the works and ideas of a major artist working in India today.

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Indrapramit: The earliest examples that I have seen in your oeuvre from the late ’80s and early ’90s revolved around the fishing folk from the coastline of your native Vishakhapatnam. The subaltern bodies strained with work had what one noted writer referred to as a ‘matter-of-fact-heroism’. Then, there was a noticeable shift occurring around the late ’90s when your figures started getting more evanescent, and paintings more layered. You experimented with found imagery, text, transparency and generally seemed more interested about the process of painting. How did this change come about?

V.Ramesh: During the mid-nineties, I faced what seemed then to be an existential dilemma. There was a sense of having reached the end of one’s tether. The earlier images of subaltern bodies and the mode of actually using paint no longer excited me, and I could feel perhaps a sense of lassitude and fatigue setting in my work. There was no way out – except perhaps to stop working. I did not stop but started working on small papers with dry pastel. These were very different almost abstract kind of works roughly relating to landscapes. I had a show of these in Baroda and I remember Surendran (Nair) wondering what had happened to my works! But that break was needed.

Indrapramit: You have mentioned elsewhere that for the past so many years your work deals with the idea of transience or impermanence. This is of particular interest to me…

V.Ramesh:As I am never tired of proclaiming, it was a serendipitous visit to Ramanashramam in1998 that acted as a catalyst in changing the direction and nature of my work. I saw a different facet of life and that made me introspect. After that I came back to oils and started working on large scale again. This eventually grew into the show called “A Thousand and One Desires”. I tackled the idea of desire, of greed, of avarice… sentiments that were totally absent in the ashram. You might say I started at the wrong end of the scale but that’s how it was. The nineties and the beginning of the new millennium were very fraught times in this country.

Indrapramit: Every time I encounter your painting I get the feeling that here is an artist contemplating what has almost become an anathema in our brazen times, that you are actually touching upon some very fundamental questions about the nature of life, love, body, lust, spirituality, death and some such profound issues.

V.Ramesh: I look at it as a contemporary human being’s search for the unity underlying the disparate elements of the world. You might call it the reality beyond the surface; a search for truth that lies beneath the ever-accelerating flux of today’s world that became my own quest.

Indrapramit:  Do you feel that the increasing marginalization of painting in the discourse of contemporary art has something to do with your subtle, nuanced and painstaking manner of painting, or do you feel the whole question regarding the role of painting, admittedly the old media, is superfluous?

V.Ramesh: The ability to draw the viewer within, through this state of flux, through its layers of paint and images, to be able to transcend these outwardly seen and perceived phenomena, one has to adopt strategies and improvise modes of expressions. I still believe in the validity of painting – it is a sacrosanct space. The day it does not feel that way I would be the first one to abandon painting.

Indrapramit: How did you get interested in Bhakti poetry and the poets?

V.Ramesh: For quite some time Bhakti or Devotion was singled out as the leitmotif in my work – not merely as an underlying unseen presence, but something that could be felt as an emotional exaltation. In the beginning when I was attempting to find an appropriate language and devising strategies to find an equivalency to this emotional exaltation, I found there were really no immediate precedents. In a way it was convenient to appropriate the voices of these poets and use them in my work.

Indrapramit: You have been teaching since 1985 nearly for 29 nine years. How do you feel it has impacted your work over the decades?

V.Ramesh: Teaching has taught me to be patient, as well as to have a sense of humility and effacement of one’s ego, especially when it comes to presuming that one knows almost everything as a teacher. You realize that is not the case and that is a humbling experience. You are not really filling an empty vessel but mentoring people to find their own voices. So, all these qualities I think have stood me in good stead when it came to my own work.

(Indrapramit Roy is an artist who teaches painting at the Faculty of Fine Arts, MSU of Baroda and knows V.Ramesh since 1989)

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Campaign Furniture: Historical Function and Design

Elizabeth Prendiville of Saffronart shares a brief introduction to campaign furniture anticipating the upcoming sale “Elegant Design”.

Upcoming Saffronart Sale "Elegant Design"

Upcoming Saffronart Sale “Elegant Design”


New York: Campaign furniture has a distinct role in history due to its unique blend of beautiful aesthetic and simple usability. Born out of necessity, the construction of these furniture pieces was revolutionary. It can be distinguished by its ability to breakdown and fold into an easy to transport state. This quality is typically constructed with the help of brass hinges or foldable legs and sides, while still maintaining a beautiful and high quality design motif.

A piece from the upcoming Saffronart sale "Elegant Design"

A piece from the upcoming Saffronart sale “Elegant Design”

Historically these pieces were made popular by the British Army in the 18th and 19th century and were typically used by travelers and military officials in the pursuit of colonial efforts. The British Army required pieces that represented the warm luxuries of home, but would not burden or weigh them down while on their campaign. As the call for these “knock-down” styles increased, the finest furniture and luggage makers began to compete over who could make the most opulent pieces while still maintaining a light and malleable design. They ranged from full-scale living furniture to carrying cases for food and toiletry items.

A piece from the upcoming Saffronart sale "Elegant Design"

A piece from the upcoming Saffronart sale “Elegant Design”

This piece of history represents a very distinct time of global expansion including major explorations in the east. “The administrators and armies of the British Empire in the Indian subcontinent were perhaps the largest consumer of campaign furniture leading to high quality local manufacturing of durable, practical and elegant ‘knock-down’ chairs, tables, desks, bookcases and beds” (J and R Guram). Furniture fit for the leaders of the British Army proved to be successful in popular culture and still remains in style today due to its durability and utilitarian beauty. A number of contemporary craftsman still continue this tradition and it is often seen in outdoor furniture, indoor furniture and high end collectible items alike. From an interior design perspective Campaign Furniture offers a balance of graceful antiquity with modern functionality that will continue to be sought after for decades to come. While this design technique began out of necessity, in present day it represents a historical golden age of travel and global expeditions. Campaign furniture will be honored in the upcoming sale “Elegant Design” featuring items such as a desks, tables, luggage and travel accessories. For more information on the sale and the items shown in this article please visit the auction website here.

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Jewels at The Oscars

This gallery contains 13 photos.

All images and text from “A Dozen Jewels From The Oscars” by the National Jeweler.

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The Charm of Ebony

Saffronart’s forthcoming auction ‘Elegant Design’ features some amazing ebony furniture. Elisabetta Marabotto unearths the fascination with one of the most enduring and sought-after of woods

A Stunning Anglo Indian Ebony Table for Special Occasions Featuring in The Elegant Design, Saffronart, 25-26 March 2014

A Stunning Anglo Indian Ebony Table for Special Occasions Featuring in The Elegant Design, Saffronart, 25-26 March 2014

 London: Our upcoming Elegant Design auction features a collection of stunning furniture, as well as silverware and other rare finds. Quite often, silver takes over other pieces, perhaps because of its sheen and value. What about the appeal of less lustrous objects—wood, anyone? I’ve decided to dedicate this post to ebony—a wood that we all know is valuable, yet doesn’t pop in to our heads while talking about valuable objects.

Have you ever wondered why ebony has been so popular and sought after?

Let’s begin with the basics. Ebony (diospyros ebenum or Ceylon ebony) is a native wood of southern India and Sri Lanka. Its hardness allows for beautiful intricate carvings. The wood acts as a natural insect repellent and its smoothness— once polished—produces a black lustre similar to that of Chinese or Japanese lacquer, giving it a beautiful radiance.

The production of ebony furniture in India seems to have first begun along India’s Coromandel Coast, a textile-producing region where a number of East India company trading factories were based. Turnery (the art of making objects using the lathe) was and still is one of the most fundamental and outstanding of Indian arts. European visitors have expressed their admiration for this art form since the sixteenth century. A Dutch traveller, Georg Rumphius, recorded that “the Coromandel Coast ‘is exceptionally richly provided of this [ebony] as the natives make from it all kinds of curious works, as chairs, benches and small tables, carving them out with foliage, and sculpture”(Victoria & Albert Museum Collection, London). Also Francisco Pelsaert , a Dutch merchant who worked for the Dutch East Indies Company, noted in 1626 that in Tatta, Sindh, “Ornamental desks, draught-boards, writing cases, and similar goods are manufactured locally in large quantities; they are very prettily inlaid with ivory and ebony, and used to be exported in large quantities to Goa and the coast towns.” Writing at the close of the seventeenth century, Captain Cope, an officer of the East India Company,  confirmed that at Tatta, ‘They make fine Cabinets, both lack’d and inlaid with ivory’( Victoria & Albert Museum Collection, London).

Luxury Relaxation, An Ebony Chaise Lounge, Featuring in the Elegant Design, Saffronart 25-26 March 2014

Luxury Relaxation, An Ebony Chaise Lounge, Featuring in the Elegant Design, Saffronart 25-26 March 2014

Europeans have, however, been acquainted with ebony since the Classical Age.  References to the wood can be traced to Marco Polo’s books. By the 17th century, ebony had become one of the most appreciated of Indian woods in Europe, and quickly grew to be the most highly priced wood of that century.  The first mention to Parisian cabinetmakers, ébénistes, dates to 1638, and, incidentally, the term finds its roots in “ebony”.   Many European merchants in India adapted to these local customs which were previously discussed but others brought furniture from home or commissioned Indian artists to create western style fur­niture for them. This made the production and exchange of furniture quite varied, since traditional objects were produced along with western style furniture made of Indian materials.

These kinds of pieces, such as the ones featuring in our auction, are extraordinary because they witness the merging of western and Indian motifs as well as materials which makes these objects unique and rich of history.

The Perfect Durability for Family Gatherings and Dinner Parties Featuring in The Elegant Design, Saffronart, 25-26 March 2014

The Perfect Durability for Family Gatherings and Dinner Parties Featuring in The Elegant Design, Saffronart, 25-26 March 2014

Colonial furniture, like the furniture in our catalogue, has been admired since the 16th century up to contemporary times for its versatility, elegance and practicality and it has the power of adding beauty, distinction and interest to any interior setting whether modern or traditional.

Now that you know a little about ebony, you shouldn’t miss the opportunity of owning one of these unique objects of art. Drop by the Mumbai gallery to view our lovely collection of ebony furniture, among other prized woods.

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