Chitra Ganesh Reveals Her Art

Elisabetta Marabotto of Saffronart following the recent exhibition at Gallery Espace in New Delhi, examines the intricate art of Chitra Ganesh 

London: Colourful yet dark are perhaps some of the adjectives which best describe Chitra Ganesh’s art which is characterized by dichotomies. As such, her comic-like characters, often embedded with dark and disruptive connotations, are the main subjects of her works. In few words we are always quite unsettled and surprised in front of a Chitra Ganesh’s work. In a good way.

Chitra Ganesh, Matahari, 2011

Chitra Ganesh, Matahari, 2011. Image Credit:

In a recent interview with Neelam Raaj of the Times of India, Ganesh discusses and explains her art.

Born in New York from Indian parents, Ganesh through her multi-media works, plays with her “dual-identity” to express her self, and to better understand and communicate to her audience. However, despite her upbringing she is still considered “exotic” in America while the Indian audience finds her themes and characters quite familiar and easily recognisable.

Chitra Ganesh, The Exquisite Cruelty of Time, 2010

Chitra Ganesh, The Exquisite Cruelty of Time, 2010. Image Credit:

Her vivid artist vocabulary draws on Indian and American comics, Indian myths, religious iconography and much more, however a special attention is given to the “Amar Chitra Katha” comic book. After reading it again as a grown up woman, Ganesh paid attention to so many details she didn’t notice when she was younger. For example the female characters were depicted as pious figures yet scantily clad, and the rakshasis were depicted dark and the devis fair. So the artist realised that children books have more power than we think and through fairy tales they let us unconsciously accept stereotypes and set ideas. However not all of them are “bad”, in fact some children stories hold subversive meanings.

Ganesh hence decided to give power and prime role to those heroines who have been waiting all of this time at the side of powerful men. So, at least in her work she changed the history and went against the general expectations and replaced the Greek god Atlas and Hanuman with female characters!

Chitra Ganesh, Fingerprints, 2007

Chitra Ganesh, Fingerprints, 2007. Image Credit:

The artist also came to terms that now is the right time to make rebellion a long-term project and not a small act. She said “I now want to change things in a long-term way.”

Finally Ganesh noted that her intention is not to shock the audience but to openly include every aspect of our life in her narrative.

Chitra Ganesh, Madhubala, 2007

Chitra Ganesh, Madhubala, 2007. Image Credit:

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Memoir: Progressive Artist Group

Shradha Ramesh takes a leap into the past to reveal the men behind the Modern Indian Art movement

New York: The trailblazer collection by Delhi Art Gallery (DAG), Progressive Artist Group, is now on display in Kalaghoda, Mumbai, from October 26, 2013 to December 25, 2013.A visual repertoire of 30,000 works the exhibit follows a retrospective theme of the Progressive Artists’ Group (PAG). Mumbai was the epicenter for this group that started in 1947, the exhibit is aptly located in the city the group was formed.

PROGRESSIVE ARTIST GROUP (PAG) | MUMBAI  1948 First show inaugrated by Sir Cowasji Jehangir

Photo Courtesy: KalaRasa Art House
PROGRESSIVE ARTIST GROUP (PAG) | MUMBAI 1948 First show inaugurated by Sir Cowasji Jehangir
(L to R: Emmanuel Schelinger, F N Souza, M B Gade, S Bakre, K H Ara, S H Raza, M F Hussain, Anant Kannangi)

PAG saw the light of visual maestros such as F N Souza, SH Raza, MF Husain, SK Bakre, HA Gade and KH Ara who rule the modern art market today. The other members who joined later were Vasudeo S. Gaitonde, Krishen Khanna and Mohan Samant.The group introduced anarchic thinking that leaned towards Indian avant-garde expression that introduced Indian art at an international level. It broke away from the nationalistic revival canons introduced by Bengal School of art and engaged in freedom of creation. Influenced by European modernism the group’s style is vast and ranges from Cubism to Abstract Expressionism. The founding pillars of the Progressive Artist Group (PAG) are Francis Newton Souza, Sayed Haider Raza and Maqbool Fida Husain.

 FRANCIS NEWTON SOUZA | Untitled | a) c.1965 b) 1997

FRANCIS NEWTON SOUZA | Untitled|a) c.1965 b) 1997

Goan born artist, Francis Newton Souza was recognized both in India and abroad. His artworks are known to be forthright and individualistic stylistic rendition of semi-abstract forms. The human forms in his works are unrealistic with multiple eyes and hands it created a sensation during his time. When asked about western influence in his work, he responded saying “Renaissance painters painted men and women making them look like angels. I paint for angels, to show them what men and women really look like.”



Sayed Haider Raza is known to introduce Bindhu to a new visual medium. On his canvas the Bindhu takes a new meaning, it creates a transcendental and enticing impact on the viewers. When asked about the Bindhu and its significance in his work, Raza said “For me, Bindu is a point where I concentrate, my energy, my mind. It has become like Bhagvat Gita, Swadharm and all that. You have to fix your energy on one thing and not ten things. If you go to ten directions, it’s distraction of energy. I think one woman is enough (laughs).If you say Ram Ram Ram and Allah Allah Allah, you will get confused. So one god is enough. For me Bindu has never done the same thing. There is logic in every abstract form that I make. My work is like poetry and it should create a different atmosphere for the visitor. Poetry, literature and art seem simple but it is very difficult to understand it.”  Coincidentally, Saffronart’s winter online auction this December is focusing on SH Raza.



Picasso of India, Maqbool Fida Husain (MF Hussain) is known to have revolutionized the painting in India with his hallmark works that capture the quintessence of his subjects, like Mother Teresa and the characters of epics like the Mahabharata. MF Husain explains about his Mother Teresa series, “I have tried to capture in my paintings what her presence meant to the destitute and the dying, the light and hope she brought by mere inquiry, by putting her hand over a child abandoned in the street. I did not cry at this encounter. I returned with so much strength and sadness that it continues to ferment within. That is why I try it again and again, after a gap of time, in a different medium” (as quoted in Ila Pal, Beyond the Canvas: An Unfinished Portrait of M.F. Husain, South Asia Books, New Delhi, 1994).
DAG was started by Rama Anand in 1993 and later was taken over by his son Ashish Anand. The gallery in Mumbai is 150 years old in artsy neighborhood that suits the overarching theme of the exhibit. To experience the peregrination of Modern Indian Art visit DAG Mumbai.

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Black on Black: F. N.Souza, Race and Creativity in Post-War Britain

Ambika Rajgopal of Saffronart shares a note on the panel discussion centered around F. N. Souza’s Black on Black Paintings at the Courtauld Institute of Art, London.

London: The frenetic, art enriched environment of the Frieze week bought with it an intensely engaging evening at the Courtauld Institute of Art, London. The panel discussion drew together three different academics; all tied together through their knowledge of the prolific Indian artist Francis Newton Souza. The speakers: Gilane Tawadros, the Founding Director at Iniva, London; Zehra Jumabhoy, PhD candidate at the Courtauld Institute of Art; and Philip Vann, an art historian from Cambridge analysed how Souza’s paintings fit into debates about Black-ness in British Art from the 1960s onwards.

This discussion was timed to coincide with Grosvenor Gallery’s exhibition, F.N Souza: Black on Black Paintings, which was on view till 28 October. A selection of the Black on Black Paintings were also featured in their gallery’s booth at the Frieze Masters. The exhibition attempts to resurrect Souza’s 1966 exhibition Black Art and Other Paintings at Grosvenor Gallery. Since then, this is the first time these black monochromatic works have been presented together. Created in London, between 1964 and 1965, these artworks marked a significant period in Souza’s career.

Black is the most mysterious of all colours. Renoir found it impossible and said a spot of black was like a hole in the painting. I cannot agree: colour is now disturbing in a bad way. –F. N. Souza, Paint it Black, Review of Black Art and Other paintings, The Observer, May 15, 1966

The panel discussion discussed Souza’s amalgamation of Indian modernism with the Post-War climate of grimness as the source of inspiration of his Black Paintings. Souza’s time in London, from 1949 to 1967, involved spending a great deal of time at the National Gallery, confronted by works of European masters, most notably Rembrandt, Vermeer and Goya. Some critics think that Francisco de Goya’s Pinturas Negras or black paintings, painted in the final years of the Spanish artist’s lifetime, had an enormous influence on Souza’s Black Paintings. Other critics argue that it was Ad Reinhardt, who also did a series of black works, who influenced Souza. Though the source of inspiration behind these works is disputed, one thing that stands clear is Souza’s intention to jolt the consciousness of the viewer.

Another important aspect of Souza’s work that the discussion brought to light was the role that race played in the creation of his Black Paintings. Souza’s work existed in the structural framework of Post-War British politics. At this time incidents like the Notting Hill race riots of 1957 and general discriminatory attitudes towards non- British perhaps played in the mind of Souza. His paintings could be seen as the culmination of his interest in the politics of colour.

Stylistically difficult to execute, as well as view, these works provide a dimension to the artist’s own troubled life which was filled with financial difficulties and personal problems. This body of work requires a lot of participation on part of the viewer in order to reveal itself. The interaction between the light and the textured brushstrokes require a certain angle, which can be caught by the eye only when viewed from certain positions. Souza’s partner at the time, Barbara Zinkant wrote, “Souza would place lamps around the paintings and would view them from different angles”

The talk provided a structural framework through which Souza’s Black Paintings could be viewed. The discussion was followed by a question and answer session, which was led by the Director of the Courtauld Institute of Art, Professor Deborah Swallow. The audience engaged in the discussion by providing alternate points of view to the discussion.


Kanika Pruthi of Saffronart explores the fantastical world of Naina Kanodia’s works and highlights the artist’s commitment to the genre of L’Art Naif

Naina Kanodia, Mumtaz Mahal, 2009, Oil on Canvas, 48 x 36 in.
Image Credit:$178

New York: Indian artist Naina Kanodia’s fantastical works seem to celebrate the simplicity of mundane everyday lives of people all over India. A first glance invokes a sense of cheer and gaiety, the color palette induce a celebratory aura while the imagery, laden with patterns and details, invite the gaze to hover all over the painting.  But an understanding of Kanodia’s artistic choices and larger discourse reveals complex and intriguing ways to further delve into her works.

An economist turned painter, Kanodia is one of the few Indian artists committed to the genre of L’Art Naif, also known as Naïve Art. One of the early and internationally recognized practitioners of this genre was Henri Rousseau, the French Post-Impressionist painter. Naïve Art is characterized by a simplistic, even childlike, depiction of everyday life. The dismissal of visual perspective, use of vibrant hues, plethora of patterns and emphasis on details lend the works the feel of a storybook. But it is by employing these visual devices that the artist constructs a commentary on the contemporary lifestyle of their times. A closer investigation reveals how these scenes explore complex societal dilemmas and changes.

Kanodia’s works display a commitment to Indianess in its use of colors, patterns and themes. Her discourse focuses on the dichotomy of contemporary India- with deep rooted traditions that coexist with a constant influx of western influence. The artist aims to incorporate the confluence of these two distinct tangents that exist simultaneously in her immediate surroundings.

Kanodia uses a variety of media- pastels, watercolors and oils. The characteristic color palette associated with her works results from a four layer technique employed by the artist. This method helps her to control the hue and opacity of colors in her works, avoiding a sensory overload. Her dexterity to achieve a balanced palette of vibrant colors evidences her superior skills in handling a variety of mediums.

 ImageNaina Kanodia, Me and My Boyfriend, 2009, Oil on Canvas, 48 x 36 in.
Image Credit:$181

Another characteristic feature of Kanodia’s oeuvre is the patterns she employs to populate her scenes. These are not random decorative features but rather the key that reveals the narrative in her works. Certain flowers bring to mind Ara’s work while a view of a room references Van Gogh’s own bedroom – elements interjected into an urban Indian living space, pointing towards the global lifestyle of the occupants. There are paintings that show works of renowned painters alongside images of India’s burgeoning urban elites- perhaps referencing their exuberant lifestyle with easy access to the finer things in life.

Naina Kanodia, Success, 2012, Oil on Canvas, 46 x 36 in.
Image Credit:

The artist has held several group shows and solo exhibitions since the mid 1980s. Her works are included in several Indian and international museums and collections including the prestigious National Gallery of Modern Art in India and Musee International d’Art Naif in Paris. The continued relevance of Kanodia’s works can be attributed to the wit and gentle satire she has mastered to capture the contemporary nuances of the many Indias that coexist together.

Paris Art Week Takes On New International Contemporary Markets

 Elizabeth Prendiville shares news about the Paris Art Week and the FIAC Art Fair

Mona Hatoum Projection (velvet), 2013 Silk velvet and mild steel 97 x 162 cm Read more at

Mona Hatoum
Projection (velvet), 2013
Silk velvet and mild steel
97 x 162 cm

New York: In this season of abundant international art fairs, Paris is the most recent destination for stunning contemporary art and culture. The 40th year of the Foire Internationale d’Art Contemporain (FIAC) was held this past weekend in Paris. Although its opening ceremonies followed the notorious Frieze art fair in London, this art fair stands apart historically and stylistically. With a forty-year tradition of showcasing the most premier performances, artists, galleries and art institutions, the FIAC is a yearly must for any international art fair enthusiast.

Dan Rees Vue de Solo pr, 2010 exhibition view Photo : Aur Read more at

Dan Rees
Vue de Solo pr, 2010
exhibition view
Photo : Aur

In past years the fair has had a specifically French focus and displayed mostly established French artists and galleries. This year an upward trend in artists outside of the country bodes well for the South East Asian Contemporary Art market as well as other destinations. 70% of the exhibitions are now from other international markets. This expansion is bringing in a new buyer community as well as forging a new opportunity for fair loyalists. In addition to this new trend on non-French contemporary art communities, a number of new fair programs and events have sparked. It is a given that the more international markets are incorporated, the more opportunity there will be for innovative performances and speakers. With this increase in international exhibitors Paris was the jewel of the international contemporary art market worldwide this past weekend.

Tony Cragg Cubic Early Form, 2011 bronze 102 x 105 x 120 cm the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery Read more at

Tony Cragg
Cubic Early Form, 2011
102 x 105 x 120 cm
the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery

Galleries that exhibited this week include Herve Perdriolle Gallery, White Cube, Pace Gallery, David Zwirner and New Galerie. In addition to the traditional gallery booths in the fair, a number of other programs affiliated and unaffiliated with the FIAC took place. This included outdoor programming, film screenings, performances, installations, public art and a number of conference panels.

To learn more about this year’s fair, please visit the FIAC website here.

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