Raqib Shaw’s ‘Paradise Lost’ at Pace Gallery

Ipshita Sen of Saffronart shares a note on Raqib Shaw’s current exhibition at Pace Gallery.

New York: Raqib Shaw once again makes his mark in the New York public art scene. With his last show in 2008 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, this year Pace Gallery holds a three-venue exhibition of the artist.


Arrival of the Ram King – PARADISE LOST II, 2011-2013. Oil, acrylic, enamel, glitter and rhinestones on Birch wood

 The exhibition titled ‘Paradise Lost’ is based on the theme of John Milton’s Paradise Lost. His works are a blend of Indian mythological figures, half man half beast, warring through renaissance inspired landscapes. They are an interesting juxtaposition between Indian miniatures and classical Western architecture. This series of work portrays the triumph of the East over the West –illustrated through the shattered monuments depicted in the works.

His artistic oeuvre is unique and distinctive. Sir Norman Rosenthal says that “Shaw creates truly modern transformations of lost worlds of culture that arise from the exotic gardens of Kashmir to the memories that lie ‘imprisoned’ in the great museums of the Western World.”

Raqib Shaw is born in Calcutta and educated in London. He has had a solo exhibition at the Tate Modern in 2006 and several other group shows.

This exhibition is on until January 11, 2014

Crafting Hands: Sheher

Sneha Sikand of Saffronart on a major mural project currently on display at the Lal Ded Cultural Centre in Kashmir

Srinagar: Eminent artists Nilima Sheikh and B.V. Suresh have collaborated with several master craftsmen from the Kashmir valley to put together a mural to be installed at the new terminal in Chatrapati Shivaji International Airport, Mumbai. The exhibit includes paintings on papier-mâché and carved sculpture in wood, along with examples of ‘khatamband’ and ‘pinjrakari’ panels and glazed terracotta tiles.

‘Khatamband’ is the art of constructing a ceiling by fitting small pieces of wood together in a geometrical pattern. It is all done by hand, without the use of any nails.

‘Pinjrakari’ is the making of doors, windows and ventilators by arranging small wooden pieces in geometric form to display their edges. Each creation is typically held together by the pressure each piece exerts on the other and by the frame of the panel.

Artist Nilima Sheikh’s recent works have focused a great deal on Kashmir, particularly drawing inspiration from the poetry of Kashmiri poet Agha Shahid Ali, which formed the core of her recent series titled “The Country Without A Post Office – Reading Agha Shahid Ali.”

This yet to be completed mural titled ‘Conjoining Lands’ is a 6,800 sq foot multimedia project which will eventually be installed at the Mumbai airport. The mural materialises several long standing traditions of artists and craftsman from the valley.

The exhibition will be inaugurated by Omar Abdullah, Chief Minister of Jammu & Kashmir on May 31, 2013, and will be on display till June 2, 2013.

Wynyard Wilkinson on ‘Silver from the Indian Sub-Continent 1858-1947’ at Saffronart

Emily Jane Cushing shares a note on a talk given by Wynyard Wilkinson at Saffronart in London

Wynyard Wilkinson introducing the evenings event.

London: On Wednesday 15 May, before the preview of the new Saffronart exhibition ‘Silver From the Indian Sub-Continent 1858-1947’ author and Antique silver specialist Wynyard Wilkinson held an informative discussion on the decorative nature of the silver articles on display.

Wynyard Wilkinson describing ‘Cutch’ style silverware.

Despite the many aspects of silver production during the colonial period in India, given the diverse nature of decorative designs varying from region to region, Wilkinson touched on all the key styles. He noted the aesthetic features and purposes of various pieces, and underlined the relationships between geographical areas and designs, also noting that various regional designs often inter-link.

Wynyard Wilkinson discussing Kashmiri style silverware.

First, Madras “Swami Ware” was taken in to account. Wilkinson noted that despite the fact that ‘swami’ designs exhibited fine and intricately detailed ornamentation of Hindu deities and mythological figures, the style was a huge success in Europe and Great Britain. The most frequently depicted deities in this genre are Vishnu and Brahma riding their vahanas, or associated animals.

Bangalore Silver 'Swami-ware' Three Piece Tea-set by Krishniah Chetty c. 1900. http://www.saffronart.com/fixedjewelry/PieceDetails.aspx?iid=35977&a=

Bangalore Silver ‘Swami-ware’ Three Piece Tea-set by Krishniah Chetty
c. 1900. http://www.saffronart.com/fixedjewelry/PieceDetails.aspx?iid=35977&a=

After the Madras region, the discussion turned to Cutch silver, known for its attractive patterns of scrolling foliage intertwined with animals, birds and hunting scenes. The Cutch style was the most venerated Indian silverware in the late 19th century. Wilkinson particularly noted the resemblances to 17th century Portuguese pottery decorations, and distinctive similarities in the depiction of animal and bird figures with Persian decoration.

Next, Wilkinson focused on Kashmiri silver, highlighting the shawl pattern in particular. Taking inspiration from the prevalent Kashmiri weaving industry, this pattern illustrates vines of blossoms and leaves amid and between flowing scrolls; these scrolls sometimes lack detailing as to accentuate the distinction between the floral and the scroll aspects of the pattern.

Kashmir Parcel Gilt Set of Four Finger Bowls and Plates in 'Shawl' Pattern c. 1900. http://www.saffronart.com/fixedjewelry/PieceDetails.aspx?iid=35971&a=

Kashmir Parcel Gilt Set of Four Finger Bowls and Plates in ‘Shawl’ Pattern c. 1900. http://www.saffronart.com/fixedjewelry/PieceDetails.aspx?iid=35971&a=

Wilkinson then moved on to silverware produced in Lucknow. Designs from this region are most commonly recognized for their use of two patterns, the ‘jungle’ and the ‘hunting’ pattern. These patterns feature, although not to scale, forests of palm trees containing both animal and male figures, and bold male figures on elephant back pursuing wild animals or competing in sporting activities.

Lucknow Silver Swing-handle Basket in 'Hunting' Pattern c. 1890.  http://www.saffronart.com/fixedjewelry/PieceDetails.aspx?iid=35991&a=

Lucknow Silver Swing-handle Basket in ‘Hunting’ Pattern c. 1890. http://www.saffronart.com/fixedjewelry/PieceDetails.aspx?iid=35991&a=

The eclectic diversity of the silversmithing in Bombay, as a result of immigrant artisans from many regions of India who brought with them a wide range of design and decorative influences, was also discussed. Wilkinson noted, when discussing specific pieces, the use of domestic picture design by Bombay artisans, as a conscious move away from Cutch style foliage designs.

To conclude his informative talk, Wynyard Wilkinson drew the audience’s attention to two unique oversize examples of Indian colonial silverware on display. First, a large hand-rinsing fountain produced in Cutch in 1910, and, second, a voluminous two-handled vase crafted in Madras in 1890.

The exhibition will be on view till May 31, 2013, from 11:00 am to 7:00 pm Monday to Friday, and Saturday by appointment at Saffronart, London.

The catalogue may also be viewed online.

The Story is Live!

Sneha Sikand of Saffronart on the launch of a new website for curated collections of beautiful and hard to find objects

New Delhi: The Storya new website by Saffronart, where you can browse, learn about and acquire desirable objects ranging from fine art, home accessories to jewels and timepieces has just launched. What is interesting is that the collections are not necessarily what you usually find in a Saffronart auction. Understanding the desire for people to acquire items that appease their aesthetic sensibilities, The Story by Saffronart has put together a mix of age-old tradition and innovation in its collections.

S.H. Raza, Maa…
Serigraphy on paper
Image credit: http://www.saffronstory.com

The artwork collections comprise limited edition serigraphs and prints from masters of the modern art world, both Indian and international, as well as revivals of traditional forms such as Bundi miniature paintings, and as Mithila paintings from Bihar.

Copperplate engraving, Gastaldi’s new map of India
Image credit: http://www.saffronstory.com

Other collections range from beautifully crafted Chinese wedding baskets, to an exceptional set of antiquarian maps dating to the 16th century that chart India through the eyes of European explorers and cartographers. Objects available in ‘The Story’ are listed on the website for a limited period of time.

While every collection on The Story is unique, together they represent the meeting of tradition and innovation, age-old craftsmanship and contemporary design. Each collection has been put together around a narrative; an account of a culture, place, custom, genre or technique. Some of these stories have also been woven around the aesthetic sensibilities, experiences and memories of highly regarded individuals- The Story’s discerning tastemakers – who have agreed to share their knowledge, collecting experience and good taste with you through the collections they curate.

Collections from The Story are now available and can be viewed and purchased on the website saffronstory.com.

An Introduction to Kashmiri Art and Craft

Sneha Sikand of Saffronart explores some of the the arts and crafts of Kashmir featured in The Story by Saffronart

New Delhi: Kashmir is considered to be a treasure trove of arts and crafts. While every region tends to have its own distinct specialty, Kashmiri carpets, shawls, papier-mâché objects and silverware are recognized worldwide for their fine quality and craftsmanship.

A Bakhtiari Carpet
Image credit: http://www.saffronart.com

Carpet weaving is not indigenous to Kashmir and is thought to have been introduced there by Persian settlers. These settlers brought with them the knowledge of patterns and designs distinct to their communities, which is why many Kashmiri carpets carry motifs that are distinctly Persian, with some local variations. The Bakhtiari design, also known as the ‘paneled-garden design’ is named after a region in Iran called Bakhtiar. The field of the Bakhtiari carpet is divided into compartments or panels, containing individual motifs or patterns. Often a set of 3-4 compartments is repeated throughout the field. While the design may have originated in Bakhtiar, it is an often identified design in Kashmiri carpets.

A Paisley woven wool and silk shawl with typical all over design, circa 1860
Image credit: http://www.meg-andrews.com

The paisley design is said to have got its name from the shawl manufacturing town, Paisley in England. Also known as the Boteh or pine motif, it is believed that it first used in Kashmir during the seventeenth century.

Paisley motif development
Image credit: http://www.meg-andrews.com

The pattern can be traced back to ancient Babylon, where a tear-drop shape was used as a symbol to represent the growing shoot of a date palm. The palm provided food, drink, clothing (woven fibres) and shelter, and so became regarded as the ‘Tree of Life’. Other theories state that the motif is a stylized depiction of a mango, a fruit commonly found in India. Shawls from Kashmir have always been the most sought after for being woven from hair, and being lighter and smooth with a natural sheen.

Silverware and papier-mâché are two other equally popular items that Kashmir is known for. Local silversmiths incorporated the Chinar-leaf design into silver objects. Called booune in Kashmiri, the chinar tree came to Kashmir in the sixteenth century when Emperor Akbar arranged for the planting of several hundreds near the Hazratbal shrine. It is said that when the leaves on the trees turned red, the emperor saw them from a distance and exclaimed, “Chin-nar!” which means blazing colour.

Sugar bowl with Chinar Decoration, circa. 1890
Image credit: http://www.silverfromindia1850-1920.blogspot.in

Papier-mâché was also introduced to Kashmiri craftsmen by Persian settlers. Initially used to make boxes to transport expensive shawls to Europe, Kashmiri papier-mâché was so loved in countries such as France, that it started selling on its own. Today, it has become highly stylized with the use of real gold and silver paint, and by adding intricate decorations. The designs and decorations still have a strong Persian influence. Some items like bowls and vases are lined with brass, while some exquisitely carved items are ornamented with gold and silver leaf and depict beautiful landscapes and objects like house boats, that are an integral part of Kashmiri life.

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