Retracing Ribeiro

Guest contributor Ananya Mukhopadhyay reviews Indian modernist Lancelot Ribeiro’s London exhibition

An exhibition at the Burgh House & Hampstead Museum in London marks the beginning of a year-long programme of events to explore and celebrate the work of the late Indian painter Lancelot Ribeiro. As part of the 2017 UK-India Year of Culture, Retracing Ribeiro is a Heritage Lottery-funded project which will examine the artist’s vibrant and often understudied oeuvre through a series of exhibitions and talks.

Having first travelled to the UK in 1950 to study accounting, Ribeiro quickly became disenchanted with both the London weather and his chosen vocation. While living in London Ribeiro acted as studio assistant to his half-brother, Francis Newton Souza, and also started to create his own works. He eventually abandoned his accountancy course and enrolled in St. Martin’s School of Art. Shortly after his graduation however, the artist was required to leave London for his National Service in the Royal Air Force, somewhat interrupting his artistic development. Following his discharge, Ribeiro returned to India and held several successful solo exhibitions before returning to England in mid-1962.

untitled-blue-and-green-landscape-1961Untitled (Blue and Green Landscape), 1961
Image courtesy Grosvenor Gallery

Renowned gallerist Nicholas Treadwell was to be a great champion of the Indian artists who had settled in post-war London, selling their work door-to-door from his furniture van-cum-gallery space. As part of Asian Art in London 2016, Treadwell gave a talk at the British Museum recalling his dealings with Ribeiro and contemporaries Bakre and Souza as he trundled up and down the country in his mobile gallery. All three artists featured in Grosvenor Gallery’s show Indian Modernist Landscapes 1950-1970: Bakre, Ribeiro, Souza, on view 3 – 12 November at 32 St. James’s Street, London.

rib-untitled-white-landscape-1964Untitled (Red Landscape with Dome), 1966
Image courtesy Grosvenor Gallery

Retracing Ribeiro is a chance to experience the extraordinary range of painterly styles practiced by the late modernist, from rare, naturalistic watercolours of Hampstead Heath, to expressionistic Goan landscapes punctuated with the spires and domes of his childhood. The artist’s pioneering use of PVA mixed with fabric dyes in the early 1960s presaged the widespread uptake of acrylic paints in the years that followed, a feat with which Ribeiro is rarely credited. His careful oil compositions have equally received little attention, in spite of their enduring vibrancy and strength of expression.

The Retracing Ribeiro exhibition will be on view at Burgh House & Hampstead Museum until 19 March 2017, while a heritage display from the Ribeiro archive will be on show at the Camden Local Studies and Archives Centre from 6 February 2017 – 31 March 2017. Forthcoming events include talks by David Buckman, author of Lancelot Ribeiro: An Artist in India and Europe, and an evening of lectures and music at the Victoria & Albert Museum early next year. For more information and a full calendar of events, visit www.lanceribeiro.co.uk/news.htm.

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.”

SYDER HAIDER RAZA| Maa...|2006

SYDER HAIDER RAZA| Maa…|2006

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.

MAQBOOL FIDA HUSAIN|ETERNAL MOTHER

MAQBOOL FIDA HUSAIN|ETERNAL MOTHER

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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2 Artists and a Distinct Friendship

F N Souza and M F Husain were integral members of the Bombay Progressive Artists’ Group and had their own distinct styles. We look at their unique and long-lasting friendship through a painting that goes on auction in the Evening Sale next week.

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