art focus – traversing terrains – s.h. raza


Bindu (1984)

“You have to concentrate on one idea. I usually offer one advice to young men, concentrate on one woman. One woman gives everything. One idea, in the same way, is sufficient for an artist.”
~ S.H. Raza

For Sayed Haider Raza [1922 – 2016], his one idea was the Bindu. The dot. He never tired of exploring and expressing it. The brackish circle against a passionate red square hanging on the wall in front of me reiterated his words, sucking me in, into another world. A world which Raza saw and was determined to give a voice to. Continue reading

the mythological frescoes of nandalal bose in vadodara

In the heart of Baroda, now called Vadodara, within the royal Gaekwad family’s once sprawling grounds is the Kirti Mandir or Temple of Fame. The gigantic stone cenotaph was built in 1936 to ensure their ancestors’ posterity. A sun, moon, and a map of undivided India etched on a bronze globe are perched on top of its shikhara—a sovereign declaration of the spread and timelessness of Gaekwad rule.

But the cenotaph is weathered now and forgotten. It is visited on the rare occasion when a royal family member passes away and is brought to the adjacent cremation grounds to be burnt and then transposed into a plaster-of-paris bust placed in one of the rooms lining the passageways.

A lone 70-year-old guard, who has spent the last 60 years serving the royal family, with his one-year-old grandson’s arms wrapped around his neck unlocks the large doors should perchance a traveller land up at the temple’s doorstep. But this post is not about the royal family. I will write about them on another date. This one is about the art and artist whose mythological masterpieces decorate the walls inside Kirti Mandir. Continue reading

art focus – rockscapes and mindscapes – vinod sharma

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“No, there is no story to my art. My work is not even titled.”

“But you call it rockscapes, and I have heard you at times refer to them as mindscapes?”

Vinod Sharma laughs out aloud, and with a twinkle in his eye explains how his professor at Delhi College of Art coined the terms, albeit in passing.

“I just paint for the sheer joy of it. There is no other reason behind my delineations. There are no moral lessons. No deep revelations from my side. It is only personal joy.”

Sharma, originally from Delhi, has been painting his monumental monochromatic canvases—sophisticated in execution and mystical in content—for over two decades now. What started off as landscapes framed by windows later gave way to sceneries swathed in trees and people, and finally morphed into the present skeletal forms of the earth’s surface where Sharma got rid of all trappings and borders, for keeps. Continue reading

art focus – a summer mix – chemould prescott road

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There is the office ID card, the fancy pen, loose change, cell phone, a hand written note. Closer inspection brings to the fore yet further details: the worn Tee, crisp office linen shirt, the crumpled uniform, and slowly the faceless personalities defined by their shirt pockets fill the gallery, and I am in their midst.

Every now and then a spray of raindrops showers the city outside, taking no one by surprise. I am at A Summer Mix, Chemould Prescott Road, an exhibition of 15 gallery artists’ personal commentaries, on a grey monsoon clad day. Continue reading

art focus – journey to the roots – jamini roy 1887-1972

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“I do not care whether my paintings are good or bad. I want its appearance to be different.”
~ Jamini Roy

And different it is. Not different for the sake of being different, but different as in an expression of his authentic self. Jamini Roy (1887-1972), popularly conferred with the title of father of Modern Indian Art was from Beliatore village in Bankura, West Bengal. His art is his revisits to the simplicity and purity of his rural roots. He is not an outsider here ‘looking into’ rural India. He is the insider, painting his own familiar, much-loved world. Continue reading

art focus – masquerade and other apologues – anant joshi

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It is as if a rainbow had burst and spread its colour, both over vast mounted canvases and minute egg tempered paper boards, alike. I stand in the grey walled halls of Chemould Prescott Road and blink. And then gawk.

As I step closer, yet another world unfurls—a satire rooted in broadsheet cartoons morphed into the artist’s personal commentary on recent social and political events and personalities in India. I recognize Arvind Kejriwal, Manmohan Singh and Narendra Modi. I see athletes and war zones, Jesus Christ and Hindu priests. Continue reading

art focus – deconstructed innings: a tribute to sachin tendulkar – tenart

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Indian contemporary art has come a long way in the last decade, distinctive in its blend of Indian subjectivity and international sensibilities. A landmark in this journey for the modern art enthusiast, and the sports fan in this case, is its current foray into the space of cross-disciplinary creativity. Continue reading

art focus – music and goddess – ranjit makkuni (sacred world)

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Chants, ragas, notes and sweet melodies from wind, percussion and string instruments play almost simultaneously inside the vast interiors of the National Gallery of Modern Art, Mumbai. But it is not cacophonic. Rather there is harmony in the eclectic mix. It is more the unusual for me, for it is an effortless amalgamation of technology, music and art, and of the traditional, modern and spiritual, to create a seamless expanse of personal experience. Continue reading

art focus – fish in a dead landscape – hema upadhyay

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As I push open the massive doors of Chemould Prescott Road, a colossal installation titled ‘Moderniznation’ depicting an aerial view of Bombay greets me. Pieces of car-scrap, aluminum sheets and found objects – materials used in the real built elements – spill over the gallery’s walls and floors. Miniaturized green mosque minarets, white church steeples and orange temple sikharas poke their way out of the sea of trampoline and tin squares. I look a little carefully and a cut out of the cricketer Sachin Tendulkar peeps out. Continue reading

art focus – samiksha (commentary) – shahed pasha


Fairies taking away the Books

The fantasy-tical world of Shahed Pasha.

It is a world where millennia old Hindu mythological stories are portrayed in modern contexts in miniature painting style, by a born and bred Muslim, across mammoth canvases. Continue reading

art focus – selfie – nilesh vede

“Nilesh Vede has an incredible ability to translate his thoughts on[to] paper or canvas.”

~ Salman Khan, Bollywood actor

I first saw Nilesh Vede‘s work a month ago at the Jehangir Art Gallery itself, as part of a group showing. And I fell in love with it, instantaneously. During our conversation on vipassana meditation and its translation to art, he invited me to his upcoming solo exhibition ‘Selfie’. It was an invitation I had every intention of accepting. 🙂 Continue reading

art focus – the passionate quest – amrita sher-gil


Self Portrait – the many faces of Amrita Sher-Gil, demure Indian, bohemian European (1930) 

“It seems to me that I have never began painting, that I have always painted. And I have always had, with a strange certitude, the conviction that I was meant to be a painter and nothing else. Although I studied, I have never been taught painting in the actual sense of the word, because I possess in my psychological makeup a peculiarity that resents any outside interference. I have always, in everything, wanted to find out things for myself.”
~ Amrita Sher-Gil

Continue reading