Imagine a very important religious subject. Now go back a thousand years, and think of a thousand ways of portraying three figures and a donkey. Ran out of options at #999? Not if you’re Jehangir Sabavala.

Rashmi on Jehangir Sabavala’s Flight into Egypt – I

Flight into Egypt

Lot 65: Jehangir Sabavala’s Flight into Egypt – I

On the Surface: There’s something at the bottom of the painting that looks like two human figures on an animal. Impressive interplay of light and shadow. Menacing. Reminds you of the closing scene of The Two Towers when Gollum leads Frodo and Sam to Mordor. Title says something about fleeing to Egypt, so maybe that’s what it is, though you probably don’t know who they are or why they’re fleeing to Egypt. But wait, the title of this blog post says something about it being a religious subject, so it must be…

What lies Beneath: …Joseph and Mary’s Flight into Egypt, mentioned in the Bible. They’re fleeing with baby Jesus from Bethlehem, after learning about King Herod’s plot to kill all infants in the region.  Ahhhh I see, you say. So those two—no, three figures are negotiating dangerous paths and curves in the hopes of surviving this evil king. How wonderful, it suddenly makes sense.

But no. It doesn’t end there.

Question: What, there’s more to it?

The Story Goes: So let’s go back in time some nine centuries or so *plays that groovy song by Huey Lewis and the News*.

From the Collection of the Glencairn Museum Source: http://www.glencairnmuseum.org/nativity-nonbiblical/

From the Collection of the Glencairn Museum
Source: http://www.glencairnmuseum.org/nativity-nonbiblical/

You’re in the year 1145, at the Abbey of Saint-Denis, France, and you see this lovely stain glass depiction of the Nativity. Here you witness baby Jesus in full glory, commanding a palm tree to bend so tired, hungry Mary can pluck a fruit off it. And of course, befitting of a church window, they’re both haloed.

Giotto di Bondone’s Flight into Egypt, executed as a fresco for the Scrovegni Chapel, Padua, Italy. Source: http://www.historyofpaintings.com/history-of-paintings/gothic-art.html

Giotto di Bondone’s Flight into Egypt, executed as a fresco for the Scrovegni Chapel, Padua, Italy.
Source: http://www.historyofpaintings.com/history-of-paintings/gothic-art.html

You’ve jumped ahead to 1304. You’re prowling around Giotto di Bondone and watching him complete this fresco in the Scrovengi Chapel. More haloes! You’re thinking you might tap him on the shoulder and try mentioning that you’d seen them before on a stain-glass painting you’d seen a second ago—no, 200 years ago—and that he should try out something different, but it’s probably wiser not to mention it. So you wait two years till the fresco is done. Bright colours, stern/sombre expressions, flat renderings and attractive colours. The donkey trots, no one seems to be in a hurry to flee. Perhaps they’re weary. There’s a hint of a narrative here—the figures look worried, they’re whispering to each other. But you’ve guessed the purpose of this work—its focus is on religion. The Church had an agenda, and it had the means, and its purpose was to spread Christianity. Moving ahead…

Venetian artist Vittore Carpaccio’s Flight into Egypt  Source: https://www.nga.gov/collection/gallery/gg15/gg15-32.html

Venetian artist Vittore Carpaccio’s Flight into Egypt
Source: https://www.nga.gov/collection/gallery/gg15/gg15-32.html

You find yourself in the year 1515. Oil paints are in. There’s definitely more depth to this painting than there was in Bondone’s, and the fabrics and figures bear closer semblance to reality. The halo isn’t bright anymore, but appears as a faint rim around Mary, Jesus and Joseph. The painting appears brighter, more positive, owing to the rich colours. The focus is still on the figures. They trudge on against a twilight sky. Coming back to the present—which you will do later—you learn that the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., suggests that “it was made for a religious confraternity”. Maybe it was just a fad in Italy, you reason. Okay, let me take you to Germany, and rewind to ten years prior.

Albrecht Dürer’s woodcut ink-on-paper of Flight into Egypt, part of the V&A collection, London Source: http://www.vam.ac.uk/users/node/2631

Albrecht Dürer’s woodcut ink-on-paper of Flight into Egypt, part of the V&A collection, London
Source: http://www.vam.ac.uk/users/node/2631

Dürer’s 1505 depiction is full of detail—crammed with it, and there is a nebulous presence of fear and urgency in the work. Mary holds Jesus on her lap, slightly slouched on the donkey. Joseph appears to be carefully turning around to check on them. Stealth and clandestineness matter here. But yes, the focus is on the figures.

Dutch painter Rembrandt van Rijn’s Flight into Egypt Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Flight_into_Egypt_(Rembrandt,_1627)

Dutch painter Rembrandt van Rijn’s Flight into Egypt
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Flight_into_Egypt_(Rembrandt,_1627)

You’re now in 1627, the age of Baroque/Dutch splendour. You’re viewing Rembrandt’s version, with the light dramatically falling on the three figures assuming centre stage. It looks like a scene out of a play—a huge, huge turn from the preceding works. You feel like you’re in the midst of the drama, but with the focus again on the figures, you feel like they’re never shaking off the past completely.

German Romantic Carl Spitzweg’s “Die Flucht nach Ägypten” Source: Wikipedia

German Romantic Carl Spitzweg’s “Die Flucht nach Ägypten”
Source: Wikipedia

Move ahead 252 years. Soaking in the Romanticism of 1879, you see Spitzweg’s Flight into Egypt. So now it’s larger landscape + smaller figures, you observe. You’re quick at noticing how the landscape dominates the work. Joseph, Mary, Jesus and the donkey are diminished in size in comparison to the steep ravines behind and around them. Spitzweg has either captured or chosen to portray a calmer part of the flight through his shading and tinting.

Henry Ossawa Tanner’s Flight into Egypt, from the Met Museum Collection Source: http://www.metmuseum.org/collection/the-collection-online/search/16947

Henry Ossawa Tanner’s Flight into Egypt, from the Met Museum Collection
Source: http://www.metmuseum.org/collection/the-collection-online/search/16947

Closer to a recognisable timeline, you’re in 1923, and you stumble upon famed African-American artist Henry Tanner’s version. You quite like Tanner’s version, it’s refreshingly different in its treatment. You especially like that the figures and the path before them are illuminated by a lantern in the painting, rather than a divine source.

But before you reach any conclusion, take one final look…

Flight into Egypt

Flight into Egypt

…at Sabavala’s Flight into Egypt-I.  And you’re back in 2014.

Sabavala avoids the glory of religious icons, the vibrancy of colour, the assurance of a recognisable face. His figures aren’t wasting time. They’re on the move, working their way carefully around towering ranges, riding to a distant land. You understand how dangerous this mission is. You feel it in his clever use of angular forms, his use of greys and browns to convey the mood. All that initial enamour you shared for colour, light, beauty have you second-guessing. Sure, they’re present here, but their function is so different. Here, the trio are in mortal danger. Their concerns are very much human, and you can feel a bond with them.

 

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A drive down the French countryside would yield this…if you were in the 1950s…and if you were S.H. Raza

Rashmi Rajgopal picks Raza’s Terre Jaune from the upcoming September Modern Evening Sale.

Lot 20: Terre Jaune

Lot 20: S. H. Raza’s Terre Jaune

On the Surface: Can identify houses, choc-a-bloc. They’re sandwiched between yellow—possibly some kind of field—and a deep blue sky. Nice use of primary colours there. Colour appears in swatches. It appears to be almost emotive.

What Lies Beneath: A countryside? The French countryside. Specifically, central and southern France, perhaps Carcassonne or Provence, which he mentions while referring to the countryside. What’s the yellow bit? Could be either poppy or sunflower fields. The choc-a-bloc homes? Typical of French villages.

Question: How can you be so sure it’s not just any countryside?

The Story Goes:  Many, many decades ago—1949, to be precise, Raza set sail for more artistic pastures. Paris called, with its thriving art scene and multiple art movements fast gaining in momentum. It wasn’t just that. On a trip to Kashmir a year prior, Raza had bumped into Henri Cartier-Bresson. Bresson’s advice to him was something like, “Well, you’ve got talent, but you need to pay more attention to how to ‘construct’ a painting. Why don’t you take a gander at Matisse, Cezanne and co.?” Those words stayed with him, and that’s precisely what he did while at the Ecole Nationale des Beaux-Arts. But what did Bresson mean by ‘construct’ a painting? Put very simply, he had asked Raza to look more closely at why artists did what they did, and how they went about it. Think of it as building something: you lay a solid foundation, then you erect the outer skeleton, then you fill in the gaps to create the final structure and voila!

Of course, education is incomplete if you don’t throw in some travelling for good measure. Raza did just that—travelled around, imbibed as much as he could from what he observed. But it was the French countryside that he took a strong liking to. So it kept cropping up in his paintings, and Terre Jaune is one of those beautifully made scapes.

Sunflowers in Provence Courtesy: shelovesglam.com

Sunflowers in Provence
Courtesy: shelovesglam.com

Haut Rhin, France Courtesy: http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/

Haut Rhin, France
Courtesy: http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/

Then, after a period of “I’m going to construct gorgeous landscapes”, Raza segued into a more “I’m going to spontaneously and emotively create gorgeous landscapes”. Why? Partly because that was the trend doing the rounds at the time, and partly because he kind of ‘evolved’ to this phase. A trip to University of California, Berkeley, pushed him towards it after he encountered Rothko, Hoffman and others.

Or you could also look at it as mastering a particular technique, and then, after year of working in it, deciding that it’s easy; it’s perhaps got some limitations, and it’s time to move on to another way of looking at things.

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When you see a painting and don’t know what it is, you look…

behindthepicture

If you were in our gallery earlier this month, ambling about with an all-knowing smile plastered across your face to mask the “Hmm, this is interesting, but I don’t get it and the catalogue is a bit dense to bother reading” tumult your mind was going through, this is it. Starting today, we’re picking some of the most exciting lots from our upcoming live auction and giving you crisp, palatable snippets about them. Perhaps now you’ll reach out to them and invite them for a chat over tea and biscuits.

But we know it’s all subjective, and you have your favourites. Don’t see them here? Leave a Facebook comment or write to us, and we’ll try to cover a few more—very, very briefly—on our blog.

We’ll be updating this space with all posts in the series, so be sure not to miss out on any!

1. A possible drive down the French countryside would yield this….if you were in the 1950s…and if you were S.H. Raza

2. Imagine a very important religious subject. Now go back a thousand years or so, and think of a thousand ways of portraying three figures and a donkey. Ran out of options at #999? Not if you’re Jehangir Sabavala.

 

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On Art, Design and more…A tête-à-tête with Meera Sethi

Josheen Oberoi chats with Meera Sethi about identities, processes and her forthcoming projects

New York:  Meera Sethi is a Toronto based artist of Indian origin. With a graphics design background and an artist’s curiosity.  Meera’s art straddles many worlds; fine art and design, Indian and diaspora. Her work has been featured widely in publications like Vogue India, CNNgo and MTV Desi. Some of her works are now available  on StoryLTD.

Her recent work has tackled complex questions about identity and migration with pictorially vivid imagery. She makes these questions accessible through her visual images in ways that allow us viewers to engage and celebrate them. As an admirer of her work, I was very happy to have an opportunity to learn more about her art. In our conversation below, Meera Sethi will trace the contours of her life as an artist and tell us how she creates her vibrant body of work.

Meera Sethi

Meera Sethi

Q: Meera, let’s start with the question of how your engagement with art began.

A: Although art was always my favourite subject growing up, I never planned to be an artist. I entered university interested in cultural studies, anti-colonial and feminist studies. I followed this through by completing a BFA in Art Theory and a Master’s in Interdisciplinary (Cultural) Studies. However, during my entire academic education, I was quietly working away as a self-taught graphic designer, accepting occasional freelance design projects.

Little did I realize at the time that it was the making of imagery, as opposed to its study, that would emerge as my passion. After graduate school, I went from working as an arts researcher, to being employed as a graphic designer, to eventually working full-time for myself as a freelance designer and now a visual artist. My life as a professional artist began unexpectedly after I spontaneously embarked on what was to become my first and most influential series – Firangi Rang Barangi - in the evenings after returning home from my 9-5 day job. What I saw surprised me: I had a natural inclination to combine colour with form.

Q: Where do you feel you are, as an artist, and what has brought you here?  

Meera Sethi in the studio

Meera Sethi in the studio

A: It’s certainly been a journey. Now, when I look back at some of my earliest drawings and sketches, I see an interest in portraiture and depicting clothing. In fact, the only surviving artwork I have from when I was a child is a self-portrait done at age 5, in which I have attempted with much detail to convey the texture, colour and pattern of my plaid dress. When I rediscovered this drawing, I was shocked to see the similarity in my choice of subject 30 years on! Today, I find myself drawn to the cultural, political and spiritual lives of diasporic South Asians and the hybridity of our identities as expressed

 

Meera Sethi, Self-Portrait, Age 5

Meera Sethi, Self-Portrait, Age 5

Q: That is an interesting point because your work appears to function at the intersections of art and design to a great extent. Could you tell us about your approach and process?

A: I tend to look at things through the lens of design. What I mean by this is that I look at work for its aesthetic appeal and function before I enter the deeper meaning it conveys. I tend to use this approach in the making of my own work where I am as much concerned with the beauty and the function as I am with the story it is telling. I think this comes from my long history as a graphic designer who never fully fit into the art world. Not to discredit the important conversations happening within artistic communities, but I would still rather pick up a Creative Review or Eye than an ArtReview or Frieze. At the same time, I make art, not design. My work is not solving a problem or responding to a client brief. There is of course sometimes a fine line between the two disciplines. I am most comfortable on this edge. My research for new projects increasingly involves a combination of reading popular and academic articles, looking at art, design and craft sources, and meditating.

"Intersections" in progress

“Intersections” in progress

Q: You have also worked with large scale formats like murals. Please tell us about the work.

A: In late 2013, I completed my first large-scale public outdoor mural. It is a massive 44 feet x 39 feet wall-painting called “Intersections” that commemorates the cultural, social and political intersections made by LGBTQ South Asian communities in Canada. It’s a giant celebration of our organizing and partying, our identities, diversity and presence. The mural itself references Rabari mirrorwork from Rajasthan as a symbol of the unifying power of incredibly diverse South Asian textile traditions.

"Intersections" in progress

“Intersections” in progress

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Intersections, Church Street Mural

Intersections, Church Street Mural

Studio

Studio

Q: Along with the large scale format, you actively work with prints and creating two different scales of the same visual images. Could you speak to that choice a little bit?

A: Much of my work is quite large in format, making the work difficult to transport and higher in cost. At the same time, the quality of line, colour and form in my work is quite even and sharp, so it translates well into a print medium. I like to make high quality, limited edition small-size prints available of some pieces as a matter of accessibility. In my mind, a simple but important intention is to have my work inspire the hearts and lives of others. To have my art seen by multiple people in daily life is one way to do this. Perhaps, indebted again to design, before making work, I often imagine it in someone’s home, where it makes a small but consistent impact on everyday life decisions by inviting a sense of beauty and joy.

Q: Tell us what comes next. Are you working on new projects?

A: I am in the process of working on three different projects. The most immediate is a new series of acrylic paintings on canvas called “On the Margins of the Divine” that look to Mughal miniature albums as a starting point. Next, is an international, collaborative performance art piece called “Unstitched” that takes a sari and creates a line of community and continuity among 108 people. And lastly, a two-part photography and mixed-media painting project called “Upping the Aunty” that celebrates our elders and their fabulousness!

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Exhibitions you can’t miss this August

The Saffronart team on events you shouldn’t be missing this month in Mumbai, Delhi, London and New York, beginning with…

Mumbai

Chitra Ganesh’s “Reclining Figure”, rendered on the walls of Lakeeren Gallery Source: Lakeeren Art Gallery

Chitra Ganesh’s “Reclining Figure”, rendered on the walls of Lakeeren Gallery as part of Drawing from the Present, a site-based project
Source: Lakeeren Art Gallery

Esther Brinkmann: “Renewable Pleasures: The India Chapter”
Where: Gallery Chemould, Fort, Mumbai
On View Till: August 23, 2014  

Esther Brinkmann is an acclaimed Swiss jewellery designer who has been living in India for the past four years. Inspired by her residency in the nation, this exhibition will feature unique, handmade neckpieces, brooches and rings that pay particular attention to techniques of engraving and enameling that developed in ancient India.

Lalu Prasad Shaw: “Solitary Spaces”
Where: Art Musings, Colaba, Mumbai
On View Until: August 31, 2014

Bengali artist and printmaker Lalu Prasad Shaw is notable for work influenced by the pre-independence Company School of art, Ajanta cave and traditional Kalighat Pat paintings. His talent lies in translating these influences along with scenes from his own life onto canvases. This solo exhibition at Art Musings features works that explore ways to create quiet and solitary meditations on paintings.

Chitra Ganesh: “Drawing from the Present”
Where: Lakeeren Art Gallery, Mumbai
On View Till:
September 30, 2014

Artist Chitra Ganesh has transformed the interiors of Lakeeren Gallery in Colaba with her illustrations and paintings, pulsating with stories. Known for her comic-inspired illustrations infused with mythological references, Ganesh’s works are layered with questions. In this exhibition, she continues to explore sci-fi, mythology and time travel. If you missed watching the artist at work, drop by Lakeeren to decode her paintings.

And if you’re hoping for a glimpse into her wide-ranging inspirations, here’s an interview by Art Radar.


Delhi

Gipin Varghese, “Lifetimes”, Watercolour on paper 81" x 16" (Each), 2013

Gipin Varghese, “Lifetimes”, Watercolour on paper
81″ x 16″ (Each), 2013 from the exhibition Lifetimes at Vadehra Art Gallery.
Source: Vadehra Art Gallery

Aditya Pande: “H&M”
Where: Nature Morte, Delhi
On View Till: September 6, 2014

Known for his signature style that involves the use of vector-based software to create lines, Delhi based artist Aditya Pande will be showcasing a solo exhibition that continues his style of exploring boundaries through vector lines and other mediums and subjects.  The title of the show, ‘H & M,’ an abbreviation for Harappa and Mohenjodaro, is indicative of Pande’s fascination with artifacts found at these sites.  The exhibition will be unique in its steering away from a white box gallery atmosphere, making the space more interactive.

Nayanaa Kanodia: “The Great Outdoors”
Where: Art Alive Gallery, Delhi
On View Till: August 20, 2014

Self-taught artist Nayanaa Kanodia has achieved international acclaim since her first solo exhibition in 1986. Her recent works, featuring in this show, draw inspiration from nature. She carefully examines man’s relationship with the natural outdoor environment depicting themes such as innocence and peacefulness.  Kanodia explains, “My paintings are varying angles of a single prism. At first glance, you see a humored portrayal of a quaint scene; upon further examination, an integrated, multi-layered expression reveals itself.”

Gipin Varghese: “Lifetimes”
Where: Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi
On View Till: September 6, 2014

Having successfully participated in several group shows, this is artist Gipin Varghese’s first solo exhibition that will present the work he has made over the last two years. Varghese re-examines contemporary issues, media, violence, and struggles faced in rural India. Through his socially conscious works he uses art to pay tribute to victims, and ordinary people who face struggles, by immortalising their stories. His works focus on figures, expressions and postures that we may otherwise shy away from, to also provoke viewers to consider social realities. Not only should this exhibition give you a new perspective to look at issues faced in India, but also gives you the chance to get acquainted with an emerging artist.


London

‘Stalwarts from the East’: A French lady pins a flower on the Sikh saviours of France, Paris, 1916. From the Toor Collection Source: https://www.soas.ac.uk/gallery/efw/

‘Stalwarts from the East’: A French lady pins a flower on the Sikh saviours of France, Paris, 1916. From the Toor Collection. Part of the exhibition Empire, Faith and War: The Sikhs and World War One
Source: https://www.soas.ac.uk/gallery/efw/

Kalpana Shah, Ravi Mandlik, Anwar, Brinda Miller, Nupur Kundu, Aisha Caan, JayShree Kapoor, Christina Pierce: “Indian Summer”
Where: Albemarle Gallery, London
On View Till: August 23, 2014  

This exhibition features prominent contemporary artists who have achieved acclaim in India and abroad. The exhibit is presented by Arts for India; a charity that supports the Delhi based International Institute of Fine Arts (IIFA), which is one of the few private sector providers of an art education in India. Attending this exhibition is likely to expose you to works by artists from India, as well as those who have been influenced by Indian art and culture. Simultaneously, you can also show your support for the development of art education in India, by attending this show.

Pradeep Puthoor: “The Art of Pradeep Puthoor”
Where: Everyman Cinema, Belsize Park
On View Till: September 2, 2014   

Pradeep Puthoor is a Kerala-based contemporary artist who is beginning to achieve world-wide acclaim for the fantastical worlds he creates in his works through his creative and illustrative skills. This exhibition of his paper works is organized by the Noble Sage Gallery, at the Everyman Cinema in Belsize Park. This is a show that is guaranteed to satisfy art enthusiasts and collectors.  Visiting this exhibit can easily be combined with watching a film at the Everyman Cinema, or paying a visit to the permanent collection at the Noble Sage Gallery, next door.

Empire, Faith and War: The Sikhs and World War One
Where:
 The Brunei Gallery, SOAS
On View Till: September 28, 2014

This exhibition features a carefully curated selection of unique and rare photographs, drawings, newspaper articles, comics, postcards, uniforms, gallantry medals, art works, as well as folk songs that commemorate the contribution of Sikh soldiers in the Great War. The exhibition, organized by the UK Punjab Heritage foundation, also features an album of X-Rays of injuries of wounded Indian soldiers lent by Her Majesty The Queen from the Royal Collection. This exhibition is definitely worth a visit, to gain a sense of Sikh history and culture, particularly with respect to colonial and war periods.


New York

Imran Hossain Piplu, “The Utopian Museum (1)”, 2011, Digital print on archival paper, 55 x 36 in. From the exhibition Readymade | Contemporary Art from Bangladesh

Imran Hossain Piplu, “The Utopian Museum (1)”, 2011, Digital print on archival paper, 55 x 36 in.
From the exhibition Readymade | Contemporary Art from Bangladesh
Source: http://www.aicongallery.com/exhibitions/2014-07-24_readymade-contemporary-art-from-bangladesh/

City as subject/matter: Belfast, Hong Kong, New Delhi, New York, Tel Aviv, Tirana and beyond
Where: New York (Click here for multiple venues)
On View Till: August 26, 2014

Curated by Marco Antonini in collaboration with Catalyst Arts, Hila Cohen-Schneiderman, Khoj International Artists’ Association, Eriola Pira and Magdalen Wong, this group exhibition features artists Seher Shah, Vibha Galhotra and Gigi Scaria among others. It is presented as a series of four consecutive exhibitions hosted by NURTUREart, Mixed Greens, Invisible Exports and Unions Docs. Multiplicity is an international survey of artworks sharing an interest in the politics and poetic potential of contemporary urban environments. The works address the myriad public and private rituals of the city, mining its institutional and vernacular histories while re-imagining its formal and functional aspects.

Readymade | Contemporary Art from Bangladesh
Where: Aicon Gallery, New York
On View Till: September 6, 2014

Aicon gallery presents the first ever extensive survey exhibition of contemporary Bangladeshi art held in New York. The exhibition features nine artists collectively exploring the complex and interlocking cultural, political, economic and environmental issues currently facing the often paradoxical and rapidly changing society and state of Bangladesh. The featured artists include Kazi Salahuddin Ahmed, Masum Chisty, Khaled Hasan, Imran Hossain Piplu, Promotesh Das Pulak, Dhali Al Mamoon, Yasmin Jahan Nupur, Mohammad Wahiduzzaman and Wakilur Rahman. The work in this exhibition unpacks these issues through the concept of the readymade, both in its art historical context, and as a term referring to Bangladesh’s massive and unwieldy ready-to-wear garment industry.

 

 

 

 

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A Buyer’s Guide to Emeralds

Are you ready to invest in emeralds, but still have apprehensions regarding this big decision? Pooja Savansukha of Saffronart has put together an informative guide with everything you’d like to know about emeralds.

Undeniably, you have been captivated by the mystical charm of emeralds. You can’t be blamed; it is impossible to resist the deep green radiance that an emerald exudes. In fact, these stones have often been considered to be the most precious stones, greatly revered historically by the Inca’s, the Aztec’s and most notably the Egyptian pharaohs. Today, adorning an emerald instantly places you in the legacy of Cleopatra, Shah Jahan, and many other royal or historic figures. While this may already incentivize you, we have decided to provide you with everything else you should know to help you make your choice to invest in emeralds.

Emeralds and Emerald Formation:

Fine emeralds form naturally when a rare blend of pressure, heat and chemical solutions in the earth causes an emerald to form. Emeralds belong to the beryl family that also consists of aquamarine, heliodor and beryls in other colours. A green beryl is only classified as an emerald when its colour is darker and deeper than an ordinary beryl.  While there are other green gems such as peridot and tourmaline, an emerald is associated with the richest and most extraordinary shade of green.

Considering the origin of emeralds immediately brings to mind ‘Cleopatra’s Mines’ near the red sea in Egypt that are known to be the earliest account of the extraction of these stones, dating back to 3500 BC. Most emeralds embedded in ancient Egyptian jewellery were from these mines. Emeralds have also been procured from Colombian mines since 500 AD.

Currently, emeralds are mined from several countries such as Colombia, Brazil, Zambia, Afghanistan, India, Zimbabwe, Russia and Pakistan. Colombian mines are known to contain some of the highest quality emeralds in the world. Zambian mines are also gaining prominence for not only producing high quality emeralds but for also adopting the most ethical standards socially, environmentally and in terms of safety while mining.

An Emerald Crystal from a Columbian Mine www.gia.edu/emerald

An Emerald Crystal from a Columbian Mine
http://www.gia.edu/emerald

Mining emeralds is an extremely delicate process. It is however not the only delicate process that an emerald goes through. Before an emerald is ready for sale, natural emerald crystals extracted from mines must go through several procedures before they attain the shapes, cut and polish that we appreciate so much. Often certain stones may go through numerous additional treatments too, and these affect their value. The easiest way to evaluate an emerald is through the 4 C’s: Colour, Clarity, Cut, and Carats.

Colour:

The colour of an emerald is indicated by the amount of trace elements such as chromium, vanadium and iron that it contains. The best emeralds have colours that range from a bluish-green to a pure green. Usually, the darker the emerald, the higher its value, but a tone that is too dark is also undesirable. An emerald will be translucent, and the most precious emeralds will be highly transparent, with an even distribution of colour. Remember that if an emerald appears to be too yellowish or bluish in colour, it may not be an emerald, but just another kind of beryl.

Colombian emeralds are generally known to have a pure green colour while Zambian emeralds are said to have a bluish-green colour.

Clarity

During the formation of an emerald, small amounts of minerals, liquids or other fluid may get trapped into the emerald. These are called inclusions. Too many inclusions can reduce the transparency of an emerald, but a few inclusions are essential to differentiate natural emeralds from synthetics. An emerald may also contain fissures or fractures that affect the clarity of a stone. The most prized emeralds have few inclusions and very minor fractures, if any.

Most emeralds undergo clarity enhancing treatments. Historically, oils have been used to fill fissures and fractures. Resins might also be used as fillers. While both oils and resins have similar effects and are temporary procedures, a resin may last longer as filler. Generally, fillers cause no harm to an emerald and can easily be removed or altered. Emeralds that require the least enhancing treatment are usually the most valuable. You can easily enquire what types of treatment an emerald has been through before buying it.

Cut

Emeralds are fragile compared to most precious stones and are easily susceptible to being damaged. Furthermore, most emeralds contain fractures, making them even more vulnerable. But rest assured, for cuts can be used to protect the stone from damage. Usually, the corners of an emerald are cut to create facets that protect them from chipping. The octagonal shape obtained by this kind of cut is known as an emerald cut. While cuts are supposed to be protective do verify that your emerald has been cut well, as an error in the cut can drop the value of your stone. Cuts are also used to create other shapes for emeralds.

An unmounted emerald-cut emerald, the most common cut although emeralds are available in other cuts too http://www.saffronart.com/fixedjewelry/PieceDetails.aspx?iid=41314&a=

An unmounted emerald-cut emerald, the most common cut although emeralds are available in other cuts too
http://www.saffronart.com/fixedjewelry/PieceDetails.aspx?iid=41314&a=

Carat Weight

Emeralds are available in a multitude of sizes. While you might easily assume that a higher carat weight must account for a high value, this is not true. An emeralds value is judged primarily upon its colour and clarity. It is thus completely possible for an emerald with a lighter weight to be a better investment than one with a higher carat weight.

 

How to Look After your Emeralds?

Emeralds are very delicate and may require more care than other precious stones, but they are beautiful and maintaining them well will ensure that they remain in good condition for a long time. You just need to ensure that you don’t expose your emerald to too much heat or steam, or very strong rays of light from a close proximity. The most ideal way to clean an emerald is gently scrubbing it with slightly warm, mild soapy water.

On an ending note, remember that a good quality emerald is considered to be even more valuable than diamonds.

Check out our Columbian and Zambian Emerald Exhibition catalogue by clicking here

Source: www.gia.edu

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THE LEGACY OF EMERALDS- AN INDIAN STORY

Kanika Pruthi of Saffronart reminiscences about some of the iconic emerald jewelry with an Indian connection

New York: The allure of the emerald is undeniable given its famed reputation and esteem that has persisted since antiquity. Our current exhibition of emerald  jewelry featuring  stones of Colombian and Zambian origin, presents an eclectic collection of beautiful ornaments to appeal to varied tastes and aesthetics.

Image 1a

Credit: http://www.saffronart.com/fixedjewelry/PieceDetails.aspx?iid=41327&pt=2&eid=3692

Emeralds have enjoyed a privileged status since centuries. A coveted precious stone, there are umpteen historic tales and folklore associated with it, perpetuating its grand aura in our psyche. Ancient texts from Egyptian and the Greco-Roman civilizations profess the wider beliefs of those times, which granted emeralds healing properties and astrological associations. King Nero is said to have viewed gladiator fights through a large, transparent emerald while Egyptian queen Cleopatra was one of the greatest admirer of her stone during her times. Stories abound and legacies persist.

Emerald 1
Credit: http://www.saffronart.com/fixedjewelry/PieceDetails.aspx?iid=41319&a=

Closer to home, the Mughals commissioned many objets d’art fashioned from emeralds. Shah Jahan is known to have had a special affinity for this stone and had many of the pieces in his collection inscribed with sacred verses. These were then worn as talismans- bringing prosperity to the wearer and keeping them from harm’s way. One of the most famous examples of a talismanic emerald from the Mughal period is ‘The Mogul Mughal’. Dated to 1695 and weighing 217.80 carats, the obverse is engraved with Shi’a invocations in elegant naskh script and the reverse carved all over with foliate decoration. The dense color and the delicate carving are truly magnificent.

Emerald 2
Credit: http://www.saffronart.com/fixedjewelry/PieceDetails.aspx?iid=41331&a=

The British rulers were also admirers of precious stones and were gifted many jewels during their presence in India as gifts and offerings. The eminent Delhi Durbar of 1911 was one such occasion. It commemorated the coronation of King George V and Queen Mary and proclaimed them as the Emperor and Empress of India. A significant event, it was attended by Indian royals from all over the subcontinent. On this occasion the Queen was presented with the Delhi Durbar Tiara, a beautiful emerald necklace, given to her by the Maharani of Patiala on behalf of the Ladies of India. In 1912 the necklace was slightly altered, making the existing emerald pendant detachable and adding a second detachable diamond pendant.  The necklace was inherited by the present Queen who has worn it many occasions in the recent years.

Emerald 3
Credit: http://www.saffronart.com/fixedjewelry/PieceDetails.aspx?iid=41312&pt=2&eid=3692

Cartier undertook many commissions for Indian royals during the early decades of the 20th century. Many iconic pieces of jewelry were produced by him on the behest of sovereigns from the subcontinent.  Amongst these was a magnificent turban ornament of emerald, diamond and pearl for the Maharaja of Kapurthala, made with 15 large emeralds from the Maharajah’s own collection. During this period, Indian royals also commissioned many pieces inspired by then popular Art Deco aesthetics all the rage in Europe.  Emerald was a popular choice and was featured in many pieces created by western designers for Indian clientele.   

Emeralds have enjoyed a lasting patronage from its Indian admirers. This magnificent stone has seamlessly adapted to the varied styles and aesthetics over the years. Our current collection is an opportunity for you to partake in that experience.

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How to ( … ) things that Don’t Exist

FIFA’s over but there’s more to Brazil than football! Sneha Shah explores the development of the 31st São Paolo Biennial.

Panning a little to the west of Rio de Janeiro, where Germany championed triumphantly at the FIFA 2014 World Cup Finals, the 31st São Paulo Biennale is shaping up for its early September vernissage. Whilst the home team had a terrible defeat, all my fellow Brazilian supporters will be happy to know that Brazil is appearing pretty strong on the art and culture front. For those new to it, the São Paulo Biennale is South America’s largest contemporary art survey, and the second oldest biennial in the world (1951) after Venice’s (1851). Promoting international involvement right from its initiation the Biennale has been instrumental in making Brazil an international centre for contemporary art and establishing a market for Brazilian art globally.

Image of the pavilion taken at the 30th Edition of the São Paulo Biennale (2012) Credit: Artinfo

Image of the pavilion taken at the 30th Edition of the São Paulo Biennale (2012)
Source: Artinfo

Like its Venetian counterpart, the São Paulo Biennale Foundation invites a team of curators to conceptualize the event. Charles Esche, Galit Eilat, Nuria Enguita Mayo, Pablo Lafuente and Oren Sagiv, along with associate curators Benjamin Seroussi and Luiza Proença, will be developing this year’s edition. Focusing on educative collaboration, questioning the definition of ‘art’ today, and eliminating formal hierarchies between artist, participant, viewer and user, the curators have decided to replace  genre-specific ‘artworks’ with the more generic term ‘projects’.

Inviting educators, sociologists, architects along with artists and performers to participate, the projects will be unresolved and exploratory; their unscrambling will sustain from the experiences and active involvement of individuals within the event. The curators urge “This is not a Bienal built on art and objects, but on people working with people on projects; on collaborations between individuals and groups; on relationships that should continue and develop throughout and, perhaps, even after the 31st Bienal is over,” on the official biennial website.

Official poster design by  participating artist Prabhakar Pachpute Credits: The Biennial

Official poster design by participating artist Prabhakar Pachpute
Source: The Biennial

Themed “How to (…) things that don’t exist”, with the ellipses interchangeable with verbs “feel”, “talk about”, “struggle with”, “use”, “read”, etc. the projects will reflect on subjects that seem to fall out of commonly accepted beliefs, frames of thinking and doing. Influenced or censored by expectations of immediate society, country, or world at large, human concerns, acts and understanding often materialize as emotions, injustices and struggles we feel we can’t surpass. The participating artists began their journey by ‘talking about’ these distresses, later moving onto ‘living with’ them as part of a 2-8 week residency within São Paolo and Brazil at large. ‘Using’, ‘struggling against’ and ‘learning from’ their experiences, the 75 collaborators will echo the optimism and possibilities of art today, challenging the capacity of the arts in its ability to reflect and act upon these ideals, beliefs, and societal concerns at the 31st São Paulo Biennial.

The biennial will open its doors on September 6th in the Ciccillo Matarazzo Pavilion. This year the pavilion has been divided in three architectural zones: the Park, Ramp and Columns, providing three distinctly different environments for viewers to encounter this artistic development and discourse.

The Park Credits: 31ABienal

The Park
Source: 31ABienal

The Ramp Credits: 31ABienal

The Ramp
Source: 31ABienal

The Columns Credits: 31ABienal

The Columns
Source: 31ABienal

That said, the participants have their work cut out for them and I for one cannot wait to see their creations! So don’t stray away from Brazil just yet, and stay tuned for more updates on the 31st São Paulo Biennial

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Sadequain at AICON, New York

Josheen Oberoi visits AICON Gallery’s expansive Sadequain exhibition

New York: It’s been a quiet month in the New York art world. With half the community decamping to Art Basel and the rest distracted by the blessed warm weather (we had a tough winter here!); interesting shows have been relatively thin on the ground. Not for South Asian art, thankfully. AICON Gallery is showing a mini retrospective of the Pakistani artist Syed Sadequain (1930-1987) and I was excited to see it not only for the quality of art but also the rarity of having access to such a body of work.

Occupying the entire expansive space of AICON’s Lower East Side gallery, this exhibit shows the gamut of Sadequain’s oeuvre. One of Pakistan’s most celebrated modernist artists, Sadequain was born in 1930 in Amroha, east of Delhi, in a family of calligraphers. He subsequently moved to Pakistan after his graduation from Agra University in 1948. He shot to fame at the young age of 31, when his work won recognition at the 1961 Paris Biennale.

A self-taught artist, he is most commonly identified with the development of a uniquely idiomatic calligraphic aesthetic. However, his visual language is in fact one of the most variegated and complex of the South Asian modernists working post 1947. He simultaneously worked through a variety of calligraphic, narrative, abstract registers, with artistic influences that ranged from multiple mediums; poetry, Western and South Asian historical artistic traditions. His compatriot, collaborator and famed poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz stated about his work, “In spite of his considerable pre-occupation with the solution of technical formal problems, Sadequain has never been purely a formal painter. Recordist, abstractionist, social critic, emotional visionary, within a few short years, Sadequain has sped from one role or compulsion to another with equal impetuosity.”

Three standing figures

Three Standing Figures, 1966, Oil on canvas, 72 x 48 inches Image courtesy: AICON Gallery, New York

Sadequain’s engagement with language was seminal to his work and this is visible in this exhibition. Comprising twenty seven paintings and three drawings, the show is dominated by a collection of paintings from the 1960s, when Sadequain lived and worked in Paris. Titled The Lost Exhibition, this set of eight paintings are dancing figures of calligraphy; lyrical despite their scale. These works are considered examples of what the artist called “Calligraphic Cubism”. Employing the scratched surface technique on the background, the texture produces volume and three- dimensionality. Seemingly caught in action, the elongated movement of the script along the vertical axis make these works appear monumental in viewing. Sadequain described himself as a figurative painter and the dramatic execution of the Arabic Kufic script in these works, the ensuing conversations that are taking place on the canvas, did bring home that idea to me. These are the strongest works in the exhibit and definitely worth a dekko.

Man with Dagger, Oil on canvas, 54 x 30 inches Image courtesy: AICON Gallery

Man with Dagger, Oil on canvas, 54 x 30 inches
Image courtesy: AICON Gallery

Some of Sadequain’s formally figurative works are also part of this exhibition and these underline the remarkable range of his visual vernacular. Line, form, perspective – I was hard won to find a singly unifying element among these paintings. One of the more striking of these was Man With Dagger, showing a man holding a dagger in one hand and a head that resembles his own in the other, accompanied by a smaller figure of a woman holding a leaf. These muscular renderings, so different from The Lost Exhibition, are echoed in another set of calligraphic paintings in the exhibition, Untitled (Abstract Formation I and II). Interestingly, the image of a severed head is repeated in one of the works on paper, Untitled, Headless Self-Portrait. It clearly shows the headless artist in a studio, with a work of calligraphy in the background.

Untitled, Abstract Formation 1, c. 1960, Oil on canvas, 25.5 x 16 inches Image courtesy: AICON Gallery, New York

Untitled, Abstract Formation 1, c. 1960, Oil on canvas, 25.5 x 16 inches
Image courtesy: AICON Gallery, New York

Untitled, Headless Self Portrait, 1967, Ink on Paper, 28 x 20 inches Image courtesy: AICON Gallery, New York

Untitled, Headless Self Portrait, 1967, Ink on Paper, 28 x 20 inches
Image courtesy: AICON Gallery, New York

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 1962, an edition of the Parisian newspaper Le Figaro rightly noted, “Sadequain adds up the impression of space, density, volume and the reality of matter, which transforms an abstract thought into a material fact in plastic.” He shifted the paradigms of calligraphy, especially in his realization of its abstracted and stylized forms. This post cannot effectively capture the entire spectrum of his languages and so I would strongly recommend a trip down to the gallery to see them yourself if you’re in New York.

You can learn more about Sadequain at the Sadequain Foundation website (co sponsor of this exhibition) and from this article by art historian Iftikhar Dadi.

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Beirut Art Fair 2014 Showcases the Tiny and Beautiful of Contemporary Indian Art

Elizabeth Prendiville of Saffronart discusses the Indian Pavilion in the upcoming Beirut Art Fair

Beirut Art Fair 2014 Photo courtesy of Beirut Art Fair.

Beirut Art Fair 2014
Photo courtesy of Beirut Art Fair.

 This September Lebanon will once again thrive as a major cultural hotspot in the global art community with the 5th edition of the Beirut Art Fair. Held at the Beirut International Exhibition Leisure Center, the fair will represent the most contemporary and innovative work from the local and international art markets. As it grows in popularity the Beirut Art Fair is proving more and more to be a vessel of booming international art sales, meshing together buyers and artists from both the Western and Eastern art markets. Last year, the 4th edition of the fair, displayed galleries from 14 countries and welcomed over 18,000 guests. Leading collectors throughout the Middle East and beyond flock to this event, because it assembles a global showcase of work in a creatively liberated environment.

Beirut Art Fair 2014 Photo courtesy of Beirut Art Fair.

Beirut Art Fair 2014
Photo courtesy of Beirut Art Fair.

In past years, the fair has focused primarily on a wealth of offerings from local galleries. However, there is a growing trend for outside influences. Last year the fair featured a South East Asia pavilion curated by Richard Koh. This year the focus will be the Indian Pavilion curated by Fabrice Bousteau. Bousteau’s previous credits include co-curating “Paris-Delhi-Bombay:India Through The Eyes of Indian and French Artists” at Paris’ Centre Pompidou focusing on the Indian subcontinent. The curator’s approach to the Indian Pavilion will break away from the now-typical rhythm and layout of traditional art fairs. He plans to channel a cabinet of curiosities, displaying a wide range of sizes and mediums. Bousteau’s vision of small and ornate rather than large and dramatic purposefully goes against what he believes is a trend in contemporary Indian art. “It will represent the Indian art scene from Subodh Gupta, the star, to the youngest Indian artists…the concept of the exhibition is to create a cabinet of curiosities. Indian artists love to make enormous sculptures…The idea was to [exhibit] some very small things, for a number of reasons, one of which is a question of budget…The idea is that small art is beautiful” Bousteau told The Daily Star. This shift away from large pieces should present an opportunity for less represented artists or artists with a different artistic process to be shown. The curator utilizes themes in traditional Hinduism as well as drawing comparisons between the Middle East and Indian societal makeup to select the works that will be presented. This nuanced curatorial approach may make the Indian Pavilion the creative focal point of Beirut.

By going against the grain in terms of classic fair curating, the Indian Pavilion may be tapping into a new buyer experience. How will art sales change if the offerings of a fair are depicted as a museum or private collection rather than a commerce-driven gallery? This is surely a more thoughtful and engaging methodology. The Beirut Art Fair 2014, and the Indian Pavilion specifically, will clearly be a pivotal event in the international art world this year. The Beirut Art Fair will run September 18th-21st, for more information about the fair please click here.

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