In Conversation With: Valay Shende

WATCH NOW: The sculptor famed for his recent public installation Dabbawala, discusses his Buffalo series and the philosophy behind his art during a studio visit with Saffronart.

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Two of a Kind: F N Souza and Lancelot Ribeiro

F N Souza, the “enfant terrible” of modern Indian art, hardly needs an introduction. His less known half-brother, Lancelot Ribeiro, might. As two paintings from important phases in their artistic careers go on auction in June, we look at intersections in their life and art.

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An Evening with Krishen Khanna

Vidhita Raina reports on Krishen Khanna’s lecture on “The Progressives” at London’s Courtauld Institute

Krishen Khanna (centre), Prof. Deborah Swallow (right) and Zehra Jumabhoy (left). Credits: Grosvenor Gallery, London.

Krishen Khanna (centre), Prof. Deborah Swallow (right) and Zehra Jumabhoy (left). Credits: Grosvenor Gallery, London.

“Is the artist only interested in being a unique individual? If I had considered my work to be unique, then I would have continued trying to be unique… and that is not what art is about,” said Krishen Khanna at a talk held at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London on June 8, 2015. This sagacious insight into his artistic motivations was one of the many gemstones that Khanna—a leading Indian Modernist painter—showered upon a rapt audience, eager in attendance to witness one of the stalwarts of Indian art reminiscing about its heydays.

With Deborah Swallow and Zehra Jumabhoy from the Courtauld Institute, and Conor Macklin from Grosvenor Gallery also on the panel, this debate was conducted as part of the “Contemporaneity in South Asian Art” seminar series.

The symposium was full of anecdotes as Khanna brought out his personal archive of letters exchanged between him and his many associates. Khanna’s nostalgic stories about his Bombay Progressive peers were unequivocally the highlights; particularly those involving his erstwhile roommate and one of the most celebrated Indian artists, the late Maqbool Fida Husain. It is common knowledge that Husain introduced Khanna into the Bombay Progressive Artists’ Group (or “PAG”, as they were generally called). But the evening revealed one more nugget of information—Husain, during one of his visits to Khanna’s then home in Churchgate, Mumbai, borrowed his copy of the English art critic Clive Bell’s 1914 seminal text Art, only to eventually lose it. This incident, according to Khanna, was a result of “certain forces which operate at the right time”.

Khanna’s association with the PAG, which was formed right on the heels of India’s independence in 1947, led to several accomplishments in his trajectory as an artist. He held major exhibitions in Mumbai and New Delhi in the late ’50s. The Tata Institute of Fundamental Research showed great interest in his work, and its founding director—the esteemed nuclear physicist Dr. Homi Bhabha—bought his very first painting. In 1960, Khanna had his first solo show with Leicester Galleries of London. Here Khanna drew upon a letter written by renowned British art historian, Sir Kenneth Clark, gloriously calling one of his major abstract artworks a “masterpiece”.

Khanna spoke at length about Francis Newton Souza’s role as the driving force behind the PAG, including calling the group as “Progressives”. However, the term was subsequently dropped as many of its members—which also included artists like S.H. Raza, Akbar Padamsee, Tyeb Mehta, V.S. Gaitonde, Ram Kumar, K.H. Ara, among others—felt that it had political connotations. It was a suggestion that rankled with Khanna, as the PAG never saw itself as a political group.

But even as the PAG was beginning to emerge as a new wave of artists in post-independent India unfettered by their political climate—and dissociating themselves from the nationalist spirit of the preceding Bengal School artists in the process—their art, Khanna’s in particular, couldn’t avoid resonating with social, economic and political undertones of a changing nation state.

Born in the city of Lyallpur (now Faisalabad of modern day Pakistan) in 1925, Khanna was, and is, no stranger to political turmoil. Following the Partition of India in 1947, his family moved to Shimla in northern India. Khanna himself accepted a job at Grindlays Bank in Bombay, a position he would hold for 14 years, before finally resigning to focus on his art completely.

Krishen Khanna on the 'Progressives' at the Kenneth Clark Lecture Theatre, The Courtauld Institute of Art. Credits: Grosvenor Gallery, London.

Krishen Khanna on the ‘Progressives’ at the Kenneth Clark Lecture Theatre, The Courtauld Institute of Art. Credits: Grosvenor Gallery, London.

A self-taught artist, Khanna created works that showed a strong preoccupation with the historical background of his time. For him, the humanistic element in a painting was a paramount. Khanna was deeply concerned with the condition of the individual. It’s an artistic anxiety highly evident in his paintings of tired workers piled in trucks, dhaba owners in twilight moments, and the uniformed “bandwallas”—the last vestiges of long-dead British imperial legacy. In her biography Krishen Khanna: The Embrace of Love, critic Gayatri Sinha has said: “the paintings constitute a powerful psychological engagement, one that also serves as a document of the passage of time in modern India.”

Another aspect of the debate, raised by Conor Macklin and Zehra Jumabhoy, was India’s relationship with Britain, and the impact of the European Avant-garde Movement on the PAG. Just as the modern art of Europe rose from the trenches of the World War I, the trauma resulting from the Partition of India also stimulated a new language of art production in its wake. In an effort to locate a new identity and language for Indian art, many of the modern artists such as Souza, Raza, and Padamsee—having studied or spent time in Paris—inevitably found themselves looking towards Western styles of art.

Khanna himself was a well-travelled and worldly artist: he was the first Indian painter to be awarded the Rockefeller Fellowship by New York’s prestigious Rockefeller Foundation in1962. As part of this fellowship, Khanna spent time in Japan where he found inspiration in the Sumi-e (Suibokuga) calligraphic style of paintings, practiced by Zen Buddhists during the 14th century. This led to a number of experiments in abstraction during the ’60s and ’70s, which Khanna reflected upon as “a series of events which formulate or assist in formulating the kind of action you have to take”. In the following year, he was invited as the artist-in-residence at the American University, Washington D.C., and exhibited at various museums and galleries throughout the United States.

Besides being a riveting trip down memory lane, the symposium was mainly a precursor to Krishen Khanna’s ongoing retrospective at the Grosvenor Gallery titled “when the band began to play he packed up his troubles and marched away”. A certain homage was paid to the presence of the seminar being held at the Kenneth Clark lecture theatre, named after the eponymous art historian and an old associate of the artist.

Khanna’s talk was one for the history books—significant moments during the early Indian Modernist phase were brought up, including when artist Bal Chhabda opened Gallery 59. It was Mumbai’s first, short-lived art gallery to showcase artworks by the PAG members in 1959. The group may be long gone, but they left an undeniable legacy for India and the world to treasure.

Your E-pocket Guide to Exhibitions this July

The Saffronart team has been scuttling around to put together a handy list of exhibitions to check out this month. Some end soon, and with some others you can take your time, though we wouldn’t really recommend waiting too long. So if you’re in Mumbai, Delhi, England or the U.S. of A. this month, you know where to go.

Mumbai

Ghiberti, Lorenzo (1378-1455). Gates of Paradise. 1425-52, lost wax bronze replica from original mould with gilded patina. Guild of the Dome Association/ Museum of the Opera del Duomo, Florence, 2014. Credits: Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum website

From the Exhibition The Florentine Renaissance: “The City as a Crucible of Culture”
Ghiberti, Lorenzo (1378-1455). Gates of Paradise. 
Credits: Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum website

The Florentine Renaissance: “The City as a Crucible of Culture”
Where: Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum City Museum, Byculla
On View Till: July 8, 2014

You don’t need to travel all the way to Florence to get a glimpse of Italian Renaissance…not this week anyway. The Bhau Daji Lad Museum has extended this exhibition which features prolific early renaissance artist Lorenzo Ghiberti’s masterpiece, ‘The Gates of Paradise’: a work also revered by other artists such as Michaelangelo himself. The interior and permanent collection at the museum will be an added bonus to your visit.

Mansoor Ali: “Anatomy of an Unknown Chair”
Where: Gallery Maskara, Colaba
On View Till: July 31, 2014

Ever thought about chairs beyond their functional and aesthetic qualities?  Mansoor Ali’s ongoing show at the Gallery Maskara is sure to provoke you to think about much more through his installations that employ chairs as a primary medium. His five installations address several issues pertaining to politics and power play, reminding us of the effectiveness of found objects in art.

If the idea of visiting this exhibition hasn’t incentivized you enough already to make your way to Colaba, you should know that the nearby Mumbai Art Room, Sakshi Gallery and Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke have ongoing exhibitions too. You could combine visiting the three galleries to make for an enjoyable, art-filled afternoon.

Amshu Chukki, Kaushik Saha, Anil Thambai, Pradeep P.P., Yasmin Jahan Nupur and Sangita Maity: “Art for Young Collectors”
Where: Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke, Colaba  
On View Till:
July 31, 2014

As per tradition, Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke is currently hosting its ongoing exhibition, ‘Art for Young Collectors’. While each artist has a unique approach and style, all the works are connected by a similar theme: “the common trail of seepage–the flowing of one system, one suite of meanings, one realm of belief into another, creating an uneasy ecology and forever changing both in the process.”

Anirban Mitra, Arunkumar H.G., Jagannath Panda, Jitish Kallat, Manjunath Kamat, Ravinder Reddy, Shilpa Gupta, Surendran Nair, Vivek Vilasini: Group Show
Where: 
Sakshi Art Gallery, Colaba
On View Till: July 31, 2014

Don’t miss Sakshi while on your mini art excursion. This exhibition features a mix of paintings, photographs and sculptures by important contemporary artists whose works you should be acquainted with.

Anna Ostoya, Agnieszka Polska, Karol Radziszewski, Janek Simon, Rafał Wilk: “We Rather Look Back to Futures Past”
Where:
Mumbai Art Room, Colaba
On View Till: August 7, 2014

This is a unique exhibition that is presented in collaboration with the Polish Institute. The exhibits include photomontages, films and sculptures by five contemporary artists who share a common Polish background. While the artists explore the common theme of looking back and questioning the past, they each employ a unique individualistic approach. Not only does this exhibition give you the chance to learn more about Polish contemporary art, but it should also compel you to think about your own associations with the past.


Delhi

Gauri Gill, “Hall of Technology - Diptych 1”, Archival Pigment Print, 9" X 12", 2010 Credits: Vadehra Art Gallery

From the Exhibition “Invisible Cities”
Gauri Gill, “Hall of Technology – Diptych 1”, Archival Pigment Print, 9″ X 12″, 2010
Credits: Vadehra Art Gallery


Group Show: “Invisible Cities”
Where: Vadehra Gallery, D-53 Defense Colony
On View Till:  July 12, 2014

If Italo Calvino popped into your mind on reading this, you’re quite close to guessing the theme of this exhibit. “They are stories of spaces that are invisible or underground, mute spaces hidden under the bustling cover of the city. They are stories of people and their relationships, of which the artist is part of”, reads the Vadehra Art Gallery press release. Featuring well-known artists and photographers such as Atul Bhalla, Gauri Gill, Sunil Gupta, Malini Kochupillai and Asim Waqif, this group show highlights aspects of cities that may otherwise remain unnoticed. Perhaps your otherwise hectic urban life doesn’t give you the opportunity to actively observe the little details that are easily missed. Don’t miss this chance to see the work of these acclaimed artists, under a single roof.

Pradeep Puthoor: “New Paintings”
Where:
Nature Morte, Central South Delhi                                                                         When:  July 5 – August 2, 2014

Pradeep Puthoor, an artist from Kerala who has shown his works in a number of galleries across India and abroad, is featuring his new mural-size paintings in this exhibition. These paintings depict the meeting point between computer science and biological engineering, and create a space for viewers to “swim in and get lost, to drown in their luscious complexities.” The unique theme and large paintings are sure to entice a wide audience, making Nature Morte an ideal gallery to visit this July.

Raj Rewal: “Memory, Metaphor and Meaning in his Constructed Landscape”
Where: National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi
On View Till: July 20, 2014

Did you think you missed this show? You’d be happy to know that the NGMA has extended this exhibition, giving you the opportunity to visit it this July. This retrospective features five decades of work by renowned architect Raj Rewal. The works on display will make you see architecture as a field of visual art, as structures may otherwise be judged mostly on their functionality. Of course, Rewal’s own achievements, such as his work being featured at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, make visiting this exhibition even more compelling.

“Smart Art Cart”
Where: Gallery Espace, Delhi
On View Till: July 31, 2014

On view and on sale at Gallery Espace are a collection of works by Amit Ambalal, Rajendar Tiku, M.F. Husain, Manjunath Kamath, Owais Husain, Suddhosattwa Basu, Mala Marwah, Mekhala Bahl, Chintan Upadhyay, S.H. Raza, and Jai Zharotia, among others.

England

From the Grosvenor Gallery Exhibition of Senaka Senanayake’s works Butterflies, 2014, Oil on canvas, 122 x 182.9cm. (48 x 72in.) Source: Grosvenor Gallery Website

From the Grosvenor Gallery Exhibition of Senaka Senanayake’s works
Butterflies, 2014, Oil on canvas, 122 x 182.9cm. (48 x 72in.)
Source: Grosvenor Gallery Website

Senaka Senanayake
Where: Grosvenor Gallery
On View Till: July 11, 2014

If you’re ever at Green Park this week or the next, pop by Grosvenor Gallery to take in a tropical medley of colours, all harmoniously arranged by one of Sri Lanka’s most important artists, Senaka Senanayake. The prodigal artist has been exhibiting internationally since his teenage years. His recent work is inspired by the plight of the Sri Lankan rainforests, many of which have been subject to intense deforestation to make way for tea plantations.

Nasreen Mohamedi
Where: Tate Liverpool
On View Till: October 5, 2014

Nasreen Mohamedi is one of the most significant women artists of Modern Indian art, and a critically acclaimed one at that. Tate Liverpool is hosting Mohamedi’s largest solo exhibition in the UK. The show includes more than 50 of her works spanning paintings, drawings and photographs, especially highlighting the most significant artistic phases in her career, and runs in parallel with “Mondrian and his Studios”, exploring how she moved from the figurative to the abstract like Mondrian. Tickets for the latter include admission into the Nasreen Mohamedi exhibition.

Empire, Faith and War: The Sikhs and World War One
Where: The Brunei Gallery, SOAS
On View Till: September 28, 2014

The UK Punjab Heritage Association has organised an exhibition to remember the invaluable contribution and experiences of Sikh soldiers during the Great War. The exhibition features rare and unique finds such as unpublished photographs and drawings, newspapers and comics, postcards, works of art, uniforms, gallantry medals, and folk songs sung by wives left at home, as well as a unique album of X-Rays of wounded Indian soldiers’ injuries lent by Her Majesty The Queen from the Royal Collection.

London Indian Film Festival
Where: BFI Southbank, ICA, BAFTA and Cineworld cinemas across London
On View From: July 10-17, 2014

The London Indian Film Festival is back in town for its 5th edition. Following last year’s success, some of the best Indian independent films will be showing in several venues across London accompanied by talks with cinema personalities such as Santosh Sivan and Farhan Akhtar and a Q&A with film directors.  For the full programme, check the London Indian Film Festival website.

U.S.A 

From the Exhibition Gateway to Himalayan Art & The Tibetan Buddhist Shrine Room Photo by David De Armas Source: Rubin Museum Website

From the Exhibition Gateway to Himalayan Art & The Tibetan Buddhist Shrine Room
Photo by David De Armas
Source: Rubin Museum Website

The Rubin Museum of Art has its eyes on the Indian subcontinent. Head there this month and combine your visits into one eventful day.

From India East: Sculpture of Devotion from the Brooklyn Museum
Where:  Rubin Museum of Art, New York
On View Till: July 28, 2014

Given the temporary closure of the Asian art galleries at the Brooklyn Museum, this exhibition allows visitor to partake from this significant museum collection. Curated by the Rubin Museum, the objects trace the development of Hindu and Buddhist sculptures to its root in ancient Indic art. On view are selections of works from various regions including Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Thailand, Korea, and Japan, which together map the wide-spread evolution of Asian art in the regions.

Bodies in Balance: The Art of Tibetan Medicine
Where:  Rubin Museum of Art, New York
On View Till: September 8, 2014

This is one of the first major exhibitions which chronicle the origin, history and practice of the Tibetan science of healing. It brings to the viewers a visual narrative on the subject by presenting 140 objects dating from the 9th century to the present which includes manuscripts and paintings on medical practices and medical instruments. The exhibition highlights the relationship shared between Tibetan medicine and Buddhism and how it has shaped the visual arts in the Himalayan region. In addition to the historic objects is a multi-media installation which explains how Tibetan medicine is used today and allows visitor to find out personalized health information through questionnaires, making the visit informative and interactive.  There’s also a quiz online.

Gateway to Himalayan Art & The Tibetan Buddhist Shrine Room
Where:
  Rubin Museum of Art, New York
On View Till: January 6, 2016
NOTE: Exhibit Reopening July 2, 2014

Curated by Karl Debreczeny and Elena Pakhoutova, this exhibition gives its audience an introduction to the principal concepts of Himalayan art and its cultural contexts. Visitors are welcomed by a large multimedia map of the Himalayan region which highlights the diversity in the region. This exhibition is divided into four sections: Figures and Symbols, Materials and Techniques, Purpose and Function, and Tibetan Art in Context. The centerpiece of this exhibit is the Tibetan Buddhist Shrine Room- a recreated model for everyone to experience. This well-documented exhibition has many learning tools making it an interesting visit for a diverse audience.

Mithu Sen: Border Unseen
Where: Broad Art Museum, Michigan State University,
On View Till: August 31, 2014

Mithu Sen’s first solo museum exhibition in the US is a massive installation in dental polymer, tracing a pink toothy line across a long prism-shaped room. This is the first of Mithu’s teeth works installed on suspended armature. The 80 feet long hanging sculpture inhabits the gallery space, its sheer scale and texture eliciting strong reactions from viewers. This monumental yet minimalist work reaffirms the artist’s exploration of the connotations of bodily materials like hair, teeth and bone in her works.

Beyond Bollywood: Indian Americans Shape the Nation
Where: National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center, Washington D.C.
On View Till: August 16, 2015

This iconic exhibition chronicles more than 200 years of Indian American contributions to the U.S. The 5,000-square-foot exhibition features Indian Americans’ migration experiences, working lives, political struggles and cultural and religious contributions. Highlighted artifacts include a dress worn by First Lady Michelle Obama designed by Indian American Naeem Khan; the 1985 National Spelling Bee trophy awarded to the first Indian American winner, Balu Natarajan; and Mohini Bhardwaj’s 2004 Olympic Silver Medal for gymnastics. Public programs include performances featuring Indian American art, comedy, cuisine, dance, film, television, literature and music. The exhibition will be travelling around the US for four years beginning May 2015.

There’s plenty more out there, so don’t forget to drop by our events listing page, updated each month.

Can Site-Specific Artists Really Claim Space? The Georges Rousse Apnalaya Benefit Collection

Elizabeth Prendiville of Saffronart discusses appropriation in the site-specific work of artist Georges Rousse.

“Mumbai 2014/Shivaji Nagar IV” by Georges Rousse Photo Courtesy of StoryLTD

“Mumbai 2014/Shivaji Nagar IV” by Georges Rousse
Photo Courtesy of StoryLTD

Paris-based artist Georges Rousse is a master of layering perceptions for his viewers. Locations, shapes, and spaces that were once familiar are reformed and combined in unexpected ways forming a multi-dimensional work that presents itself as both familiar and foreign. This summer StoryLTD presents Rousse’s Apnalaya Benefit Collection. This location is an interesting choice for the artist who often works in ruins or forgotten architectural spaces. In contrast, the Apnalaya center’s mission focuses on rebuilding the lives and communities of individuals in the poorest slum neighborhoods of Mumbai. I see a noteworthy correlation between the artist’s dedication to revitalizing and repositioning locations through his work and the center’s goals for supporting and improving nearby communities. Both the artist and the center create change in seemingly bleak circumstances. But how does the artist’s process bring new life into a location while still honoring the true history of the space? Unlike deteriorating ruins or forgotten spaces, the Apnalaya center is alive and active, making it harder to find this appropriative balance. Can Rousse truly claim a space as his own when the singular purpose of the location is fostering greater communities? This brings forward an intriguing discussion in regards to site-specific work in general.

Georges Rousse and his team from the Apnalaya center Photo courtesy of Apnalaya

Georges Rousse and his team from the Apnalaya center
Photo courtesy of Apnalaya

 

Rousse’s work has been acclaimed internationally for his unique utilization of multiple mediums simultaneously molded together to create a single dynamic piece. His practice typically consists of creating a site-specific installation using paints and other traditional mediums to bring a new aesthetic to the space. In the case of the Apnalaya collection, large stars were painted in the space to create a playful effect of physical depth and perspective. After completing the space Rousse photographs it, creating a permanent and tangible testimony of the artistic occurrence. The photograph is intended to last, while the installation is temporary. Throughout his work we see the fleeting and liminal quality of public art installations in juxtaposition with the documented finality of photography.

 

Installation with the Apnalaya Team Photo courtesy of Apnalaya

Installation with the Apnalaya Team
Photo courtesy of Apnalaya

Although the pieces in this collection appear simple in composition and color scheme initially, they have an entrancing quality that invites you into a unique space that is only truly represented in the artist’s photographs. He achieves the perfect balance of removing viewers from the familiar and paying visual homage to an everyday location.  The familiarity and safety of a school works in dialogue with the slightly dizzying change of perspective. Rousse’s “Nagar” series (I, II, III, IV) allow viewer’s perspective to dictate how they take in the work. The iconography in these pieces is nothing new. However, the placement and technical choices both in the original installation and the photography create an open-ended product that gives viewers freedom to determine their own viewpoint. Simply viewing the work I found it difficult to determine what is a manipulated through photography and what is in the actual space. Rousse is successful in creating an engaging mysterious quality for his viewers; familiar landscapes are tweaked to transport you elsewhere. However, with this visceral appropriation in mind, is the original space truly honored or is it simply a stepping-stone to the artist’s final product?

The Apnalya Benefit Collection will be shown on StoryLTD through July 15th. However, limited edition prints are selling fast. Find out what pieces are still available for sale here. You can also learn more about Rousse’s process by watching a video by the artist here.

 

 

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