A Legend Passes Away: Mrinalini Mukherjee

Rashmi Rajgopal tries rebuilding the image of  the artist and sculptor and asks readers to add in their pieces as well

A photo of Mrinalini Mukherji by Manisha Gera Baswani

A photo of Mrinalini Mukherji by Manisha Gera Baswani

How do you create an image of someone you have never met before in your life? Instinct would drive you to read about this person, or speak with people who knew her. But if you’re looking for something more impactful, simply attend a memorial service being held for that person.

On Friday, February 6, visitors flooded the National Gallery of Modern Art in New Delhi in remembrance of acclaimed artist and sculptor Mrinalini Mukherjee. The NGMA, currently holding a retrospective titled “Transfigurations: The Sculpture of Mrinalini Mukherjee”, held a memorial service for the artist who, aged 65, had succumbed to a prolonged lung problem last Monday. Among those who spoke fondly of her were Professor Rajeev Lochan, director of the NGMA; Peter Nagy, curator of the ongoing retrospective; critic Geeta Kapur; and some of the artist’s close friends whose messages were read out during the service. As Professor Lochan put it, “It was a tragic irony that Mrinalini was hospitalised just a day before the opening of the solo exhibition and that she could not see the impact it had made on art lovers.”

A photo of Mrinalini Mukherji by Manisha Gera Baswani

A photo of Mrinalini Mukherji by Manisha Gera Baswani

It’s possible that visitors at the memorial were drawn there owing to a deep sense of respect for the artist and her work. It’s possible that some among them were present out of curiosity and, perhaps, were in the dark about the artist. Who was Mrinalini Mukherjee? Why did she matter? What legacy did she leave behind?

For those who knew her, Mrinalini was a woman with a powerful personality, and an emblem for women artists carving their paths in the art world. Over the phone, artist Shukla Sawant spoke of how revolutionary Mrinalini was, as an artist and person. “She had an astonishing personality and lived life on her own terms. For my generation of artists, I think this is very important,” said Shukla.

Mrinalini came from a lineage of artists. Born in 1949 to the illustrious artist pair Binodebehari and Leela Mukherjee, Mrinalini did not let their success overshadow her career, and grew to become a fearless and unconventional artist. She studied painting at the Faculty of Fine Arts, M.S. University, Baroda (1965-1970). While there, she discovered hemp fibre and it featured frequently in her sculptures. By choosing to use this unusual medium, often dyed in vibrant shades, she imbued her works with a rare sensitivity and grace of form.

Van Raja (King of the Forest), 1991-1994, Collection: Kiran Nadar Museum of Art Part of “Transfigurations: The Sculpture of Mrinalini Mukherjee” Courtesy: The National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi

Van Raja (King of the Forest), 1991-1994, Collection: Kiran Nadar Museum of Art
Part of “Transfigurations: The Sculpture of Mrinalini Mukherjee”
Courtesy: The National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi

Aranyani,1996, Collection: Jhaveri Contemporary & Nature Morte Part of “Transfigurations: The Sculpture of Mrinalini Mukherjee” Courtesy: The National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi

Aranyani, 1996, Collection: Jhaveri Contemporary & Nature Morte
Part of “Transfigurations: The Sculpture of Mrinalini Mukherjee”
Courtesy: The National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi

Vruksha Nata,1991-92, Collection: Kiran Nadar Museum of Art Part of “Transfigurations: The Sculpture of Mrinalini Mukherjee” Courtesy: The National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi

Vruksha Nata, 1991-92, Collection: Kiran Nadar Museum of Art
Part of “Transfigurations: The Sculpture of Mrinalini Mukherjee”
Courtesy: The National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi

Works like Vana Raja, Aranyani, and Vruksha Nata offer a window into the artist’s meticulous mind. With incredible attention to detail, Mrinalini has breathed into them a striking semblance to organic motifs. Every fold and contour has a restrained elegance, yet appears robust.

While hemp carried with it a certain flexibility, she also worked with ceramic and bronze. Her choice of mediums symbolised a gamut of personalities. Ceramic offers a brittle resilience, and bronze possesses a more obstinate strength in its form and nature. Mrinalini’s sculptures were sensuous: they drew from organic forms and resembled plant motifs, but also bore strong sexual undercurrents. She opened a new avenue through her choices and imparted each work with a layered personality.

Forest Flame IV, Bronze, 2009, Collection: Jhaveri Contemporary & Nature Morte Part of “Transfigurations: The Sculpture of Mrinalini Mukherjee” Courtesy: The National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi

Forest Flame IV, Bronze, 2009, Collection: Jhaveri Contemporary & Nature Morte
Part of “Transfigurations: The Sculpture of Mrinalini Mukherjee”
Courtesy: The National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi

Orange & Green, 2000, Ceramic, Collection: Jhaveri Contemporary & Nature Morte Part of “Transfigurations: The Sculpture of Mrinalini Mukherjee” Courtesy: The National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi

Orange & Green, 2000, Ceramic, Collection: Jhaveri Contemporary & Nature Morte
Part of “Transfigurations: The Sculpture of Mrinalini Mukherjee”
Courtesy: The National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi

Matrix 4, 2006, Bronze, Collection: Jhaveri Contemporary & Nature Morte Part of “Transfigurations: The Sculpture of Mrinalini Mukherjee” Courtesy: The National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi

Matrix 4, 2006, Bronze, Collection: Jhaveri Contemporary & Nature Morte
Part of “Transfigurations: The Sculpture of Mrinalini Mukherjee”
Courtesy: The National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi

Flora (light), 2000, partially glazed ceramic, Collection: Mirchandani & Steinruecke Part of “Transfigurations: The Sculpture of Mrinalini Mukherjee” Courtesy: The National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi

Flora (light), 2000, partially glazed ceramic, Collection: Mirchandani & Steinruecke
Part of “Transfigurations: The Sculpture of Mrinalini Mukherjee”
Courtesy: The National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi

“Transfigurations…” features some remarkable sculptures and encapsulates the legacy she has left behind. Her works are also part of many renowned collections both in India and abroad, such as the NGMA in New Delhi, Bharat Bhavan in Bhopal, the Lalit Kala Akademi in New Delhi, the Chandigarh State Museum, and the Tate Modern in London.

Mrinalini’s image is far from complete. If you’re reading this, do acquaint yourself with her works and add in your own pieces. We may never get close to building a complete picture – the task is too monumental. But we would be adding to a bigger, richer memory of what she aimed to show the world.

When you see a painting and don’t know what it is, you look…

Behind the Picture

If you were in our gallery earlier this month, ambling about with an all-knowing smile plastered across your face to mask the “Hmm, this is interesting, but I don’t get it and the catalogue is a bit dense to bother reading” tumult your mind was going through, this is it. Starting today, we’re picking some of the most exciting lots from our upcoming live auction and giving you crisp, palatable snippets about them. Perhaps now you’ll reach out to them and invite them for a chat over tea and biscuits.

But we know it’s all subjective, and you have your favourites. Don’t see them here? Leave a Facebook comment or write to us, and we’ll try to cover a few more—succintly—on our blog.

We’ll be updating this space with all posts in the series, so be sure not to miss out on any!

1. A possible drive down the French countryside would yield this….if you were in the 1950s…and if you were S.H. Raza

2. Imagine a very important religious subject. Now go back a thousand years or so, and think of a thousand ways of portraying three figures and a donkey. Ran out of options at #999? Not if you’re Jehangir Sabavala.

 

“Mughal India: Art, Culture & Empire” Comes To New Delhi

Elizabeth Prendiville of Saffronart discusses the British Library’s exhibition now on display in New Delhi.

New York:  This winter, the British Library has brought its exhibition “Mughal India: Art, Culture & Empire” to New Delhi. This show provides an amazing opportunity for pieces that are usually hidden in the depths of the library collection to be shown to the public for the very first time. Originally established in Britain, and then later in Kabul, Afghanistan, this collection is a strong representation of Mughal art history. The New Delhi exhibition is produced by Roli Books in conjunction with the Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts alongside the original curatorial team from the British Library. It will offer an opportunity for this period in Indian history to be told in a beautiful and informative way. 

The exhibition consists of paintings and alluringly illustrated manuscripts, most commissioned by the Mughal emperors and other important figureheads of the time. These pieces contribute an illustrative history of the Mughal Empire. Each piece contributes a beautiful crafted depiction of upperclass life at this point in history. Scenes of court gatherings, hunting, royal portraiture and Indian landscapes are all shown with picturesque detail. The emblematic quality of these images is rich. Each piece has a wealth of historical knowledge and narrative, even in a single image. In addition to these scenes, very rare books and manuscripts are featured in the exhibition including “Book of Affairs of Love” by Rai Anand Ram Mukhlis and “Notebook of Fragrance” by Shah Jahan. Because the British Library is not a museum with continual exhibitions, many of these pieces are rarely seen or displayed. Not only does this collection contribute to our overall knowledge of the cultural setting of Mughal India it also shows the worldview during this time period. Pivotal historical documents such as the first Indian atlas, a city map of Delhi and a trade route from Delhi to Qandahar are included.

This exhibition is a beautiful and informative retelling of the history of Mughal India. To learn more about events and publications associated with this exhibition please view the British Library website here.

Nature Morte’s “Parallel Postulates”

Elizabeth Prendiville of Saffronart shares a note about the newly opened group exhibition at Nature Morte in New Delhi. 

Mona Rai Krishna-Krishna, 2013 Mixed media on canvas 74" x 72" (188 x 183 cms) diptych http://www.naturemorte.com/exhibitions/2013-12-07_parallel-postulates/

Mona Rai
Krishna-Krishna, 2013
Mixed media on canvas
74″ x 72″ (188 x 183 cms) diptych
http://www.naturemorte.com/exhibitions/2013-12-07_parallel-postulates/

New York:  On December 7th Nature Morte Gallery in New Delhi will be debuting their exhibition “Parallel Postulates” featuring all new work from artists Aakash Nihalani, Anita Dube, Martand Khosla and Mona Rai. All of the works represents an aesthetic focused on geometric patterns and mathematical illustrations. Each artist has an individual approach to utilizing geometric structures in their abstract work.

Martand Khosla System Natural-Iv, 2013 brick dust on paper (silk screen) 31" x 25" (79 x 64 cms) http://www.naturemorte.com/exhibitions/2013-12-07_parallel-postulates/

Martand Khosla
System Natural-Iv, 2013
brick dust on paper (silk screen)
31″ x 25″ (79 x 64 cms) http://www.naturemorte.com/exhibitions/2013-12-07_parallel-postulates/

Although geometric shapes are relatively common themes in abstract-influenced work, “Parallel Postulates” displays a surprisingly diverse range of mediums and approaches. Pieces such as Mona Rai’s “Krishna-Krishna” display mixed media through colors and textures while Martland Khosla’s “System Natural-Iv” uses figural narrative and touches on his experiences with architecture while using the unique medium of brick dust on paper.

Aakash Nihalani  Cloud (Yellow), 2012 Painted Stainless Steel  72" x 72" x .25" (183 x 183 x .64 cms) http://www.naturemorte.com/exhibitions/2013-12-07_parallel-postulates/

Aakash Nihalani Cloud (Yellow), 2012 Painted Stainless Steel 72″ x 72″ x .25″ (183 x 183 x .64 cms) http://www.naturemorte.com/exhibitions/2013-12-07_parallel-postulates/

All four of these artists are New Delhi based except for Aakash Nihalani who currently works in New York. Nature Morte is well known globally for celebrating experimental and conceptual contemporary works as well as promoting cross-cultural dialogue. They refer to the space as both a commercial gallery and a curatorial experiment, thus it should come as no surprise that this exhibition displays a wide variety of mixed media. Nature Morte currently represents Mona Rai and Anita Dube. “Parallel Postulates” will be on display through January 4th 2014. Be sure to visit Nature Morte’s diverse group show while in New Delhi this winter. For more information visit Nature Morte’s website here. 

Experiments with Truth: Atul Dodiya

Ipshita Sen of Saffronart shares a note on Atul Dodiya’s current exhibition at the National Gallery of Modern Art in New Delhi. 

New York: Atul Dodiya, is one of India’s leading and most significant contemporary artists. His solo exhibition ‘ Experiments with Truth’ at the National Gallery of Modern Art in New Delhi, curated by cultural theorist and poet Ranjit Hoskote, brings together for the first time over 80 works by the artist over his prolific career from 1981-2013. It will also show works made by the artist during his time as a student at the J. J. School of Art in the early 1980’s.

Atul Dodiya at National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi<br />Image Source: http://www.platform-mag.com/art/atul-dodiya.html?para=2#article_title

Atul Dodiya at National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi
Image Source: http://www.platform-mag.com/art/atul-dodiya.html?para=2#article_title

The exhibition highlights Dodiya’s versatile artistic practice as he experiments, embraces and explores with various mediums- oil, acrylic, watercolor, mixed media works, sculpture installations, assemblages and photography. His tendency to work with different media and refusing to stick to a homogenous style is distinctive of Dodiya’s work. It is this ability of working across various mediums and juxtaposing Western art history and popular Indian culture through his work, that marks his oeuvre and makes him one of the most sort after and distinguished contemporary artists in India.

Dadagiri, 1998. Oil, acrylic and marble dust on canvas.<br />Image Source: http://www.gallerychemould.com/news/atul-dodiya-experiments%20with%20truth.html

Dadagiri, 1998. Oil, acrylic and marble dust on canvas.
Image Source: http://www.gallerychemould.com/news/atul-dodiya-experiments%20with%20truth.html

The audience is confronted with a variety of forms and mediums capturing the contrasting nature of change. Dodiya being highly influenced by Mahatma Gandhi and his philosophy puts the exhibition in perspective and forms an invisible string connecting the political, cultural and spiritual contexts in his expansive work. Atul Dodiya’s own artistic journey has been considered as constant experiments with the ‘truth’.

Strong influences of artists such as Nandalal Bose, Benodebehari Mukherjee, Marcel Duchamp, Joseph Beuys, Tyeb Mehta, Gerhard Richter and Bhupen Khakhar can be traced in Atul Dodiya’s art. Works by these masters will also be on display as reference points, enabling the visitor to comprehend Dodiya’s work more effectively.

Atul Dodiya pursued his bachelors of Fine Arts from Sir J. J. School of Art in Mumbai. He furthered his academic training at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris from 1991 to 1992 subsequent to a scholarship awarded by the French Government. He currently lives and works in Mumbai.

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