Art style

Seven Earthly Echoes of Contemporary Indian Art

Environment Day on June 5, 2022 makes me think of works of art that emanate from the rhythms of the songs of the earth in their moments of creation. Think of India’s greatest artists and many portraits and segments come to mind. On canvas, on bronze paper and born from the memory and experience of history, these images are like seven earthly echoes that celebrate the beauty of the earth.

The landscape of Souza

Perhaps it should begin with the great Francis Newton Souza who captured the landscape in its beauty of cubist articulation and its augmentation of rich greens and browns contrasting with flashes of brilliant white and blue giving the painting the impression of dappled light shimmering through the autumn foliage. This Untitled 1961 work was sold at Christies in 2018.

We also remember the words of the artist Jagdish Swaminathan who described her as “singularly devoid of emotional inhibitions”. They are “frozen visions of a mysterious world. Whether they stand solidly in glazed petrification or delineated in fine color with calligraphic intonations, Souza’s urban landscapes are purely plastic entities without reference to memories or mirrors. (J. Swaminathan, ‘Exposition de Souza’, Lalit Kala Contemporary 40, New Delhi, March 1995, p. 31)

Husain’s figures

Belonging to the exhibition of the Kumar Gallery, Celebration is a rare and magnificent MFHusain of figures and a tree that exalts the elegance of man and nature.

The relationship between the human body and nature is a subject that Husain explored with verve and vivacity. This earth-toned beauty forged a connection between art, nature and human physicality, seeking to transfer the energy of the artist’s notions and the expression of narrative onto the canvas. Husain’s balance between the human figures and the tree strove to capture what we might describe as “every heartbeat of people on earth”, as Husain distilled the female form into a series of rhythmic segments.

Benares by Ram Kumar

One of Ram Kumar’s biggest exhibitions was organized by Saffronart at Claridges Hotel in Delhi. A number of early works on paper and canvas spoke to the breadth and majesty of his sensitivity and the depth of his resonance in thoughts and intellectual insight. Poet and author, a calm and graceful character, his Benares belonging to a first period on paper was food for thought and daydreaming.

Soft lines and minimalist docking become an atmosphere of soothing tranquility. It is the touches of architectural echoes and the two figures created in pastel touches of dark orange that speak to us of the weather and the tide.

Tanpura Player by Krishen Khanna

At Saffronart last month was an epic show by Krishen Khanna which had a series of stellar sculptures cast in a foundry in London. Among them was a long-fingered tanpura player holding her instrument lost in the notes of her raga. It brought back echoes of Krishen’s musical streak and his love for Carnatic music that developed during his days in Madras in South India.

More than anything, it is the emotive notes of expression and evocation that recall this brilliant composition that urges us to stand and contemplate both the sculptonic intensity as well as the many folds of feminine fervor. bronze sculpture that crosses time and tide.

Tyeb bull sculpture

One of Pundole’s biggest auctions was the Masanari Fukuoka collection and a prime beauty was Tyeb Mehta’s bull’s head, a bronze sculpture. This environment day, this bull’s head is vital in its significance and message.

The bull became his subject because he lived near a slaughterhouse and heard the cries of the animals as they were slaughtered for the meat market in Mumbai. This prompted Tyeb to become a vegetarian for the rest of his life. But the bull was his leitmotif even when he created his many Durga and Mahishasura series. In his quiet, dignified manner, Tyeb held an audience that had to ask about mass cruelty to animals all over the world.

The Seated Man by Jamini Roy

Recently, Jamini Roy’s solo image of a seated sage caught my eye at Nvya’s Realm III Gallery, an exhibition of five masters. This image is full of the ethos and essence of a pooja ready priest. Roy’s image reflects the beauty of his passion for experimentation with Kalighat and Bengali folk painting.

Fine contours add a charismatic aura to the work. Drawing on these influences, he eventually forged the style of modern painting for which he is best known, a successful reinterpretation of traditional South Asian iconography using crisp, clean, modernist lines. He became one of the most famous modernists in the history of Indian painting. This image reminds us of the purity of prayer in our lives.

Kalpavriksha by Jyoti Bhatt

Born from the earth reflecting and telling the very foundation of human and nature existence, Jyoti Bhatt’s Kalpavriksha intaglio is a millennial masterpiece. Bhatt’s most iconic print is his Kalpavruksha which embodies the principle of “Purush-Prakruti”.

According to Bhatt, he had made a small print – 5 x 5 inches – in the studio for the students. It contained shapes of a woman’s face, a mountain, a sun and a moon, a snake, etc. He titled it Meru. The second plate, Purush-Prakruti, was 10 x 10 inches. The details are fascinating here – he takes the metaphor of eyebrows to create a sublime portrait – he recalls that he must have read a poet describing a woman’s eyebrows as a dhanushya (bow), as he created the eyes five times in the form of dhanushya, then compared them which shape the wings of parrots, the leaves of trees, etc. The vertically arranged shape would have reminded him of the mythical tree and so we see it filled with earth rhythms and erotic notes of childbirth. Balance and harmony of execution of the many elements, the small texts the parrot at the top and the human face becomes an emblematic image of the earth and its many facets.