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Jamini Roy
■Year unknown
■Medium gouache on cardboard
■Size (cm)
The early 1900s in India saw a growing call for independence, and at the same time, the formation of a group of artists known as the 'Bengal School' who sought to create a uniquely Indian art form. These artists opposed western academicism and conducted all manner of artistic experiments, using elements of European avant-garde art and the techniques of modern Japanese-style painting. Roy had been trained in western academic painting styles and under the influence of the Bengal School, set out on his own artistic path around 1925. His artistic style was rooted in the folk arts of his native Bengal region. Roy's works draw on the styles, limited palettes, and abbreviated bold touch of the simple folk paintings sold in front of the Kalighat Temple. As seen in "Fawn" - a full of his style - Roy's works fascinate with their beguiling freshness and striking sense of design and they made him an extremely popular painter during the 1940's. Roy's stance - his return to the distinctive folk arts of India - has then been continued by a great number of later artists in India.
Syed Haider Raza
■Year 1995
■Medium acrylic on canvas
■Size (cm)
In 1947, the year when India became independent, Syed Haider Raza founded the 'Progressive Artists Group' together with F. N. Souza and M. F. Hussein in Bombay, and later moved to Paris. After trying Fauvism and abstract art, he rediscovered the Hindu culture in his inner self, and established an original style with his bindu series depicting black circles. Bindu is the seed of life and, in Raza's works, its shape serves as the root of the visible world. The title 'Kundalini' refers to the energy flowing in whirls at the lower spine of the human body and, by practising asceticism, it ascends the body, eventually leading to enlightenment. The upper part of the work, which is brighter, suggests the ascending movement of the circle. Furthermore, the circle which looks like one black mass from a distance is actually an accumulation of fine touches of the brush, and various colors are visible in between the black lines, which show the potential energy for formation that is concealed within the static black circle.
Corollary Mythologies: Auto Da Fe
Surendran Nair
■Year 1995-96
■Medium acrylic and oil on canvas
■Size (cm)
Set against a dark green background, this faceless torso is covered with small holes and openings. All manner of objects peep out of these openings - whether a skull, a crow, weapons - all are ill-fated items. Hinting at violence and fear, this canvas is nevertheless somehow calm and beautiful. This is one of the "Corollary Mythologies" series which Nair has been creating over a period of several years. Nair is from the Kerala state in southwestern India and this region is said to be the most politically active area in India. Could the faint political edge which runs like a common thread through this series be one element of this regional tendency? We find a seed of skepticism born in us as we consider all that entwines us, whether history, myth, tradition, sexuality, religion or language. Even the body, which is intended to be free, is here seen as already invaded, no longer autonomous.
Krishna and Cow
Bauwa Devi
■Year 1996-97
■Medium ink and pigment on paraconcrete wall
■Size (cm)
The Mithila region of northeastern India is known for its tradition of women painting pictures on the walls, pillars and floors of their houses during festivals and felicitous family events. These images for good luck and prosperity are drawn from the Hindu epic tales, distinctive regional myths and gods, benign spirits, and other such forms. The women paint and pray on all manner of occasions. These prayer-filled images have been handed down, grandmother to mother to daughter for thousands of years. The government has sought to help these women establish their own economic independence by asking the women to paint traditional images on paper. In this format, folk prayer paintings entered the international art world as "Fine art," and thus, the painter of this work, Bauwa Devi, came to the attention of the greater world. This painting depicts Krishna, an avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu, and a cow. This standard theme in Indian painting is here transformed into the artist's own unique realm. The painting is somehow bold, free, and fun with colors that seem to sing a rich-hued, gentle tale.
Reguarding Guardian - 4
Dhruva Mistry
■Year 1985
■Medium painted plaster
■Size (cm)
Mistry was born in India and then studied in Britain, where he stayed and continued researching ancient cultures such as those of India, Assyria, Egypt and Greece at The British Museum and other research centers, seeking basic forms found at the roots of all cultures. His sculptures of mystical figures are reminiscent of the half-beast gods of ancient tales. These works have received critical acclaim in the contemporary sculpture world in Britain. 'The Guardian of Water', protector of the west, is the fourth in the "Reguarding Guardians" series, following 'The Guardian of War', who protects the east, The Guardian of Treasure, deity of the north, and 'The Guardian of Death', protector of the south. The Guardian of Water is an aquatic beast, at once beguiling and malicious, with eyes wide open as if gazing into eternity. The figure's blend of the mystical with the carnal speaks of its Indian origins.
Woman Holding Her Breasts
Ravinder Reddy
■Year 1998
■Medium paint and gilt on polyester-resin fiberglass, wood
■Size (cm)
The wide open staring eyes of Reddy's human figures gaze out at people, confounding the viewer. While the gilt skin of this figure is reminiscent of traditional images of gods and deities, the slackened posture, the bright red used on the nails and the edges of the eyes, all catch the viewer's attention, implying the somehow bad taste. Reddy studied sculpture in Vadodara (Baroda), and then like many Indian artists, perfected his techniques during studies in Britian. Returning to India in the latter half of the 1980s, Reddy began to create sculptures of women alone, head studies, and images of loving couples, each the antithesis of refined elegance. While there are elements in his works which can be called conventionally 'Indian' in nature, namely the use of the sacred and the profane, the overall impact of his sculpture is its provocative, defiant nature. In recent years his works have gotten larger, and this oversized quality only further enhances their fascination. This work, with the woman holding both of her breasts in her hands, is provocative, and it also asks the viewer to consider the nature of what is commonly thought of as 'beauty.'
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