In conversation: Shumita and Arani Bose with Dinesh Vazirani

Josheen Oberoi shares a recording of a talk between Shumita and Arani Bose and Dinesh Vazirani 

New York: Saffronart hosted a preview for their forthcoming Autumn Art Auction, last Saturday in New York. The auction, which will take place on September 24th-25th, includes Property from the Collection of Shumita and Arani Bose, the co-founders of Bose Pacia and features seminal works of contemporary artists that define an epoch in South Asian artistic narratives. Established in 1994, Bose Pacia was the first gallery in the West specializing exclusively in contemporary South Asian art. Over the past two decades, Bose Pacia has held over 80 exhibitions and is internationally regarded for promoting the South Asian avant-garde.

The evening began with a conversation between the co-founder of Saffronart, Dinesh Vazirani and Shumita and Arani Bose that discussed their collecting practice and it’s inspirations, the changing landscape of South Asian art and the way forward with their +91 Foundation.  The audio and transcript of the talk follows.

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Transcript:

Date: September 14th, 2013

Location: New York City

Dinesh Vazirani: Thank you all for coming. This is an informal discussion with Shumita and Arani, its great to have them here. Let me introduce you, Arani and Shumita. Dr. Arani Bose and Mrs. Shumita Bose, co-founders of Bose Pacia. Established in 1994, Bose Pacia was the first gallery in the West specializing exclusively in contemporary South Asian art, over the past two decades Bose Pacia has held over 80 exhibitions and it is internationally regarded for promoting the South Asian avant-garde. The gallery fosters an active discourse between the contemporary South Asian arts and the international art community by featuring exhibitions that can contextualize contemporary art from this geographic region within its rich artist traditions and current social tensions. The Shumita and Arani Bose collection, you’re just seeing a part of it here, is one of the largest and most comprehensive South Asian contemporary collections in the US. With strands both in the pre independence and post-colonial spheres the collection can be viewed as a survey of the most pivotal artistic developments in the Indian subcontinent. With outstanding examples of visual art ranging from photography, painting and new media to sculpture and installation the collection represents dynamic strands of artistic practice and discourse. So welcome, Arani and Shumita.

Arani Bose: Thank you.

Dinesh Vazirani: I want to go back a long way. What got you interested in art?

Arani Bose: We were always kind of interested in art in the theoretical sense that we would go to galleries and museums and then I had a particular connection to the art world in India particularly because of my father and my uncle who was Arun Bose. He was a product of the Government Art College in Calcutta and for 30 years he was the head of the graphics department at Lehman College and Pratt institute before that. There was a certain tendency to be interested in art from a family stand point. Then in the early 90’s after Shumita and I were married…

Dinesh Vazirani: And what year was that, which you got married?

Shumita Bose: Oh boy, that was a long time. 1989.

AB: So we went to India and we didn’t want to spend all our time at the homes of relatives so we asked my uncle in New York, “give us something to do when were there” He said “well you can visit these galleries in all of these cities” so we said “Ok great” took down the names, so we visited. We took pictures of the work that we saw there, there was quite a lot of compelling stuff there and when we came back we were hanging out with our best friends Steve, who’s right there.

DV: Hi Steve!

AB: He asked a question when seeing our photos from our trip, “this particular artist, I’m sure I could get this artist here, I’d love to get this painting; I wonder who sells this work? Or represents this artist”. So that lead to an investigation of how to get that work and as you know that was impossible in 1993 to find. There was no representation of Indian or South Asian artists in New York or anywhere outside of India for that matter. And that was true at the gallery level, at the museum level and I came to realize that when we started to investigate and look for that. That started the whole process.

DV: Shumita, what about you? Was it only Arani?

SB: No.

DV: You know husband and wife. Both my wife and I are at the same business, Saffronart. How do you reconcile your differences in taste and the way you look at art? Are there arguments or is it always big hugs at the end of it?

SB: I’d say in that taste we have a similar aesthetic. Also with a lot of these were personal relationships with artists aside from the aesthetic sense of the work. A lot of them are friends of ours and you get interested in the thoughts and ideas it often goes beyond just pictures that you want. So both of us along with Steve felt that we wanted to support these artists. A lot of times we would purchase things that we hadn’t even seen, but conceptually it seemed interesting or we just believed in their work.

AB: A lot of people ask how I handle a work, of this scale in my home. Frankly, we often don’t. There are storage facilities for that. Then people ask why would you buy an art work to put in storage? That makes no sense. The answer is really, you’re buying a work because you believe in the vision of the artist and that is what we both agreed on. The artist, the vision and then, the work was in a sense superfluous to that.

DV: Since the opening of the gallery in 1994 how do you think the collector base for modern and contemporary South Asian work has evolved? Especially in the United States?

AB: When we started there was, perhaps, because Steve and I both have a medical connection, many of the collectors were Indian physicians.

DV: That’s interesting

SB: We should say physician.

AB: Yes that’s right. Indian physician.

SB: A very important Indian physician.

AB: It started out as often in a venture, being supported by one angel essentially. We had that angel. That gave us time to explore avenues, other avenues and nurture those relationships with other people and often times they were not United States based people, European collectors. It grew from there. Primarily for many years, it was primarily an Indian or South Asian collecting base and then starting from 2000 it started to broaden into a European and Asian collector base.

DV: If you could just explain to us briefly about how your strategy of collecting art has changed over these years. If I look at the gallery itself you had representation of Souza at one time, then you had contemporary artists, then you had Arpita, so it was a cross over from Modern to Contemporary. Has that influenced the way you have collected art? The interactions with these artists and what had happened over this last decade and a half?

AB: Yes. It definitely has impacted. The relationship with the artist is a major impact.

SB: I think we also felt, since at that time we were really the only window into South Asian contemporary art at that time, even though we had a tiny space in Soho we felt it was important to have a permanent space where people could come and consistently see good shows. We felt that it was important to see the development of contemporary Indian art. So it was important to show the modern painters, Souza, Husain and kind of educate people in the sense of where it’s coming from, what the trajectory was. I think consciously we had several shows from Souza to Husain to Bengal school and others that we felt were important just as a background to all these other contemporary artists.

AB: And in a sense one of the most pivotal shows that we had was Kalighat paintings. It was about eight to ten Kalighat works that Steve, Shumita and I acquired from Ram Gopal, this famous Bharatnatyam dancer based in the UK at the time. We went to London. None of us at the time could really afford to take a trip to London, we were residents or newly minted attendings in medicine and Shumita was a newly minted software engineer. We used our Visa card and bought these tickets to London to go see these shows, to go see this collection. We were notified of this collection by Vijay Kumar.

SB: Also I must say, he was a very important person for the gallery.

AB: Yes, as many of you may know, he’s a New York artist. He called one day and said that there is this collection of this Indian dancer in London, and you should go, and you might be interested in it. We called this guy and went to see this collection and we bought the collection as soon as we saw it and showed it to the British museum after buying it. T. Richard Blurton of the British Museum was curator at the time; he was flabbergasted that these punks from New York could swoop into London and grab this incredible work from London, and take it away. So the show got a write up in the New York Times. But it was a book that was published by the Victorian & Albert Museum called “Kalighat paintings” by Archer- in that book there were two pages, one of a Kalighat painting and the other of almost identical brushwork, almost, and the subject matter was quite similar, of Lejeune. That image of Kalighat painting, done c. 1850 and a Lejeune done c. 1910-1915 was so identical that it had to have been seen by Lejeune. The essence of that statement was so antithetical to what was being said at the time- that all Indian art production, it was felt in 1994, was derivative of the West. And this was a wonderful example of not only the untruth of that statement but the fact that it goes both ways. The West can derive from India or South Asia just as easily as South Asia can derive from the West. It was that sense of injustice, intellectual injustice that was the driving force of a lot of Bose Pacia and a lot of +91.

DV: Which we will get to in a bit. You know, you were one of the first galleries that represented Indian artists in the West. What was the reaction of artists when you approached them about exhibiting in New York?

SB: It started with Art India Now, which I think was  back in 1993. We literally went to Calcutta and Delhi and much of it was thanks to Arun who had made some introductions to a lot of the Calcutta artists and we literally went from studio to studio. We had no funds to do this; we had no means of acquiring works. We just had an idea and a passion for doing it.

DV: Because artists weren’t mobile at that time.

AB: They weren’t mobile. So Steve, Mita and I would walk into Jogen Chowdhury’s house in Santiniketan and the reception would always start out being a warm reception, as it’s a Bengali house, but then beyond that it would be “ok this is very interesting please sit down have some tea, what can I do for you” and we would say “I have this gallery, I have this idea of promoting Indian art” and it’s 1994 remember, “we’re hoping to consign some work to take to the United States”. That did not go over well.

DV: You mean the work has to leave India?

AB: Yes, the work has to leave India. And then it was always about a two hour discussion and conversation and then suddenly; we remember this vividly, there was a turn and it happened almost in every instance, in every meeting, in every home over this cup of tea. Whether it’s Ganesh Haloi or Jogen Chowdhury, anybody… and the turn could be demarcated with a line. After those two hours of talking about what we were going to do, there is suddenly a realization. “Ok you’re trust worthy” and work starts to come out.

SB: I remember him pulling out drawings from beneath his bed.

AB: Under his bed! He brings out art work and goes “you gotta see this one painting, this is amazing”. So we were able to come back.

SB: Everyone was very generous and we ended up with one or two works from eighteen artists. We had the show called “Art India Now”

DV: Was that your first show?

SB: Well, our first show was called “Beyond India: Two Generations of Modern Art” and it was Vinod Dave and Arun Bose. We had rented a space in Soho, we didn’t have a permanent space at that time. We had 500 people at the opening, it was amazing. We had scrambled up a mailing list and had never hung a show before, hung this a couple of times. But the energy was amazing.

DV: I remember with Saffronart, the first showing was on the terrace of my building in Mumbai. We strung things together and just made it happen. But even you’ve been in the gallery world a while, you’ve been a collector, how do these two roles evolve? And what influences have they had on each other?

AB: I suppose the collecting, the gallerist’s role is, at least for us, an attempt to provide a professional platform, a commercial platform to showcase South Asian contemporary art the way it should be showcased. And back in 1994 there was no platform outside of India. With proper labels on the wall, in a proper gallery setting, not in somebody’s apartment or somebody’s living room. We felt that if the artwork was going to be taken seriously it had to be shown seriously with proper press releases, etc. That was the intent with showcasing the work. And then at the time there was such a discrepancy between the perceived value of the work and the monetization of the work. Work was selling for under 5,000, under 10,000 when it was being produced by one of the most talented artists from a billion people. It was a no brainer to us that this was ridiculous; it should be valued much higher. There was a point that we just couldn’t afford to buy the work ourselves. If we could, Steve, Shumita and I would have bought everything. Then we wouldn’t be able to keep the gallery doors open, so we had to sell. As we each got to a point in our careers where we could afford to buy some work, we bought work. Really, because we always knew that it was amazing work and then our budget caught up with what we wanted to do. We often sold work and then bought it back because we believed that it was still undervalued.

DV: When you’ve seen the progression of starting with more of the modern works and then you have contemporary, video art, installation, you have new media. How do you see the collectors evolving and appreciating this movement of art across genres, as a gallerist? You see new collectors developing new tastes and collections that they actually want to build. Have you seen them actually appreciating the new media as much as they do the modern and contemporary?

SB: I think recently more so. In the beginning, way back in the 90’s or 2000, it was definitely Latin American art or other genres, and it was typically from the auction catalog and it was the moderns who were selling at that point. Those were the artists that collectors would tend to start buying but then we saw over the years there hadn’t been that many shows of media artists. We started showing Raqs Media Collective or Shilpa Gupta for the first time. That was in about 2005, 2004. 2006. That was really one of the first times for Raqs Media Collective; they hadn’t really shown in India at that point.

AB: They had only shown at the Venice Biennale. We met them soon after the Venice Biennale.

SB: Ranbir Kaleka, an amazing artist and really one of the first artists anywhere in the world who did this incredible merging of painting and video; almost enhancing painting, adding things to painting, to a canvas that you can’t achieve.

AB: These were people that were pushing the barriers of art in ways that other people were not doing. That fact had to be acknowledged and supported. It really almost didn’t matter if it was new media or video installation or painting; they were doing something so novel that it had to be supported, because novelty and true inspirational work needs to be supported. The west or the non-sub continental west, is better at doing that because they expend the resource that’s necessary.

SB: Well, they’ve been doing it longer.

AB: Yes, they’ve been doing it longer and they expend what’s necessary to foster that type of collector. In South Asia, not- in South Asia or out of South Asia, we don’t really have the tendency to foster those kinds of collectors and that’s our fault. We need to.

DV: Some of the reasons for that? Why are we not able to foster them?

AB:  I think the institutions for fostering those types of collectors don’t exist within India and outside of India. I was having a conversation earlier today about MOMA PS1- every small town in America has a contemporary art museum, every small village in Germany has a kunsthalle and there is not a single non-governmental, non-bureaucratic , grass roots effort in all of South Asia to develop that sense of collecting.

DV: There’s no public art either in India.

SB: Also I think in terms of getting a tax deduction…

DV: There isn’t that in India.

SB: Philanthropy, the support of it.

AB: That may be why we don’t have a lottery system like they do in the UK

DV: Or a system for grants; that doesn’t exist. Let’s just come back to you. What is the first painting you ever bought?

SB: Salma Arastu, an artist based in Pennsylvania

DV: And where is that? Is it hanging or in storage?

SB: We still have it; it was hanging for many years in the apartment.

DV: As you look at the collection here which are some of your favorites?

AB: Air Show is a favorite.

SB: Steve’s favorite too. The shutters are amazing. Ranbir, one of the most incredible painters to come out of India I feel. Nataraj, Seher… we have personal connections with so many artists that it’s hard to pick.

DV: Tell us about the relationships with artists you have built over time…some interesting anecdotes of these artists that you interacted with?

SB: Jitish is a good one. We visited him, after midnight.

AB: Jitish, yes. I used to make about five trips to India a number of years ago. Jitish Kallat, his studio used to be in Worli and Steve and I have gone out to the studio multiple times. It was about a two and a half hour commute, at the time, from central and Southern Bombay out to his studio. I would do it late at night; we would always end up very late at his studio drinking. One such visit he said “ I have this idea, for this work, I want to take mirrored surfaces, large mirrored surfaces and write on them the text from Nehru’s speech, the freedom at Midnight speech, and write in epoxy. I’ve done some investigations and I think it’s possible. Then I want to burn the epoxy and that will create a flame which will then indelibly mark the epoxy so that it is visible and it will warp the mirrored surface and that I think will be an interesting effect.” I had one too many drinks so I said that sounds like a fantastic idea. I’ll buy it. And he goes “yeah if you buy it then I can do it”. So I said ok. That work, now he’s done several like it, one of the works is called “Public Notice”. It’s a spectacular work, so that’s in our collection.

SB: That’s been one of the exciting things over all the years, just being able to make ideas happen. So many times with Atul, we felt it was our responsibility. As much as we could within our means to really push artists to do things that they normally wouldn’t do. Especially as the market got more and more strong and works were selling, it seemed it was even more important at that time. Because it was so easy to just keep making the same works that would so easily sell. So, often we would push Atul, one of the artists, from his project in Venice to his show at Bose Pacia, we would encourage him to “don’t worry about the sale, push the idea, just do it, just make it”. Mithu Sen with her It’s good to be queen show in New York; often those kinds of experiences. Bari Kumar with his five panel work that he was thinking about painting for years and he didn’t feel comfortable doing and we just said just do it and he painted this amazing five panel work. That has been for us very exciting and very rewarding.

DV: I’m going to ask one more question and then open it up to the audience, because it is six o’clock. Now talking about ideas, + 91, the Foundation. That’s an idea, something you’ve been thinking about for a long time.

AB: It has components that originate in what we have been doing for the last number of years. The gallery was and has been from early on and certainly in the latter years had been seen as a resource, a study center, as a place to do research on Indian contemporary art and it has been used by many people for their Masters, PhD dissertations and research in college and graduate school. So that aspect has been going on for some time. The idea that the artists, that the art space could be used as an interactive studio of sorts we have been investigating as Transparent Studio since Bose Pacia stopped its commercial operations. That’s an artist residency program where the artist uses the gallery space as a studio for about three months at a time. We have been loaning to institutions for a number of years. We’ve been keeping track since 2005. We’ve loaned from the collection to more than 50 institutions, hundreds of works of art, in five continents or so throughout the world. The Bose Archive has been an effort to take the collection and other collections and archive them, document them and make them accessible for research study purposes to the general public as an entity. The +91 idea, +91 is a nonprofit foundation we’re starting, +91 standing for the cell phone country code of India, that is an effort to bring all of these activities under one roof. To have a study center component, to have an archival component, to have an interactive component, to offer exhibition platforms all under one roof.

SB: Also, what we were talking about just before this, that idea of pushing artists… for us it’s always been such an important part and we’d like to continue that through the foundation. Working with artists that may not have commercial representation and allowing them to try out ideas and also artists that might be doing quite fine and continuing to push their practice as well.

AB: Yes, to encourage creative risk taking within the South Asian artistic community and to basically, as Sadia, our director of the foundation, who’s right here, put it quite elegantly “To mediate that risk taking between the artistic studio, the artistic practice and the general public”. That mediation is the best way to describe +91.

DV: Well thank you and congratulations on all the initiatives. I hope it really works out and does some great things. We can open it up for questions.

Audience question: I’m interested to hear – what the state of the collectors is now and was there an impact in terms of the financial crisis, not just from a financial point but as it’s caught on and everybody’s into it could become very flashy and materialistic instead of actually art.

AB: Yeah. Part of, let’s say before the crisis, the Indian subcontinent began, as the middle and upper class began to become larger they became to value the heritage of the country so there were a lot of Indian collectors. Simultaneous to that there was a huge influx of museum shows in Europe after the Tate Modern show that happened in 1999-2000 “Century City” after “Century City” there were shows everywhere Berlin, Barcelona, Manchester, Paris, Sweden all over Europe from 2000 onwards. That created a number of European collectors. As the market began to shift towards China, there are a number of Asian collectors. And then the crash affected everyone but by that time there was enough European Asian and South Asian collectors that it somewhat mitigated or allowed a bounce back a rapid bounce back of the market.

DV: I think there was a period, where especially before the financial crisis there was a lot of speculation in contemporary art, and after the crisis what I think we have are serious collectors. People look at it in a very different way as opposed to looking at it from one point of you. That’s why the point of view of Arani and Shumita is to encourage experimentation, let artists create something they are proud of as opposed to something they can sell. I think the whole mindset has changed; the way people buy contemporary art and the way contemporary art is produced.

Maximum Bose

Ipshita Sen of Saffronart shares a note on Bose Krishnamachari’s exhibition “Maximum Bose”

Bose Krishnamachari

Bose Krishnamachari. Image Credit:http://www.dnaindia.com/lifestyle/1483114/report-artist-bose-krishnamacharis-creative-strokes

New York: The co-founder of India’s first Biennale and the creator of the famous ‘Maximum Nano’- India’s first art car (which was auctioned at Saffronart on 29-30 July for over Rs 13 lakhs), renowned artist Bose Krishnamachari is in the spotlight with a solo show, after a gap of three years. The exhibition titled ‘Maximum Bose’ is on view at Gallery 7, Mumbai, and incorporates a simple output of 12 exemplary paintings by the artist, who explored the parameters of a circular frame for the very first time.

Maximum Nano, Bose Krishnamachari. Image Credit: http://www.saffronart.com/customauctions/PostWork.aspx?l=8603

Maximum Nano, Bose Krishnamachari. Image Credit: http://www.saffronart.com/customauctions/PostWork.aspx?l=8603

“I believe that colors can play a magical role and transform a body. They can sculpt something that is formless or abstract. They share positive vibes and represent maximum freshness, happiness, depth, layers and texture,” says the artist.

Bose Krishnamachari’s oeuvre radiates a kind of abstract dynamism that is electric.  His powerful use of rich opaque color, each shade vying for attention, whilst softly merging into one another, creates a surreal almost mesmerizing poetic language, which keeps one hooked.

He talks about the inspirations behind his bold usage of color “I refine my color to brightness. I have learnt this usage from the alternately subdued and lavish color codes of Indian ceremonies and ritual performances; the costumes, the gestures of enactment…”

Bose Krisnamachari, Untitled

Bose Krisnamachari, Untitled. Image Credit: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10151739716011343.1073741851.116545326342&type=3#!/photo.php?fbid=10151739717096343&set=a.10151739716011343.1073741851.116545326342&type=3&theater

After India’s first participation in the prestigious Venice Biennale in 2012, artists Bose Krishnamachari and Riyas Komu, having received support from the Government, initiated India’s first Biennale in the historically rich city of Kochi, Kerala. It kicked off on 12 December, 2012 (12/12/12) and carried on for 2 months. Featuring more than 90 artists, the art works not only adorned the white washed walls of galleries and warehouses, but also transformed public lots into spaces displaying art across different media and genres. In addition to several local Indian artists, the participating artists also came from the UAE, Afghanistan, UK, Australia and South Korea. The Biennale is thus an excellent platform for the contemporary arts in India for artists both locally and internationally, putting India on the map of art Biennales and dubbing it notable for a flourishing art market.

Bose Krisnamachari, Installation Shot @ Gallery 7

Bose Krisnamachari, Installation Shot @ Gallery 7. Image Credit: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10151739716011343.1073741851.116545326342&type=3#!/photo.php?fbid=10151739717016343&set=a.10151739716011343.1073741851.116545326342&type=3&theater

Bose Krishnamachari is an established and internationally acclaimed contemporary Indian artist from Kerala, India. He received his BFA from the Sir J.J. School of Art in Mumbai, followed by an MFA from Goldsmiths College, University of London. In addition to being an artist, Krishnamachari also curates exhibitions and art and design projects. He is passionate about supporting and promoting emerging contemporary Indian artists. He currently lives and works in Mumbai, India.

For more information about the exhibition visit the Gallery 7 website.

Additionally, three works by the artist are part of the upcoming StoryLTD Absolute Art Auction, powered by Saffronart, to be held on 7-8 August, 2013.

Chitra Ganesh’s Residency at Bose Pacia, New York

Kanika Pruthi of Saffronart discusses Chitra Ganesh’s fantastical works in light of her ongoing artist residency at Bose Pacia in New York City

Secrets, Chitra Ganesh, 2007

Secrets, Chitra Ganesh, 2007. Image Credit: http://www.chitraganesh.com/dc6.html

NEW YORK: Brooklyn based artist of Indian origin, Chitra Ganesh is the current artist- in residence at Bose Pacia in New York City as part of their Transparent Studio initiative, showing her works from June 18th to July 16th, 2013.

The Transparent Studio is an artist studio program founded by Bose Pacia where the selected artists are provided with a studio space in the main gallery. The intention of turning the transitional gallery space into a temporary artist studio is to enable an atmosphere of engagement and conversation around the creative process, allowing an opportunity to engage with the artist is the given set up.

Chitra Ganesh received her BA in Comparative Literature and Art Semiotics in 1996 and her MFA from Columbia University in 2002. Ganesh’s work has been exhibited widely at venues including PS 1/MOMA, Brooklyn Museum, the Asia Society, and the Andy Warhol Museum, Fondazione Sandretto in Italy, Nature Morte Berlin, ZKM in Germany, and the Gothenburg Kunsthalle.

Melancolia (Sorrows's Refrain), Chitra Ganesh, 2010

Melancolia (Sorrows’s Refrain), Chitra Ganesh, 2010. Image Credit: http://www.bosepacia.com/exhibitions/2013-06-18_transparent-studio-chitra-ganesh/selected-works/#/images/2/

Ganesh’s art and practice draws equally from her Indian roots as from her engagement with contemporary discourses regarding identity, the feminine, history and such. An adept multimedia artist, her works range from text based canvases, illustrations, prints, installations and collaborative projects. Her visual oeuvre serves a concoction of mythology, folklore, sci-fi, Indian bollywood, graffiti- drawn from her international experiences- a heady mix nonetheless a stimulating portion for a discerning connoisseurs’ palette .

The female protagonist is central to Ganesh’s work, reminiscent of the male super heroes of the comic book traditions. The ‘heroine’ often takes on the garb of the superhero- challenging and questioning societal norms and beliefs. The artist’s narrative is fuelled by her efforts to challenge the established canons- of history, literature, art, culture. The super ‘heroine’ of Ganesh’s works gives voice to the excluded narratives which are often relegated to the periphery of the ‘popular’ and ‘accepted’.

Tightrope, Chitra Ganesh, 2011

Tightrope, Chitra Ganesh, 2011. Image Credit: http://www.bosepacia.com/exhibitions/2013-06-18_transparent-studio-chitra-ganesh/selected-works/#/images/3/

A consistent element of Ganesh’s visuality is her adaptation of the comic book layout in her works. An important point of reference is the Indian Amar Chitra Katha comic series that the artist encountered early in her life. They present religious and cultural narratives based on Hindu mythology and Indian history. She combines these with her interest in Greek mythology, western fairy tales and fantasy literature. She skillfully adapts the popular comic book format to her large scale works. Her use of the comic script as a trope to infuse the otherwise playful visual with an intent and relevant narrative is one of the many high points of her practice.

The humor and lightness of the visual elements balance the weighty discourses she handles in her practice. The blown-up and larger than life scale of her works also references the multiple points of entry and focus. She uses the busy and sometimes overwhelming imagery to give material form to an abstract concept- which through this process becomes accessible to multiple viewers. The use of text in her works is an inviting point of reference which opens the eye to the fantastical landscape at view. The words interject her visual narrative, and the two elements together take the viewer on a journey that titillates multiple senses.

Bose Pacia will be hosting an open studio on 11th July 2013 where the artist will be present.

In Memoriam: S H Raza

raza

S H Raza (1922 – 2016)

“My attempt is to create an art which goes beyond time and place.”
—Syed Haider Raza (22 February 1922 – 23 July 2016)

S H Raza, one of India’s leading Modernists, passed away on 23 July 2016 at the age of 94.

Raza was, like his beloved Bindu, a vibrant and essential part of modern art in India. A founding member of the Bombay Progressive Artists’ Group, he redefined the notion of Modernism with his deeply spiritual and intellectual quest for artistic expression.

Haut de Cagnes 1951

S H Raza, Haut De Cagnes, 1951

Le Village 1956

S H Raza, Le Village, 1956

In his formative years, Raza painted landscapes and cityscapes, influenced by his time in France. Frequent visits to India drew him to the vibrant colours of Rajasthan and the forests of his childhood in Madhya Pradesh, both of which he transformed onto his canvases in the form of gestural abstraction.

Untitled 1971

S H Raza, Untitled, 1971

Oasis 1975

S H Raza, Oasis, 1975

In the 1970s, Raza changed direction to focus on purely geometric forms, symbolizing myriad aspects of Hindu philosophy. Crucial to these metaphysical paintings was the recurring Bindu – the seed from which all life forms emerge. For Raza, the act of painting itself was a meditative experience, and spirituality was always the core of his art.

Encountre 1985

S H Raza, Encountre, 1985

Surya Namaskar 1993

S H Raza, Surya-Namaskar, 1993

Saffronart joins the extended art community in mourning the loss of the master. For more tributes, please see:

Bose Krishnamachari, Times of India: “He understood colour, darkness, light, line, thinness and thickness of layers. He was friends with poets, writers and youngsters and admired by everyone. He led a life of precision.”

Krishen Khanna, Hindustan Times: “One cannot pedal on one pedal for your entire life… Raza always kept reinventing. Every painting he created was a breath of fresh air.”

Ashok Vajpeyi, ET Panache: “Along with his contemporaries, Raza created an alternative spiritual modernism, not built of dissonance or tension but consonance and harmony… In the end, for Raza, the distance between life and work had disappeared. He lived to paint and he painted so he could live on.”

Horizon 1979

S H Raza, Horizon, 1979

Kallat for Kochi

Aaina Bhargava of Saffronart on Jitish Kallat’s appointment as the curator for the second edition of the Kochi-Muziris Biennial in 2014.

Jitish Kallat

Jitish Kallat. Image Credit: http://kochimuzirisbiennale.org/jitish-kallat-is-the-curator-for-kochi-muziris-biennale-2014/

 

London: Jitish Kallat, by any standard, is one of the internationally most well established Indian contemporary artists.  Which is perhaps why his appointment as the next curator of the Kochi-Muziris Biennial (KMB) comes as no surprise. Declared by Hon. Mayor of Cochin, Mr. Tony Chammany, as the official curator of Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2014, he was selected by an elite and diverse panel of Indian art professionals put together by the Kochi Biennial Foundation.  Consisting of art historian Geeta Kapur, director of Dr. Bhau Daji Laad Museum, Tasneem Mehta, director of Outset India and the Gujral Foundation, Feroz Gujral, director of Gallery Maskara, Abhay Maskara, artists Sheela Gowda and Balan Nambiar, and the President and General Secretary of the Kochi Biennale Foundation, Bose Krishnamachari and Riyas Komu, they provided the following official statement in support of their choice:

“To continue the unique character of this artist led Biennale we are selecting Jitish Kallat as the new curator for the 2014 edition. Jitish brings immense international experience to the next Biennale. He possesses sound theoretical knowledge about contemporary art along with a diverse yet meticulous approach to his own practice. We are confident that Jitish will curate an innovative and experiential second edition.”

Because the legitimacy of biennials is essentially evaluated based on their constant recurrence,  the successful execution of the second edition biennial becomes imperative to its future continuation and representation of contemporary art in India.  The first edition of the KMB, already having been declared ‘the second largest running biennial in the world after Venice, with almost 400,000 visitors’, has provided the KB Foundation and government of Kerala with motive to not only maintain but progress the standard established in 2012.  Appointing Kallat as curator is clearly an attempt to cement the KMB’s reputation as a legitimate institution.  He has participated in countless biennials, his works have been exhibited at major museums around the world, so given his international exposure, critical acclaim, and commercial success as an artist his representation and endorsement of the biennial certainly adds great value to the entire event.  Even if he does lack curatorial experience, he has extensive experience with biennials, and an understanding of how they function.  Additionally, he also happens have Keralite roots, hailing from Thrissur, although he was born and bought up in Mumbai.

Jitish Kallat for Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2014

Jitish Kallat for Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2014. Image Credit: http://kochimuzirisbiennale.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/announcing-web-poster-04.jpg

From a political perspective, the commitment to promoting Kerala as a cultural center remains a priority, however, for the coming editions, there is a greater responsibility of establishing India as a destination for contemporary art, outside of a commercial context.  Intentions to push this standard and expand the the impact of the biennial have been voiced by the officials and organizers of the biennial:

“The first edition of the Biennale accentuated the tourism and cultural sectors of Kerala,  the biennale requires a permanent venue as it promises to return every two years, and we are searching for such a place to make this possible.” – Mayor of Cochin, Mr. Tony Chammany

“This return is required for the Biennale to develop its unique grammar and vocabulary. ” He also said that the media played a vital role in initiating a dialogue and bringing biennale to people’s home’s.” – Jitish Kallat.

As the contemporary art scene is constantly growing and evolving, the appointment of Jitish Kallat as curator is highly reflective of it’s current situations.  Kallat’s career is representative of a culmination of the academic acclaim and popular or commercial success, much like Subodh Gupta or Atul Dodiya – and since the biennial is an institution that is essentially non commercial, but is trying to navigate itself in a very commercially driven art society, Kallat could be the negotiating factor between both worlds.  He has also managed to achieve his success at a relatively young age (he is just 39) and since the KMB seeks to affect mainly the youth, perhaps a fresher perspective is the next step to progressing the already impactful biennial.  Furthermore, contemporary art is still relatively an unknown field to the general public and one of the goals of the biennial is to expand the reach of contemporary art, it is perhaps more effective to approach it with a more popular manner, rather than an extremely academic one.  Again, the mesh between the academic and the commercial becomes critical.  The notion of recurrence and repetition is essential to the longevity of biennials, and in order to keep occurring, the nature of the biennial must adapt to its current situations, and by attracting as many visitors as possible.

“That’s what art is all about. Sometimes it’s just a shift of vision…Let us hope it will be different but the genetic link will remain and it will be the continuation of the same language…I want to bring a new set of tools to work with the same set of ideas.”- Jitish Kallat

Preparations are clearly underway to ensure the next KMB as impacting as the inaugral edition, until then we just have to wait and see what Kallat’s unique vision will hold.

 

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