My Picks from StoryLTD

Rashhi Parekh of Saffronart picks her five favourite pieces being offered for sale in the boutiques and collections on newly launched website, StoryLTD

Mumbai: Launched earlier this week, StoryLTD by Saffronart brings together carefully curated collections of beautiful and significant objects from the past and present. At StoryLTD, you can browse through, learn the nuances of, and acquire some of the most coveted objects – ranging from fine art, antiquities and jewellery, to vintage and designer furniture and unique accessories for the home.

Partnering with some of the most creative artists, designers, collectors, manufacturers and dealers from India and soon, around the globe, StoryLTD offers consumers a unified and convenient shopping experience for objects and collectibles encompassing all styles, designs and budgets.

Here are my five picks from the many beautiful objects available on the website. Not surprisingly, they are all art related!

Maqbool Fida Husain: Eternal Mother

Collection: Serigraphs

M.F. Husain

M.F. Husain, Eternal Mother, Serigraph on paper

The venerated figure of Mother Teresa first appeared in Maqbool Fida Hussain’s art in 1980. Since then he has devoted a number of his works to Mother Teresa, whom he depicts as a faceless entity. This approach underlines his efforts in exploring not just the figure of Mother Teresa, but motherhood in general.

Having had the opportunity to meet Mother Teresa in 1994, he says, “I have tried to capture in my paintings, what her presence meant to the destitute and dying, the light and hope she brought by mere inquiry, by putting her hand over a child abandoned in the street.. That is why I try it again and again, after a gap of time, in a different medium.”

Works like the ‘Eternal Mother’ have been converted into serigraphs by Husain, to make his art more widely accessible. He stated that the idea of creating prints from canvasses was to make his work available to common man and also make his inner psyche available to a larger audience. This painter is distinct and different from most others because he wants to share his paintings. He says that all his life, he has sought just one image – the image of his mother, whom he had never seen. He tried to depict his mother whenever he painted women; that is why he never painted their faces, merely just an outline as shown in this serigraph of the Eternal Mother.

Raja Ravi Varma: Sri Shanmukha Subramaniaswami

Collection: Dressed Oleographs

Raja Ravi Varma, Shri Shanmukha Subramaniaswamy

Raja Ravi Varma, Shri Shanmukha Subramaniaswamy, Dressed oleograph on paper

Considered one of the greatest painters in the history of Indian Art, Raja Ravi Varma was an artist who achieved recognition for his depiction of scenes from the epics of the Mahabharata and Ramayana. This oleograph like many of his other works, is a fusion of Indian traditions with the techniques of European academic art. His representation of mythological characters has become a part of the popular Indian imagination of the epics. Although his works are often showy and sentimental, they are very popular throughout India.

Here, Shanmukha or the six-faced Karthikeya, the elder son of Shiva and Parvati, is pictured on his peacock mount. Also known as Skanda, Subramania and Murugan, he is the God of War and Victory. Ravi Varma has depicted Shanmukha flanked by his two wives, Valli and Devasena, while the snake he is frequently associated with lies at their feet. The group is framed by the magnificent plumage of Shanmukha’s peacock, which symbolizes the deity’s victory over the ego.

Due to his vast contribution to Indian Art, in 1993 art critics curated a large exhibition of Raja Ravi Varma’s works at the National Museum in New Delhi.

Bhuri Bai: Speaking Tree

Collection: Gond Art

Bhuri Bai, Speaking Tree

Bhuri Bai, Speaking Tree, Acrylic on canvas

Bhuri Bai made her first mural painting at the age of ten. She was one of the very first women of her tribe to paint on paper and canvas. The forms depicted in her paintings appear to be in a state of weightlessness. The figures in this painting are made in bright colors, similar to paper cuts.

Many of the subjects in her painting depict the conflict between the woman, as a creator and the man, as a predator. These themes, which are often found in other early painters, may also be seen as metaphors for the theft of land, the relationship between man and animal, the domestic and the wild, the nature and the modern world. Her works share an ancestral view according to which every body is made out of particles.

Lado Bai: Sun and the Deer

Collection: Gond Art

Lado Bai, Sun and the Deer

Lado Bai, Sun and the Deer, Acrylic on canvas

Lado Bai started painting on canvasses at the same time as Bhuri Bai. Her main motifs are taken from the animal kingdom and Bhil rituals and festivals. Lado Bai’s art reflects “the flora and fauna of her environment along with rituals and festivals of her tribe. She draws Bhil Gods and Godesses in the centuries old Bhil style which is steeped in ethnic animism and spirituality.”

Today, this artist works at Adivasi Lok Kala Academy; however she was guided by artist Jagdish Swaminathan, who encouraged her to paint on canvasses instead of painting on mud walls in her village. Lado Bai has been able to make new statements through her art within the ambit of traditions, like other fresco painters of her generation.

Bose Krishnamachari: Stainless Steel Chandelier

Collection: Seven Art

Bose Krishnamachari, Stainless Steel Chandelier

Bose Krishnamachari, Stainless Steel Chandelier

Bose Krishnamachari’s stainless steel chandelier is an extremely unique piece of art. This chandelier can be viewed as an installation piece as well as a piece of furniture, because it has a unique combination of utility and design. The chandelier which appears to be the culmination of a number of individual lights put together haphazardly, is actually an extremely well designed object. It allows the viewer to depart from the perceived notion of a chandelier which is supposed to look elegant and somewhat symmetric. This chandelier is made with an extremely modern and contemporary outlook, almost as if it were the result of an experiment. According to some, it also looks like an asymmetrical space station.

This work by Bose Krishnamachari is abstract and dynamic. In all his works, weather it be paintings, photography or installations, these are dominant forces.

Subodh Gupta’s Massive Boat Docks in London

Elisabetta Marabotto of Saffronart on Subodh Gupta’s exhibition at Hauser & Wirth and a talk by the artist at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London

What does the vessel contain, that the river does not, Subodh Gupta, 2012

“What does the vessel contain, that the river does not”, Subodh Gupta, 2012. Photo by Elisabetta Marabotto

London: Following its success at the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, Houser & Wirth, London, decided to showcase to an international audience Subodh Gupta’s installation “What does the vessel contain, that the river does not”.

Subodh Gupta found inspiration for this work in the words of the famous Persian poet Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi:

“What does the vat contain that is not in the river?

What does the room encompass that is not in the city?

This world is the vat, and the heart the running stream,

This world the room, and the heart the city of wonders.”

In this poem, Rumi embeds among the lines the idea that the entire universe is contained in our soul. Gupta was touched by this concept, and chose to visually express Rumi’s words through an art installation that drew parallels between an individuals’s life and a boat.

The artist filled the vessel, a traditional fishing boat from Kerala, with common objects that he found in Kochi and Delhi, carefully piling them into the vessel. Chairs, beds, a bicycle, window frames, fishing nets and cooking pots are among the objects Gupta has used to represent our cluttered lives.

Detail of "What does the vessel contain, that the river does not", Subodh Gupta, 2012

Detail of “What does the vessel contain, that the river does not”, Subodh Gupta, 2012. Photo by Elisabetta Marabotto

Through this work Gupta also raises questions about cultural dislocation, feelings of belonging and displacement, movement and stability, which are symbols of the current epoch. Hence the boat acquires both positive and negative connotations. The fact that the boat is displayed with one end raised up from the floor gives the impression that it is floating, and transmits positive energies. At the same time, however, walking underneath the raised boat generates feelings of anxiety and discomfort.

Verso of What the vessel contain, that the river does not", Subodh Gupta, 2012

Passing underneath “What the vessel contain, that the river does not”, Subodh Gupta, 2012. Photo by Elisabetta Marabotto

Last Tuesday, in conjunction with the exhibition at Hauser & Wirth, the Courtauld Institute of Art in London hosted a panel discussion titled ‘The Routes of Success’, between Subodh Gupta, Jessica Morgan (the Daskalopoulos Curator, International Art, Tate Modern) and Deborah Swallow (Director of the Courtauld Institute of Art).

From the left Jessica Morgan, Deborah Swallow and Subodh Gupta at the Courtauld Institute of Art

From left: Jessica Morgan, Deborah Swallow and Subodh Gupta at the Courtauld Institute of Art. Photo by Elisabetta Marabotto

The panel discussion was preceded by a presentation by an unexpectedly shy Subodh Gupta, who discussed his major works of which you find a selection between the text below.

29 Mornings, Subodh Gupta, 1996

29 Mornings, Subodh Gupta, 1996. Image Credit: http://www.aaa.org.hk/onlineprojects/bitri/en/gallery.aspx?eid=A010.04

After the presentation, a more confident and very entertaining Gupta had a very interesting exchange with Morgan and Swallow. The artist revealed his past as an aspiring actor, a career that was derailed once he started painting film posters. In fact, he only joined art school because he was convinced by his friends. And now he is one of the most acclaimed Indian contemporary artists in the world!

The scale of his artworks was also one of the topics tackled in the discussion. Although slightly shy on stage, Gupta is not shy at all in his artworks’ dimensions! The artist however stated that the creation of large artworks wasn’t premeditated; it just happened. And once it started it became a habit, and now he can’t stop it!

Very Hungry God, Subodh Gupta, 2006

Very Hungry God, Subodh Gupta, 2006. Image Credit: http://neology.tumblr.com/post/12121535720/urhajos-very-hungry-god-by-subodh-gupta

Gupta also discussed his love/hate relationship with painting. It is something he doesn’t feel confident about and that is one of the reasons why he often “secretly” embeds photography in his paintings. He said: “painting is hard to make, doing a good one is like reaching nirvana”!

Aam Aadmi, Subodh Gupta, 2009

Aam Aadmi, Subodh Gupta, 2009. Image Credit: http://www.hauserwirth.com/artists/11/subodh-gupta/images-clips/63/

The artist also added that he doesn’t intentionally make political art, but art comes from where you live, from what surrounds you, and so that is why politics and social issues cannot be taken away from it.

Bihari, Subodh Gupta, 1999

Bihari, Subodh Gupta, 1999. Image Credit: http://www.frieze.com/shows/review/where_in_the_world_exhibition/

His main influences are to be found in the work of some of the Indian masters such as M.F. Husain, Jagdish Swaminatan, Francis Newton Souza, and more recently in the Khoj Workshop that freed him from any kind of restrictions on his creativity.

E tu, Duchamp?, Subodh Gupta, 2009

E tu, Duchamp?, Subodh Gupta, 2009. Image Credit: http://www.hauserwirth.com/artists/11/subodh-gupta/images-clips/61/

I would like to conclude with an interesting question/point of discussion that came up during the talk about whether it is always possible to transport art outside its country of origin. This was discussed in respect of Spirit Eater, one of Subodh Gupta’s latest works which is deeply embedded with cultural references and traditions which make it extremely difficult to be understood. The artist was reluctant about the idea of compulsorily bringing his art out of India, because sometimes it could be misunderstood and its original message lost.

I’ll leave you reflecting on this topic, and encourage you to visit Subodh Gupta’s exhibition in London. Click here for more information on the exhibition.

Bhil Art: Tribal Paintings from India

Amy Lin of Saffronart explores the wonders of Bhil art and their significances

gond_12_08454_big

Bhuri Bai
Untilted
The Story by Saffronart

New York: Tribal art has been gaining popularity in recent years due to the rich cultural heritage it reflects and the bold creations it results in. In a previous post, we discussed Gond art in celebration of the first Indian Folk and Tribal Art Auction held at Saffronart. After with the Gonds, the Bhils are the second largest tribal community in western and central India. Their art focuses on their natural environment filled with songs, rituals, tattoos and folklore. In a new collection on The Story by Saffronart called Rhythms and Rituals, we’re featuring some fantastic pieces from celebrated Bhil artists.

The tradition of Bhil painting first stemmed from the home. Upon visiting a Bhil household, one will discover a delightful myriad of images from myth and folklore adorning their walls and ceilings. Every year, a new plaster of mittichitra (clay relief work) and paintings are applied to the interiors of the house. Pigments are ground from natural materials and leaves and flowers, while brushes are made with neem twigs.

Pithora horses are a common theme among Bhil artists. The traditional painter or lekhindra often paints pithoras as an offering to the goddesses. According to legend, the people of the Kingdom Dharmi Raja have forgotten how to laugh. The brave prince Pithora rode on horseback through a dangerous terrain and brought back laughter and joy from the goddess Himali Harda. Similar to all adivasi tribes, the Bhils live close to nature and lead a largely agricultural life. Their paintings reflect the changing seasons, the natural phenomena that guide their harvest, and the gods that protect them.

Subhash Bheel Untitled The Story by Saffronart

Subhash Bheel
Untitled
The Story by Saffronart

Bhuri Bai of Zher is one of the leading Bhil artists of our time. She started painting at a young age when the colors at a local festival inspired her to paint laughing goddesses and everyday scenes from the village. Her mother taught her how to make huts and decorate them with cows that became a prominent symbol in her work. In her adult life, she transferred the paintings from mud to paper and canvas, and continues to decorate the walls at the Museum of Mankind in Bhopal.

gond_12_08456_big

Lado Bai
Untitled
The Story by Saffronart

Another prominent artist is Lado Bai whose art reflects the spirituality and animism of her community. For years, she could not pursue her art because of financial constraints. Her luck turned when she was discovered by the famous Indian artist Jagdish Swaminathan. Swaminathan encouraged her to work for the Adivasi Lok Kala Academy where she had the opportunity to transfer images of festivals, rituals and animals from wall to paper.

Bhil artists are just starting to be internationally recognized. They paint the simple human joys of birth and other ceremonial occasions like harvests that are often forgotten in our modern society. The art of the Bhils along with that of other tribal groups reminds us what the simple pleasures in life are.

Folk and Tribal Art: Gond Painting

Josheen Oberoi of Saffronart looks (very briefly) at what constitutes Gond Art

New York: Folk and tribal arts are relatively less exposed forms of narrative Indian art and contain within them a gamut of styles originating from various geographical regions in India; Gond art is one such art form.

Jangarh Singh Shyam
Untitled, 1984
Acrylic on canvas, 55.5 x 32.5 inches
Image courtesy: Saffronart

The term Gond art refers to paintings that emerge from a heterogeneous tribal group called the Gond or Koiture, mostly centered in Madhya Pradesh. Even within the phrase Gond art there is a wide spectrum of artistic styles, primarily connected to distinct painters and their practices. The Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts’s (IGNCA) research discusses the cultural roots of the Gonds and also indicates the unifying theme in Gond art – the pervasive presence of nature. Their pantheon of gods are intimately connected to nature and their strong tradition of oral narrative seemingly transfers to their paintings as well.

The first Gond artist to gain national recognition was Jangarh Singh Shyam (who died in 2001), and in fact, the present genre of Gond painting is called Janagarh Kalam after his pioneering style. He was discovered in the 1980s by the late Jagdish Swaminathan, then Director of Bharat Bhawan in Bhopal. Jangarh Singh Shyam was the first artist to paint on paper and canvas instead of directly on earth or walls of the home. The intricacy and control in his dot-based designs is seen in the works of all Gond artists, as are his most common subjects – the tree of life and various animals.

Ram Singh Urveti
Untitled, 2011
55.5 x 45 inches
Image courtesy: Saffronart

The tree of life is also a favourite subject of Ram Singh Urveti and Suresh Kumar Dhruve. Ram Singh Urveti uses a deep colour palette and combines his imagery of trees with a variety of animals, creating a synergy of plants and animals in his work, while Suresh Kumar Dhruve often presents trees almost like a totem pole, erect and still, surrounded by human figures.

Jangarh Singh Shyam’s wife Nankusia Shyam and daughter Japani Shyam are also renowned Gond artists. Their paintings are inhabited by the world of animals, although their individual aesthetics are distinct. Nankusia Shyam often paints animals from her childhood memories or shares her impression of urban culture in the shape of these animals. Japani Shyam, on the other hand, almost seems to capture the eco systems in which animals survive; her works are denser, they are reproductions of the worlds that animals and plants survive in.

Japani Shyam
Untitled, 2011
Acrylic and ink on canvas, 36 x 48 inches
Image courtesy: Saffronart

In Narmada Prasad Tekam’s painting, plants and animals share equal footing; they are not shown as a continuum, as in Jangarh Singh Shyam or Ram Singh Urveti’s work. These detailed works contain everyday creatures, recognizable in their presence.

Narmada Prasad Tekam
Untitled
Acrylic on canvas, 68 x 45 inches
Image courtesy: Saffronart

Durga Bai’s works, which have been widely exhibited in India and abroad, show a dynamism and movement within the picture that is unique to her. Brightly hued, hers are narratives of folk tales and deities, of goddesses remembered.

Durga Bai
Untitled
Acrylic on canvas, 68 x 123 inches
Image courtesy: Saffronart

Dhavat Singh
Tiger Tales 1, 2009
Acrylic and ink on canvas, 67.5 x 47.5 inches
Image courtesy: Saffronart

Dhavat Singh’s Tiger Tales are vivid representations of tigers, their interactions with their surroundings and the folklore that surrounds these majestic animals. Equal parts contemporary and traditional; these are visceral works, extending the parameters of Gond art, as it stands today.

The story telling, the fantastical animals and trees is a thread that runs through the work of Gond artists, rooted in their folk tales and culture. However, each of these artists, as evident in these images, has developed a specific language within these narratives creating a richness of aesthetic forms and styles.

These artists represent only a fraction of practitioners of Gond art. A more extensive list and information is at the IGNCA website.

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