Convergence: Contemporary Art from India and the Diaspora

Shradha Ramesh summates a curatorial note by Professor Kathryn Myers

New York : “Convergence: Contemporary Art from India and the Diaspora” an exhibition held at the William Benton Museum, University of Connecticut (14 October to 15 December 2013) is visual entourage of Indian Modern and Contemporary art.This exhibit encapsulated a different perspective on Indian art, with artworks dating from 1940’s to the present.

Aptly titled, the oeuvres of fifteen artists with different stylistic rendition converge under one roof. Each one of these artists set out on their own creative expedition to explore a common issue of identity and the continued power of place in the current global scenario. While inquiring the conundrums of identity and place the exhibition walked through a vast expanse of repertoire ranging from photographs to new media.


Image courtesy Benton Museum. Convergence: Contemporary Art from India and the Diaspora”, 2013, installation view.  William Benton Museum of Art, University of Connecticut.

Image courtesy Benton Museum.
Convergence: Contemporary Art from India and the Diaspora”, 2013, installation view.
William Benton Museum of Art, University of Connecticut.

A combination of emerging and internationally recognized artists adds a new visual narration.The list of artists has stalwarts like Madhvi Parekh, Waswo X. Waswo , Ravi Agarwal, Anupam Sud ,Sanarth Banerjee, Siona Benjamin, Neil Chowdhury, Sunil Gupta, Hanuman R. Kambli, Bari Kumar, Vijay Kumar, Sachin Naik, Annu Palakunnathu Matthew, along with  young emerging artists such as Sujith SN, and Avinash Veeraraghavan, are ensemble of contemporary Indian art. These artists are of Indian origin, of which nine artists are from India and the rest six live and work from United States and London.



Image Courtesy: Connecticut Suresh Playing Hanuman, from the series  A Studio in Rajasthan (2007–present). Black-and-white digital  Print

Image Courtesy: Connecticut
Suresh Playing Hanuman, from the series
A Studio in Rajasthan (2007–present). Black-and-white digital

Professor Kathryn Myers’s  passion and love for Indian art and culture that started in 1999, has transpired into a fine curatorial collection at the museum.According to Professor Myers, the concept “ “Convergence” emphasizes  how works of art continue to act as key avenues through which we increase our knowledge of and more fully invest in the world we inhabit.” One can experience this each of their works. Creating a strong link between Indian Art and education Professor Myer’s has played a pivotal role in compiling this collection.  Her collaboration with the William Benton Museum sowed the seeds for the first Indian Modern Art exhibit in 2004 called Masala: Diversity and Democracy in South Asian Art. The exhibit had 250 works of traditional, folk, popular, and contemporary art that filled three gallery spaces of the museum.  While “Convergence” is a contemporary sequel to “Masala” that revisits select work of the collection and also introduces audience to artists.

To Read more Click here

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.

To Read More Click Here

Visual Palimpsest

Shradha Ramesh talks about the artist Navjot Altaf and her current exhibition at Talwar Gallery, Delhi

I often catch myself wondering if all women artists are feminist, and how their feminist thinking influences their work. Art is after all a medium of self expression and artistic creation most often than not is an artist’s perception towards life. One artist who has translated her feminist thinking into a visual language is Navjot Altaf. Her artwork exemplifies her feminist views. Born in Meerut (1949) this multi-faceted artist expresses her socio-political concerns through her artwork.

Photo Courtesy: Talwar Gallery    A Woman and Two Donkeys |Wood, Acrylic  and Brass|2013 by Navjot Altaf

Photo Courtesy: Talwar Gallery
A Woman and Two Donkeys |Wood, Acrylic and Brass|2013 by Navjot Altaf

A painter, sculptor, installation artist and filmmaker, Navjot Altaf is all of these and more. While her subject matter questions the varying societal and religious injustice, her medium of expression sees no boundaries either. The materials incorporated in her repertoire are wood, iron, acrylic, inkjet on paper, channel videos and more.

Photo Courtesy: Talwar Gallery  Agkuklios Paidea | Wood Acrylic, Steel and Iron|2013 by Navjot Altaf

Photo Courtesy: Talwar Gallery
Agkuklios Paidea | Wood Acrylic, Steel and Iron|2013 by Navjot Altaf

Her sculptural works are thought provoking, dynamic and vibrant. They are immobile narrators of her emotional reaction to social issues and systems. In her interview to The Sunday Guardian, she says “…I have constantly been interested in the existence of several knowledge systems, and how some are always glossed over by the dominant others. Through my artistic undertakings, I have always tried to manifest this plurality.”

Having graduated from Sir J.J School of Art, she was introduced to the likes of Paul Klee and Joan Miro, as well as, visual initiation to the works of Gaitonde, Bendre, Hussain, Mehta and Hebbar’s works. A personal interaction with Altaf Mohammadi sparked and nurtured her already existing humanist values to more progressive ideals. Her High school  education on Hindi literature, English and Psychology has a deep impact on her creation. She has exhibited at several international forums including ‘Bombay/Mumbai 1992-2001’ in Century City: Art and Culture in the Modern Metropolis, Tate Modern, London; and the Eighth Havana Biennale, 1994, ‘Expressions Women’s Cultural Festival in Mumbai 1990, Festival of Indian Contemporary Art, Covent Garden, London 1988, ‘Intergrafik 87’ Berlin, the first international Biennale of Prints, Sao Paulo, 1986.

Photo Courtesy: ArtSlant Lacuna in Testimony |2003 | three-channel video installation with 72 mirrors by Navjot Altaf

Navjot Altaf is known to interact and collaborate with artists and communities from various places. ‘Through the Binoculars’ a series, she makes a statement of observing other cultures, coproduced with Shilpigram, a handicraft community sponsored by the government. From here on Altaf went on to make collaborative projects. Her exhibit ‘Water Weaving’ at Talwar Gallery in New York (2005) was an art en masse. A film on weaving that was based on marginalized tribal group in Bastar, was created with the help of the locals.‘Lacuna in Testimony’, a video installation is based on the traumatic result of the Gujarat Hindu-Muslim riot, 2002.The artist gives a glimpse of history and unreasonable implosion created by mankind in an allegoric visual representation of the Arabic Sea.

Photo Courtesy: Talwar Gallery  Agkuklios Paidea II | Iron | 2013 by Navjot Altaf

Photo Courtesy: Talwar Gallery
Agkuklios Paidea II | Iron | 2013 by Navjot Altaf

Her current exhibit ‘Horn in the Head’ at Talwar Gallery is a solo exhibit. A three part installation- A Woman & Two Donkeys, Agkuklios Paidea and Same Difference,conveys the recent changes in world. The exhibition is on from September 27- December 7, 2013.

To Read more on the exhibit Click Here

A Snapshot of “India Song”

Shradha Ramesh follows  Karen Knorr ‘s recent exhibit presented by Tasveerart.

New York: German born Karen Knorr, entices the viewer with an inimitable photographic panorama. Among her variegate digital photographic series ‘India Song’ is a kariotic moment in her visual venture. The series exudes a conjoint interaction of subjects -a rich, intricate architecture interacts with wildlife in an idyllic stage. She started working on the series in 2008, focusing on the theme of upper caste culture of the Rajput in India. The series imbibe cultural heritage of Rajasthan and Mughal architecture interspersed with animal protagnist. But the painting has underlying messaging she questions the base of the culture, colonialism, exoticism, gender, religion, and politics of India. The enigmatic composition blurs the distinction between reality and illusion, in an attempt to question the cultural heritage and rigidity in hierarchy.

A Place Like Amravati, Udaipur City Palace (Nilgai), Udaipur

A Place Like Amravati, Udaipur City Palace (Nilgai), Udaipur

Driven by satirical implication of societal demarcation and representation, her repertoires are aesthetic amalgamation of her quest on privileges of the aristocratic. The first of her series were a photographic compilation on social mockery of the upper class in London. Having lived and grown in a lavish neighbourhood in Belgravia, her works are a sardonic response to this lifestyle. She elaborates on The Belgravia series, she says “…At that time in photography, a lot of artists were showing people who were dispossessed. I felt it was time to turn the tables and look at the people who were in charge. It’s not exploiting them; they are strong enough to take the irony. It’s playing the game on their own terms. I also wanted to implicate myself, look at issues of privilege.”

The Lifting of Purdah, Moti Mahal, Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur

The Lifting of Purdah, Moti Mahal, Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur

An internationally acclaimed photographer, she has lectured, taught and exhibited at various universities both in US and Europe. Her techniques are wide spread and diverse, she has incorporated these in her photographic exploration. Each of these techniques expresses a sense of emotion, she said “One thing I noticed in conceptual art, it could be so serious. I don’t want to be that serious, I want to make a picture that’s ambiguous.” She establishes this through hybrid juxtaposition of two entirely different visual components- architecture (rigid) and nature (biomorphic).

A Soul Reborn, Ajanta Caves, Ajanta

A Soul Reborn, Ajanta Caves, Ajanta

 To really experience and interpret, one must see the works in person. India Song is on display from 27 September – 05 October 2013, Tasveerart, Delhi.

The photographs are available for purchase on StoryLtd.

To Read More Click Here

Islamic Art : Past and Present Coalesce

Shradha Ramesh shares a note on the current exhibition at Gallery L8, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
New York: “Echoes: Islamic art and Contemporary Artists” resonates an epoch of Islamic art and culture from across the globe, dating from 9th century to 21st century. The works on display are a visual diary of Islamic art through time and geography. A narration tracing from Nelson Atkins 17th century mosaic Persian arch, being juxtaposed with variegate Islamic inspired contemporary art. The Director of the Nelson-Atkins, Julián Zugazagoitia, during the press release said “This exhibition highlights some of the outstanding works in our collection that have not been seen in a long time,”
The geographic chronology of Islamic art and architecture ranges from west to east. The region of influence starts from North Africa and Spain on Western region; then the Middle East (Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Palestine, Iraq, and the Arabian Peninsula), Anatolia and the Balkans (Turkey and Southeast Europe), Iran and Central Asia (including Afghanistan and the Central Asia Republics) and eventually the Indian subcontinent.

Bowl, Iran, late 12th–early 13th century. Fritware with opaque turquoise glaze and over-painted decoration. 35-31/4

Image Credit: The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
Bowl, Iran, late 12th–early 13th century. Fritware with opaque turquoise glaze and over-painted decoration. 35-31/4

The Contemporary artists represented at the exhibition are primarily from Pakistan, Iran and Saudi Arabia. Though they are from these regions they work and live in different parts of the world, adding to the diverse Islamic impression. The artists represented are Shirin Neshat, Asheer Akram , and Hayv Kahraman and Shahzia Sikander live and work from United States. The others work from their respective native land Hamra Abbas (Pakistani), Ahmed Mater (Saudi Arabian), Nasser Al Salem(Saudi Arabian), Gohar Dashti (Iranian) , Ayesha Jatoi(Pakistani), Nasreen Mohamedi (Indian), Rashid Rana (Pakistani). Given their background and the vast medium on display one gets transported to a different visual space.

Shirin Neshat, Iranian, b. 1957. Stories of Martydom , 1994. Black and white RC print and ink

Image Credit: Eye Burfi
Shirin Neshat, Iranian, b. 1957. Stories of Martydom , 1994. Black and white RC print and ink

The common visual ground, upon which the exhibit traverses are the geometric or vegetative design with intricate details and patterns of Arabic calligraphy, rendered in rich colors and forms in an anomalous vista.  Kimberly Masteller, the first Jeanne McCray Beals Curator of South and Southeast Asian Art, explains the concept behind the exhibit “The overarching theme here is dialogue,…We use the installation and the artists’ interviews to invoke conversations between the works and their cultures, and also between past and present.”

The 28 featured art works include ceramics, textiles, miniature paintings, decorative brass, photographs and video art. The magnum opus is a Pakistani Cargo Truck Initiative at the entrance made by artist Asheer Akram, from Kansas City.

 Asheer Akram "Pakistani Cargo Truck Initiative"

Image Credit: The Kansas City Star Magazine
Asheer Akram’s “Pakistani Cargo Truck Initiative”

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art began was started in late 1800 and early 1900 by two ardent art lovers, William Rockhill Nelson and Mary Atkins as two separate art museum. Both the museum merged to form the Nelson-Atkins. “Echoes” is joint venture by The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, the Kansas City Artists Coalition, and the Kansas City Public Library. The exhibit runs until March 30, 2014 at the museum’s Gallery L8.

To read more and other events Click Here