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

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 years of working on 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.

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

Behind the Picture

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—succintly—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.

 

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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