Show must go on

19 May

After the accident,
The eye had taken the shape it wanted,
Curving up to the forehead.
Father had once said—

You have almond-shaped eyes…
My Anglo Burmese child.
He almost sang, affectionately
Tapping out a rhythm with his spoon and fork
Music came to him…

Now my eyes looked like puffer fish.
It makes the world a little less visible,
Curating it like a Cubist painting.

The mouth is swollen too,
Like a pregnant mollusk,
It hides bits of food…
amid the broken teeth.

Like bureaucratic files
that will lose shape  
with time…
bloat out with information

The lips hang out,
like street-side Romeos
hoping for the sympathetic glances
Of the resident Juliet.

Instead the girl from Ipanema comes
She walks across the guitar frets
My uncle Carlton played it
Without looking at the chords
I fumble hoping to strike the right note.

Georgina Maddox
Dec 2019- March 2020

This winter-summer the resident Delhi art Critic-Curator gets back to music
 Post her accident and in COVID 19 Lockdown mode.

The Bronze Legacy

16 Mar

A solo exhibition celebrates the works of the late sculptor Pradosh Dasgupta at Akar Prakar Gallery

Pradosh Dasgupta, Hungry Family, ACI, 1967, Bronze

Georgina Maddox

A sculptor, a curator, a poet and an art critic, Prodosh Dasgupta, has clearly not been celebrated enough, until recently, and his achievements have perhaps slipped into oblivion from the younger generation of art viewers and collectors. That can be changed with a visit to Akar Prakar where an exhibition of 23 sculptures by the famed sculptor and former Director and Curator of NGMA are on display. Curated by art critic Uma Nair, the show traces a timeline that runs from 1947 to 1990. According to Nair, everyone ‘socially knows about’ Dasgupta the sculptor and curator of NGMA for 13 years in Delhi, but few are aware that he was a prolific writer, a critic of note and a thinker and poet. The show weaves his writings and his work.

“Dasgupta, was exposed to the art of the West, however, he came to India and found Indian subjects and translated modernity with his deep understanding of western grammar. Hence, you see influences of Henry Moore, Constantin Brancusi and Auguste Rodin, but you also find that he brought his own Indian aesthetic to the works,” observes Nair.

Aristocrats, ACI, 1990, Bronze

For the uninitiated, Prodosh Dasgupta was born in Barakar, Dhaka (now in Bangladesh) in 1912. He graduated from Calcutta University before going to learn sculpture at the Government School of Art
and Craft, Chennai, and the Lucknow School of Arts and Crafts. He then further studied at the Royal Academy of Arts and LCC Central School, London, and the Académie de la Grande Chaumière.

Consequently, he had at his disposal, a variety styles and aesthetics to choose from. Naturally he wove his own approach out of all these influences and styles. As part of his process of creating the sculptures, he squeezed, twisted, rolled, pinched and flattened the clay. As a result, some of his figurative sculptures were realistic, and some were more abstract in nature.

“The 23  sculptures give us a glimpse of an intellectual who was an inquisitor of structural form, a thinker of verbal analogies, and an aesthete who translated the rhythms of the earth in idioms that explored the resonant code of contours and benchmarks to find an alchemy that celebrated and refracted the romantic pole of his sensibility,” Nair states.

Bride, ACI, 1990, Bronze

The show—connected through his writings and musings on his own sculptures—tells us that he took a passionate and unabashed delight in the physicality of the forms he created, as he exploited in bronze, its capacity for moodiness and melancholic beauty. Amongst the works we see his famous Bride, Surya Mukhi, Pounding Corn, Genesis, and Maternity among others.

One may note that the depiction of the Aristocrats captures their ponderous, solid and still forms, that stand in a stately posture at attention, while the piece titled Hungry Family, is filled with dynamism and softness that bespeaks their vulnerability, the male figure leaning on the seated woman and the child-like form trapped somewhere between them. Bride conveys the rotund fullness of a mother-goddess wrapped in an enormous garment which keeps her in Parda, while only a sliver of her soft female form peeps out from the folds.

Devil and Dame, 1947, Bronze

Amongst the sculptures are six drawings that belong to his preparatory studies for his sculptures.
 “Loose, lithe, looping lines tell us he took delight in drawing and his ruminations were rooted in the rhythms of the human figure, it is a masterclass in drawing to look at his drawings on newspaper as well as otherwise,” observes Nair. “The beauty of minimalist moorings creates a feminine mystique and help us understand that age old debate about the fine line between the naked and the nude. The subtle nature of his felicity for drawing makes us think about the journey that an artist takes from academic realism to modernism,” says Nair who has followed his work for nearly 30 years.

Pradosh Dasgupta’s sketch at Santiniketan, 1979

Dasgupta’s sculptures reflect at once, his interest in art history, his inherent perceptions, of the materiality and density of bronze  to examine the role of  everyday reality and the human narrative,  to create  contemporary moments that defined his evolution over a period of more than five decades she observes, having  re-discovered him in the 1990”s during various shows in the capital city of Delhi.

Pounding Corn, 1949, Bronze

During his youth Dasgupta was clearly more prolific. Upon his return to India in 1940, he set up his studio in Calcutta. He also founded the Calcutta Group with artists Rathin Mitra, Nirode Mazumdar, Paritosh Sen, Hemant Mishra and Gopal Ghose, which held its first exhibition in 1943. The group was founded to break away from the formal styles taught in Indian art institutions, and move towards a more global aesthetic.

Dasgupta served as Curator of the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA), New Delhi, from 1957 to 1970 where he helped acquire several works for the NGMA but India’s important sculptors. Dasgupta was also elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, London, and participated in several exhibitions in India and internationally. In 2008, the NGMA hosted a major retrospective of his works since he had passed away in 1991. This exhibition at Akar Prakar comes 12 years later and should not be missed!

Akar Prakar presents Translating Modernity, the show runs till 28 march 2020

IAWRT Turns Sweet 16!

7 Mar

Fifty-one films from 15 Asian countries, all directed by women filmmakers, will be screened at the 16th edition of the IAWRT Asian Women’s Film Festival from March 5 to March 7 in New Delhi.

The festival will showcase the work of women directors from Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, China, Doha, Iran, India, Israel, Japan, Lebanon, Myanmar, Taiwan and Turkey.

“Held every year in the run up to the International Women’s Day on March 8 by IAWRT, in partnership with the India International Centre (IIC), this non-competitive film festival has become a much sought after women-director-only festival in this region over the last 16 years,” says Nupur Basu, Managing Trustee, IAWRT, Chapter India.

This year the festival team received over 700 submissions. The selection pans the entire genre – feature length documentary films, short fiction and documentary films, animation films, experimental films and the themes range from citizenship, identity, migration, mental health, climate change and coming of age of girls.

“What women are looking at is not gender alone but there is a distinct cinematic language that many women filmmakers are defining that allows for the audience to see afresh” says Surabhi Sharma, Festival Director and Priya Thuvassery, the Co-Director of this edition of the festival.

The festival opened with the film, Shut Up Sona, by Deepti Gupta. The film follows singer Sona Mohapatra while she battles and confronts blatant and insidious sexism in the world of music. The filmmaker is able to create an intimate and reflective portrait of an outspoken personality.  Both, Director Deepti Gupta and film’s protagonist Sona Mohapatra will be present for the post screening conversation.

Other highlights of the festival are the Delhi premiere of Gitanjali Rao’s independently produced feature length animation film, Bombay Rose. The film has already traveled to more than 40 festivals apart from winning key awards at several.

This year’s BAFTA winner for Best Short animated Film by London based Iranian filmmaker, Maryam Mohajer ‘Grandad was a romantic’ is in the package.

This year’s festival includes a country focus on UAE. The closing film, Honey, Rain and Dust, by UAE filmmaker, Nujoom Al Ghanem. The film tells a fascinating story of three honey hunters working in the mountainous desert terrain of North UAE.  

The theme – The Upside Down Gaze– is an evocative one for this edition of the festival.

Questioning the Signature Style

3 Mar

An exhibition at Art Centrix, in the Capital, interrogates and offers up artworks that invite us to interact and ‘discover’ the hidden signatures behind them

Georgina Maddox

Ganesh Gohain_ ‘A Tree Of Illusion’ , Dry Pastel, eraser, paper on board, 69 x 48 in

Exhibitions of artwork without labels does seem to be a growing trend in the recent weeks, for I attended three such shows where the audience was left to guess at which contemporary artwork was made by which artist. In the two exhibitions there were floor maps provided so one could locate the artwork and then discover the artist who had created it, but in the third at Art Centrix one was left to guess who had created which work. Then if one could no longer bear the suspense, one asked the gallery director Monica Jain in dulcet tones, “Whose work is this?”

For an art critic this can be an interesting exercise, given the number of exhibitions one has seen on an average, one should have been able to guess all the works in the show, but in truth, there were a few surprises, where some artists had created works that were different from their signature styles or there were works by a completely new artists on display. 

B Balagopalan, ‘The Omniscient Norm’, wood, 36 x 36 X 36 in

“The exhibition ‘The Signature in the Image’ intends to put forth some broad questions related to a signed image, to a set presentation by an artist. How does a signature style establish connections within the characteristics, values, and attributes of an artwork? “writes Pranamita Borgohain who has co-curated the exhibition with Jain.

“This exhibition examines the implications of a signed image. Does the signature in a work generate preconceived ideas?” says Jain for her part of the explanation. “Can we say with absolute certainty that each work is ‘typical’ or could the artist have also created art intentionally in defiance of this ownership? The world recognizes an artist’s signature from a ‘limited’ body of work whereas an artist may have several phases, experiments, influences and renewals during the long span of his/her career,” she adds.

D Priyanka, ‘Book of lainika, Chapter flora fauna Page 1, lainika,’ watercolour on paper, 5 X 7 in

Hence one was invited to play a bit of a hide and seek, and discover the artist behind the work, and it was an interesting experience: For instance, one has gotten quite accustomed to seeing sublime sculptural works from the Assam-based artist Ganesh Gohain. Which is why one spent quite a while in front of his dry pastel of a grand leafless tree that stood against a slate grey sky in absolute quietness, contemplating the dark clouds floating toward it. One was equally surprised to see the accompanying work, a flamboyant silver on yellow tree, looking the absolute contradictory of its quiet counterpart. One was reminded then that if the artist ‘treads across multiple realities through his works. By juxtaposing glimpses of memories and interactions with the discursive and the abstract…’ then surely the artist must want to express himself in multiple mediums and quote styles that we as a viewing audience are not familiar with.

On the other hand, it was easier to spot the works of artist Priyanka D, as one had been recently exposed to her new experiments with installation and drawing, which explores the anatomy of flowers, anatomy, architectural structures and the idea of waste and nature, it was easy to spot her corner in the gallery. The large red vegetal-flower forms hanging from the ceiling, dripping red pigment onto the floor may be interpreted as an assimilation of astrophysics, myths and arts. She quotes, ‘myths are nothing but a misunderstood reality’. Creatures and elements which we find in our mythical literature are just the ‘other’ version of our own reality and how we perceive the truth of our past history. The water-colour series of paintings presented here are the extension of artist’s imagined reality.

Making an acquaintance with the work of Avjit Dutta, one encounters his mixed media on canvas board, titled ‘Nested Grid.’ The nest, logically becomes a metaphor for home, and life in the city as nature finds its precarious footing to carve a niche for itself among the concrete. Interested in past life and the lifestyle of people, he contemplates the intertwining of the history and the present day, and how that plays out in the socio-political landscape. This painter from Rabindra Bharati University, Kolkata, brings his sensitive query to the window-ledge of the urban dwelling commenting on the haves-and-have nots, their modes of survival and little triumphs.

One was also introduced to the intricate and evocative sculptural pieces of artist B Balagopalan. The piece titled This too Shall Pass, created from wood, cotton and coir is an abstract form that resembles a boat but could also be a cradle. The ambiguity lies in the multiple readings that the forms evoke; like the white mast of cloth stretched across the wooden form could be the sail of the boat but it could even be a decorative cloth or ‘hammock’ for a child. The wooden swirls on top could be waves or a creeper a tribute to nature or God. Certainly not a ‘signature style’ the artist leaves his work in a path that is open to interpretation and that is what makes it intriguing.

George Martain PJ’s work is however in his well-known signature style, that brings together imagery of colourful pop, everyday objects, the crowded city and its restless inhabitants. The artist is interested in exploring the varied metaphors and symbolism that lurks behind what appears like an everyday scene, with the intention of interrogating our hidden attitudes and fears.

Overall the exhibition waits for what may come next from these artist’s studios. Will it carry the known, the familiar or will the artists and the curators take you along on a journey of discovery into the deeper realms of the artists’ psyche and find a signature without the signature?

‘The Signature in the Image’, Art Centrix, 20 March, 2020

Trails of Materials

9 Feb


Satish Sharma

Anju Kaushik

Rubkirat Vohra  


Medium and material often leads an artist towards evolution, change and transition, it has been seen as the precursor to all growth. It exposes the level of concept and context that lies inherent within the artwork not just to the audience but the artist who creates their artwork. What is most interesting is that it raises the questions about the boundaries often drawn around a particular style, material or presentation. Medium and material share a cognitive relationship with many interpretations and understandings offered within a particular artwork.   

Within art that embraces the formalism of painting and sculpture, it becomes even more challenging to negotiate and navigate this transition, yet artists are forging their way along this vertiginous path. In context of this exhibition one can begin exploring this path by citing the works of the three artists showing their works together, Satish Sharma, Anju Kaushik and Rubkirat Vohra who have come together to explore their journey with matter and material, with expression and exposition.

Satish, Anju and Rubkirat have been fearless in embracing the unknown over tried and tested methodology and materials.

Satish Sharma, Monochrome Painting, Oil on Canvas, 2019

While Satish has been painting for two decades, he has traversed the gamut of figurative works that recall the passionate impasto, musings of Vincent Van Gogh, moving on toward abstraction which celebrates pure colour and texture. His canvases evoke a three-dimensionality and form that celebrates earth shades like a deep madder red, the aquamarine of seashore blues, solemn slate greys, and the darkened shades of a black night.

Playing upon a variety of textures and forms the works traverse from sensuous to the subtle, using various unsuspecting objects to create these textures, he has now begun to work directly on the canvas with his hands, creating a mixture of expressions that are perhaps less conscious or controlled. While he has abandoned recognizable forms in favour of pure abstraction, the recent set of works do indicate a heft and volume. The painting transitions its source becoming a being in and of itself Satish has also been moving more towards monochromatic expressions with a preference for brighter colours.

Satish Sharma, Monochrome, Mixed Media on Canvas, 2019
Artist Satish Sharma with writer Georgina Maddox at the opening

Anju Kaushik’s new works tend tends toward the sculpturesque, with a preference for high-relief surfaces and recently she has been moving towards completely embracing the third dimension. She prefers working with discarded objects, transforming them by embedding them with plaster of Paris, concrete and wood. The act of reclaiming old, rusted and discarded objects and giving them new life is particular to Anju’s practice and ties up with the contemporary act of recycling that which is discarded in a ‘use and throw’ society. The objects challenge the idea of what is rejected elevating the it from what may appear to be part of a mundane existence.

Anju’s relationship with the objects is driven by intuition to reinvent the object, it is also an act of coincidence and sometimes not an entirely conscious alignment. Her works are often connected into a loose narrative, where she makes a commentary on the environment, where a fossilized fish shape is a poignant reminder of urban detritus and waste, or a mechanical object pervades over the natural landscape. A hunk of concrete is pedestalized, brushed with paint, nails, wire and placed upon a concrete bracket creating a new relationship between the disparate articles of waste.

Anju Kaushik with senior artist Gopi Gajwani and writer and curator Georgina Maddox

The act of reclaiming old, rusted and discarded objects and giving them new life is particular to Anju’s practice and ties up with the contemporary act of recycling that which is discarded in a ‘use and throw’ society.

Anju Kaushik, Uncertainty of material, mirror sculpture, mix media, (side view), 2019-2020

Rubkirat enjoys working with metal and wood creating composite forms from malleable lead that has a low heat point. The abstractions hint towards architectural forms and human existence and yet they exist in and of their own right. They are aesthetic objects, disassociated from the world of narrative. Ranging from to oils, charcoal on canvas to metallic objects, delicate constructions from wire and linear drawing work, it evokes her inner metaphysical being. One could say that she peruses a sense of mysticism, where her inner voice experiments with recent objects of desire. She is the Alchemist of the trio. The artist takes a prudent fresh deliberated approach moving away from her last show “Metamorphosis of Power”, as though freeing her work from the authority of old theories.

Her ‘abstruse creations’ are created with nails, metal, wood, wires, charcoal, canvas, fire are welcoming, fresh not stark and disturbing but soothing the viewer with a sense of satisfaction that is experienced by the artist and what she calls “The Mentalism of the Metal”, with its open-ended narrative.

Rubkirat Vohra, Mehrab 1 and 2, Mixed Media on board, 24×24 inches, 2019-2020

Together the works of these three artists brings home a fresh perspective on the materialism of objects. We may rediscover the agency of these materials through their reassignment and function in artistic parlance. We may appreciate how these objects and their materials communicate across cultures and temporal boundaries, moving in some instances beyond the intentions of their creators.
The materials have the ability to transport the viewer into discovering their own narrative behind the presented narrative, but they may also hone in on the story that the artist is keen to tell us in their own language and materialism.

Georgina Maddox with Rubkirat Vohra at Triveni Gallery, 08-02-2020

The exhibition is at Trivei Kala Sangam till 15th February and continues at Surrendra Paul Gallery18th to 29th February 2020

Georgina Maddox
Independent Critic Curator
New Delhi

Nature’s palette

14 Jul

Vriksha is an timely exhibition that combines traditional and modern expressions as a tribute to the tree   

Georgina Maddox

Once there was a tree, and she loved a little boy…and she loved a boy very, very much– even more than she loved herself.

Shel Silverstein

This children’s book titled The Giving Tree, encapsulates the sentiment of the relationship that trees have with humans. They give and we as a species take, without putting so much as a seed back into the earth. Instead there are headlines telling us of how trees are constantly being felled every day. Last year it was reported that 65,000 trees were felled in the capital city of New Delhi. Sometimes however these numbers become a cold statistic evoking very little response. Then an art exhibition comes along, that provokes one to think beyond these numbers and see the loving relationship that mankind can have with one of the most important members of our society—the tree. Vriksha is one such exhibition.  

Jyoti Bhatt Lost Pundit, digital reincarnation, mixed intaglio, 1966

“Art is man’s way of relating to nature,” says critic-curator Uma Nair who brings the multifarious threads of Vriksha together. The sheer variety of the exhibition is worth contemplating, since it features paintings that are both contemporary and indigenous, prints, photography, sculptures and ceramics. At the entrance of the exhibit one is greeted by artist Vipul Kumar’s Shalavanjika, a feminine tree-spirit, that is said to reside upon trees and shares a semi erotic relationship with nature as a kind of Mother Goddess figure. Kumar is a sculptor who fuses his knowledge of ceramics, gleaned from his brother Kesrinandan, (also featured in the exhibition) to bring us a unique blend of the two styles. He has essayed the full-bodied goddess in such a manner that her form fuses with the tree. At the height of 58 inches it sets the tone for the show.

Vipul Kumar, Shalavanjika, Stoneware, 58 inches, 2018

As one enters the exhibition hall, it becomes apparent that Nair has endeavored to bring about a dialogue between indigenous artists and those seen as modern-contemporaries, by juxtaposing one against the other—rather than allocating them a ghettoized space, as one often sees in many exhibitions. One can almost contrast very contemporary view of photographers like Sanjay Das, Soham Gupta, (who is currently being celebrated as the youngest photographer to be featured at the Venice Biennial), Rupin Thomas, S Paul set against the works of Padma Shri Bajju Shyam, Venkat Singh Shyam, and Japani Shyam the daughter of the late Jangarh Shyam.

S Paul Photographic print on archival paper

Das and Gupta speak of mortality death and renewal— Das evoking his metaphor through a tree that sprouts out of a gravestone while Gupta captures the astral form of a tree in the night-time. One can almost imagine these works having a conversation with Venkat Singh Shyam’s Van Devi which is about the stories that unravel when the trees come alive at night or the antlered deer whose form fuses with the branches of a tree.  Bajju Shyam evokes a happy landscape of trees, cows and a delightful elephant all harmonious with nature.

Soham Gupta Dying City, Photographic print on archival paper

“It was a natural melding together of the indigenous and the modern for me. This is because the doyen of printing, Jyoti Bhatt brings forward the indigenous to the compositions he creates. If you look closely at his intaglios he used the traditional art he was exposed to creating works like the owl, the Vriksha and the Devi of the forest and many elements from life. His Kalpavriksha blends man and nature-the womb of creation is universal,” says Nair of the Padma Shri artist.

(Left to Right) works by Himmat Shah, Kesarinandan and Vishal Joshi

An interesting Modernist, Himmat Shah creates abstraction from natural forms. “Shah says his greatest master is Picasso-he follows his maxim -learn all the rules then break it all only then can you become an artist,” says Nair. Arpana Caur uses the leitmotif of human bones with that of the prone nayika and a tree. “Many of my works have expressed concern about the environment,” says Caur “Whether it is my murals or my paintings. In this particular work titled Bone’s Prayer…, (oil on canvas, 2007) I have juxtaposed the human form with that of the Vrisksha, also evoking the bones of our mortality to signify our limited resources that are fast depleting,” she says.  

Arpana Caur with her work, Bones Prayer- Prayer for Trees- 48 X 72 – Oil on Canvas – 2008

Working with a contemporary approach Mukesh Sharma also combines his love for the traditional miniatures with a modern kitschy-pop-art approach in his two paper works that pay homage to the tree. Using pigment painting, gold foil, collage, pencil on Sanganer Vasali and handmade paper Sharma unites the two worlds. “I essentially lived in a village in Rajasthan, as a child and trees have always played an important part of my life. While my work is rooted in the traditional textile patterns and architectural motifs, I am aware of the distinctly post-modern vision and bring that to these works,” says the artist.

(Left to right) Jyoti Bhatt, Kalp Vriksha, intaglio print 1978, Mukesh Sharma, Pigment painting, gold foil, collage, pencil on Sanganeri Vasali paper, 2019, Untitled porcelain by Saraswati Renata

Shampa Sircar Das is known to combine her knowledge of traditional Tibetan mural paintings and her approach of layering her canvas with acrylic and intaglio surface marks. She creates a pennon to nature capturing a beautiful stag wading through the lotus pond as two Apsaras float in the clouds surveying this idyllic landscape. The stag’s antlers merge into a tree which then merges into the landscape and horizon. “The lotus pond is the perfect example of biodiversity which is why it often appears in my work. It is all about balancing the five elements of nature with mankind and other sentient beings,” says Das.

Shampa Sircar Das, Untitled, Acrylic on Canvas, 2019

Three artists from Kerala whose works are infused with a kind of magic realism, reflects the lush landscape of the tropical, coastal region. Aji VN is based in Netherlands but has a vivid memory of his native land. His work is a kind of internal mind-map, manifesting as a surreal tree. Nimesh Pillai depicts a bore-well overgrown with vegetation with a solitary moon hanging over this surreal landscape and Neeraj Goswami’s floating island of trees brings a contemporary flavor to an age old theme of the Miniatures.

(Left to right) Works by Nimesh Pillai, Neeraj Goswami and VN Aji

Shampa Shah has been deeply interested in botanies from the day she began working with ceramics she creates two works in porcelain. “How different she is from Saraswati (Renata) who is more modern in interpretation?” says Nair.  Another delightful work is the Tree of Life by Arpitha Reddy that fuses the traditional decorative style with the Modern technique of acrylic on canvas.

Kalpavriksha by Arpitha Reddy, acrylic on canvas (detail)

If one were to be critical of the exhibition at all, it would be of the stamp of the Sarkari survey show, though one would argue that it comes with the terrain. Furthermore a tighter edit may have given the show a bit more of a focused impact. Sometimes less is more. On the other hand, one can just continue to admire the variety of expressions.

The exhibition was on at the Kamala Devi Art Gallery at the India International Center till the 15th of July.

Bring Back the Bauhaus

18 Apr

The German National Tourist Office, (GNTO) Celebrates 100 years of the Bauhaus with exciting plans for the summer

Georgina Maddox

It is perhaps not a complete coincidence that the first Bauhaus exhibition outside Germany took place in Calcutta in 1922 under the leadership of Abanindranath Tagore—just three years after the movement took root in Weimar in 1919, under Walter Gropius, an architect. Both Gropius and the Tagore brothers were possessed by the same idea—of creating an all-encompassing art school that brought together design, craft and architecture under the rubric of high art, which prior to the movement, included only painting and sculpture.  The Bauhaus was the very first German art school reformed after World War I, to teach in the Weimar Republic.

The exhibition was organised by the Indian Society of Oriental Art, and has now become part of India’s legend. It featured drawings by Wassily Kadinsky, water-colours by Paul Klee, 29 woodcuts from Gerhard Marcks, paintings by Feininger and graphics from Georg Muche among others. Both Kandinsky and Klee belonged to the Munich-based Blue Rider group and was known as breakaway, non-conformist and Radical.

Cut to 2019, where Romit Theophilus, the Director for India, The German National Tourist Office, (GNTO) alongside Jasper Wieck, the Deputy Head of Mission of the German Embassy and Hans Christian Winkler, the Spokesperson and head of Public Affairs, announce their big world-wide campaign to celebrate 100 years of the legendary Bauhaus movement in Weimar.

 “The Bauhaus is a lively school of ideas and a field of experimenting in the free and applied arts, design, architecture and educational methods,” says Theophilus.  As a form of celebration, the GNTO, and Destination Germany is inviting culturally minded travelers to explore the birthplace of Modernism. Theophilus also has a secret public art project tucked up his sleeve, for the city of Delhi in the month of September. He’s keeping the details under warps for now, but all we can say is that its going to be an immersive experience, involving the general public and brining art to the common man.  

The Bauhaus is a young art movement and During its short lifespan it moved to Dessau and then to Berlin. “The architecture, art and design that was created there is still revered around the world to this day,” says Wieck adding that the German National Tourist Office (GNTO), India forecasts a 6-8 percent growth in visitor overnights for the year 2019.

In addition to the Centenary Bauhaus campaign, the GNTO is developing marketing campaigns on the major trends of culture and nature. In 2019 the “German Summer Cities”, the touristic offerings of larger cities and those in more rural areas, take center stage as part of a worldwide marketing offensive.

These tour packages will be promoting sites like the iconic Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, the Court Garden of the Wurzburg Residence, the Neuschwanstein Castle, the epitome of a fairytale castle with its romanticized medieval design. Popular belief is that the castle’s designer, King Ludwig II of Bavaria, is said to have sometimes driven workers to insanity with his extravagant requests.

The external appearance, is grand, but the interior conveys a sense of wonderment as well with its magnificent halls, an artificial stalactite cave, an opulent bed-room with an embellished bed that is thought to have taken four years to carve. Giant murals depicting scenes from medieval legends and operas by the King’s friend Richard Wagner decorate the castle walls.  Other contents of the campaign are the five clusters Urban city, Romantic, Holiday on the water, Sightseeing as well as Arts and Culture. “We are hope to promote Germany as a wedding destination,” says Theophilus.

This summer, one can look forward to a happy exchange of vibrant nightlife, prodigious art and glittering celebrations. In 1933 under Nazi pressure, the Bauhaus school was dissolved but it remains a touchstone for movements that revolutionise lifestyles. Even today, the legend of the Bauhaus continues to thrive, from Weimar to Calcutta and now New Delhi!

(Images courtesy, GNTB, and stock-photos)

Individual Palettes

14 Mar

Georgina Maddox

The word Individuality or individualism, comes up frequently when Rameshwar Broota, a reputed Indian artist whose work primarily interrogates the male body, talks of his current curatorial intervention in bringing together the exhibition, Individual Palettes, featuring artists from the Triveni Kala Sangam Studio, supported by the Raza Foundation.

While describing his curatorial selection of artists from the Triveni Kala Sangam Broota holds forth that individualism defines the Triveni artists approach to art. The idea of mentorship at Triveni’s art class and studio is not one where artists are encouraged to clone the ‘guru’. Rather they are stimulated to find their individual voice. While experimentation is important, it is not approached in a superficial manner, rather after deep inquiry and reflection the artists have arrived at their individual expressions. Broota is the head of the department and studio at Triveni that was founded in 1950, by Sundari K. Shridharani. He has mentored many artists, the experienced and trained, the young and upcoming or even those who return to painting after many years.

At Triveni, artists join at various levels of their career. While the system employed at Triveni is not academic, there is a vigorousness with regard to the formal aspects of painting, sculpture and mixed media work. The studio environment within which these artists grow, observe and explore, is an organic one that is not separated from the process of daily living. The studio is open to their comings and goings, as they work around schedules of childcare, day-jobs and navigate the everydayness of life. Their aesthetic concerns are born out of the quotidian, yet these are distilled through artistic rigor till it reaches philosophical levels. 

In their piece “Bohemia: The Underworld of Art” (1939) George S Snyderman and William Josephs contend that the idea of Individualism is associated with artistic and bohemian interests and lifestyles where there is a tendency towards self-creation and experimentation as opposed to tradition or popular mass opinions and behaviors, [3] [8] as with humanist philosophical positions and ethics. [9] [10]

The Intimacy of creative activities required an individual to live a certain lifestyle that is free of the constrains of societal norms: The Bohemia or individuality of artists, is a theme that has been explored by Heri Murger, Du Maurier and Balzac…it is a literary tradition, a dreamland, an El Dorado of Youth, an intellectual pose of the artistic lamb, a philosophy composed by one part idealism, one part eccentricity, and one part opera bouffe heroics…” (Bohemia: The Underworld of Art,  George S. Snyderman and William Josephs, Social Forces, Volume 18, Issue 2, 1 December 1939, Pages 187–199).

The reason I use Snyderman and Joseph’s text as a prelude to this essay is because it has not lost its potency or relevance even 80 years later. In the modern context Individualism became an aesthetic project for the Modernist thinkers and artists, valorized by the writings of 20th century philosopher Walter Benjamin. In particular Benjamin theorized how the way in which one looks at objects and the manner in which one navigates urban geographies, becomes a marker of one’s individualism rather than societal norms and constructs of identity.  (Benjamin, Jennings (ed), 2006.)

The selection of Broota’s mentees if one were to use that term, given that each artist represented in this exhibition is highly individualistic and driven by a strong sense of self, reflects their individual nature that is born out of the higher-calling of the aesthetic mingling with the quotidian. Artists like Shruti Gupta Chandra, Vasundhara Tiwari-Broota, Valentina Churilova, Sanjay Roy, Meena Deora, Prathibha Singh, Vikram Nayak and Renuka Sondhi Gulati, belong to a tradition of figurative painting and an evolved sense of humanism underpins their primary concerns.

Satish Sharma, Neerja Divate, Surendar Kaur, Prabha Shah, Honey Pandey and Rubikat Vohra are Neo-abstractionists ( who unleash the spirit of inquisitiveness through a quest for the deeper subconscious truth that goes beyond a narrative style. Anju Kaushik, stands apart from this loose grouping of stylistic concerns, since her approach is one of abstraction through reclaimed objects, a kind of Arte Povera. 

In her series of works titled Holding it Together, Vasundhara Tewari Broota approaches the female protagonists, a leitmotif that surfaces in her work out of the perception of women and the psycho-political existence of the female body. The female acrobat, a multitasking woman who balances the fragmented worlds of home and the world, spaces of interiority and the external, takes center-stage.  This plays out in a series of three small mixed-media works and one large painting, that are permutations and combinations of the same central figure. Despite existing in situations where we are often expected to perform even if upside-down, Tewari-Broota, speaks of retaining poise and confidence under these vicissitudes. The experience of constantly feeling threatened and surveyed in lonely spots translates into acts of defiance, where these spaces are re-negotiated through the repetition of the female form.

Tewari-Broota’s work forms an interesting foil to Sanjay Roy’s series of acrylic on canvas, titled Back to Earth, an aesthetic expression of the collision of chaos and spirituality. In the fast-paced world where economic, political and social concerns compete for attention, mankind often expresses a desire for a savior, whether it be Christ, Buddha or the Prophet. The work is a meeting ground of figurative and non-figurative expression and explores the idea of subjecting the self to rigors upon the anvil. The figure is incidental rather than the focus of the painting and appears almost camouflaged behind a busy network of lines and colours. The work is experimental and moves away from the traditional realism.

Shruti Gupta Chandra embraces vignettes of realism, although she creates an air of enigma around the architectural spaces, that is now bereft of the human form, yet hinting toward it. Staircases ascend into space and nothingness, although they appear to lead towards an unrealized Utopia. Working in the format of diptychs and triptychs in acrylic and oils, she orchestrates the space to convey a sense of contemplation and memory.  One of the paintings uses the device of the screen and plays with the idea of the viewer and the viewed, of perspective and shadow. It evokes a retreat to an era where latticed wooden screens defined personal spaces. In another painting, light upon a sloping wooden ceiling conveys a sense of repose and dreams.

Vikram Nayak’s work in pencil, ink and charcoal bring together the worlds of the organic and machine. He creates hybrid beings, as a result of chaos. A jumble of flowers, rivets and screws come together form a third being. While sharing his process, Nayak indicates that the forms that emerge from this spontaneous doodling are not pre-planned. We do see a recurring shape or circular form that is situated at the centre of each composition which may be a subconscious tribute to feminine energy. Nayak’s work is informed by his travels as he makes short films and also illustrates books.

Meena Deora uses rhythm and dynamism to represent the human body and perpetuates the idea of mobility and motion. The works celebrate the agility and plentitude of the human form. The vibrant colour scheme along with the musculature of active dynamic bodies becomes a narrative or testimony of vitalism realized in artistic terms. Her works are sensuous interplay of anatomy and metaphysics.

Pratibha Singh’s artwork pushes the idea of the human form further to incorporate the hybrid. Through the fusions of organic and inorganic, human and machinic, the works transpose into explorations of subjectivity. The Pratibha’s works explore an urban sense of the mythic in a post-industrial world, engaging with the idea of the post-human, or age of the machine. 

Valentina Churilova’s paintings are energetic and full of motion and movement, created by texture and brushstrokes. Each work involves an orchestration of many elements of earth, water and air, human forms in relation to objects that symbolize a moment in our life. She engages with realistic forms having studied the human figure while in the Ukraine, but now she transmits to them a symbolic meaning. The Id, ego and superego come into conversation with each other through the human form that appears at the center of all her compositions. Much of her work deals with human identity, our attachment to objects and then a renunciation of them as we realize a higher reality. Her process while painting involves holding back and allowing the painting to speak to her while she is creating it. The work usually indicates to her where it wants to take her. She invites viewer-participation and interpretation. Since her works are layered with a plethora of forms, many meanings and narratives emerge from them.

Sitting between the cusp of the figurative and the abstract Surendar Kaur, weaves a world out of colourful geometric forms with the woman at the center of her compositions. Works like, After Aman Ki Asha takes a tongue-in-cheek view of the condition of women in Indian society, and while they appear in a contemplative mode, bits of text, cut out from newspapers, indicates that their position in the hierarchy of a patriarchal society is all but ideal.

The subtle symmetry generated by rhythmic movements in nature is a strong source of influence in Geetanjali Kashyap’s work. She has been inspired by natural forms as they are awe-inspiring in detail, yet fascinating from a purely abstract perspective. The work is however entirely moving in the direction of abstraction.

Departing from the universe of imagery and human form, an artist like Satish Sharma, revels in pure colour and texture. For this exhibition Satish has chosen a set of small works that are intensely packed with texture and thick impasto paint. Impasto is a painting term that refers to the use of thickly textured, undiluted, paint that appears almost three-dimensional on the canvas. Through these works he is experimenting with various applications of earth shades, working in a manner that is less constrained by mark-making. He has now begun to work directly on the canvas with his hands, creating textures that are perhaps less conscious or controlled. He has abandoned recognizable forms in favour of pure abstraction. The painting transitions its source, becoming a being in and of itself.

In a similar vein of non-figuration is the work of Neerja Divate. Her minute pinpricks are on paper, usually white on white or black on black, where the mark making is a form of meditation rather than a display or call to attention. It is the labour of mark-making that characterizes the energy of these minimal works. In the world of manufacturing the skills of dexterity and consistency are positively valued as prized indicators of workmanship, and from repetitive techniques innovations in practice would emerge. In comparison these art studio acts of ‘sewing without thread’, where the labour of mark-making ends in points of ‘nothing’, there is a struggle to claim aesthetic or economic value. (Barnaby, 2013) Nevertheless, even here, with repetition comes the possibility of variation and difference. Repeated acts do not necessarily exclude creative agency.

Prabha Shah’s depopulated landscapes compel the viewer to look at the city differently, and creates new perceptual mechanism. Depicting everyday worlds, she de-familiarizes the ordinary. Her primary focus is on the inorganic world denuded of human presence, a life and agency given to these artefacts. Layers of light, deserted buildings and a slightly dystopic suburbia carry forth the narrative. The drama of life plays out through these deserted cityscapes evoking loneliness, fragmentation and displacement. Prabha is hearing impaired, and for her art serves as an alternative language of expression. To quote Amitava Sanyal “she has formed her own patios within the meta-language of visuals.”

Honey Pandey fashions a world of architectural objects that employ lines and geometrical forms. Her set of for 1×1 canvases create a sense of rhythm, and objects from everyday life acquire a graphic representation. Rubkirat Vohra works with metal and wood creating composite forms from malleable lead that has a low heat point. The abstract forms hint towards architectural forms and human existence and yet they exist in and of their own right. They are aesthetic objects, disassociated from the world of narrative. Born into a family of architects, where her late grandfather S. Gurcharan Singh worked closely with the French architect Le Corbusier, Vohra grew up being influenced by an architectural environment that consisted of lines, designs, layouts, sketches, and perspective-plans. This filtered into her work, brining to it an abstract quality. Her works are permeated by a sense of mystery, evoking thought and curiosity in the viewer yet leaving the narrative open-ended.

Visiting the idea of rebirth and recycle, artist Anju Kaushik tends to work in high-relief surfaces, embedding discarded objects into plaster of Paris and concrete surfaces. The act of reclaiming old, rusted and discarded objects and giving them new life is particular to Anju’s practice and ties up with the contemporary arte povera movement that sought to break down barriers between performance and everyday life. Anju’s relationship with the objects is however driven more by instinct rather than the ideology of the arte povera movement with which her association is an act of coincidence and not a conscious alignment. Grouping her works into clusters she makes a commentary on the environment where a fossilized fish shape is a poignant reminder of urban detritus and waste.

Alka Jhamb’s two works, Flow in Form, and The Space Without, demonstrate her ease with mixed media on Canvas. Alka’s works are largely non-figurative, evoking architectural spaces, objects and abstract forms. The works carry the hint of human existence, while the energy of the city is conveyed by a grid of towering buildings. Yet there is a sense of isolation and confinement, that is betrayed by the empty window frame which allows the viewer to look at the city without being viewed. It is trope that many women use to convey the sometimes-stifling presence of the domestic space.

Conversely, Renuka Sondhi Gulati’s figurative painting expresses freedom and flight. The mirror image of a woman, seated on a flight of steps is filled with positive energy, as it plays upon an often-used Surrealist trope of nature and the female form. As an eco-feminist she approaches the idea of the female form signifying mother earth, which is currently in dire straits.   

Neha Talwar, evokes the twilight world of dreams, sleep and repose in this intimate, yet large format mixed media work of her son and husband. Neha works with a variety of materials, usually discarded cloth pieces collected for the local tailor. Her paintings evolve to include the pattern of the fabric, creating layers of imagery that convey a plethora of emotions and psychological states.

Ritu Mehra, translates her fascination with everyday objects into three-dimensional form, with her mixed-media installations and assemblages. The bulb is a leitmotif that conveys several meanings—of modernity and light, of productivity and illumination, even as domestic objects like cutlery and crockery play a central role in her compositions, bringing to the fore these otherwise neglected objects that are taken for granted.

Manu Singh’s artworks are mostly figurative and draw their surrealist qualities from human anatomy. Her paintings are a comment on key human emotions. She experiments with different media and uses familiar imagery such as figures and everyday objects to produce the desired effect. One is left to introspect when confronted with her paintings that have elements of memory and fantasy in liberal doses.

We are finally brought to the works of artist Vipeksha Gupta whose sensitive nature is embodied by soft graphite works on paper. Through a maze of lines and grey shades she conveys natural forms like rocks and cave-like structures while situating her protagonist within the protective womb of these structures. In Ocean, Anoma, she evokes a surrealist language, by distorting scale: a young girl is confronted with her past that rises to the top of the water as a large fish. This could signify the surfacing of hidden emotions informed by a sense of personal loss.

This stunning array of artwork only confirms the premise that individuality as a concept is holding together well. While each work indicates a diversity, they are brought together under the rubric of the creative agency that Triveni Kala Sangam makes available to all its artists without creating hierarchies and dichotomies.

Image and Text

27 Dec

A group exhibition that explores the relationship of text and the material 


Georgina Maddox

“Written and readable text has been of interest to artists from diverse cultures since the decade of the 1960s. While the twenty-first century’s world’s spectacle occupies artworks which are spectacular, artists who work with text have voiced out simple and deep insights, caring for text as material. This makes text as an alternative expression in contemporary times,” writes Shubhalaxmi Shukla of the exhibition, curated by her in September in Mumbai. It featured artists Aqui Thami, Himanshu S, Anjana Mehra, Jyotee, Sanjeev Sonpimpare, Lalit Patil, Rajesh Pullarwar, Mithu Joardar, Sarita Chouhan, Kim Kyoungae, Gayatri Gamuz, Rupali Patil, Kiyomi Talaulicar, Sudhir Pande, Abhimanue Govindan, Arpita Bhavsar, Bharati Kapadia, Vidya Kamat, Murali Cheeroth and Mithu Sen.

sUBU 1


To bolster her observation Shukla sites the works of Yoko Ono, “Listen to sound of the earth turning”, Barbara Kruger’s biting “I buy therefore I am” and Jenny Holzer’s truisms (texts that explored the dimensions of femininity while reflecting upon the city’s fabric. In India she sites the works of artist Anita Dube’s whose text-based works explores a journey with “language” like a weaving that unveils the poignant paradoxes of human life.

The artists featured by Shukla engage with the idea of text through various fonts, sizes and play with language itself. For instance, Hanif Kureshi, presents us with four rows on almost illegible text, that read as follows, “Now you know – you never know-between the lines-distort reality.” The work is clearly demanding, even while it engages the viewer to peer and ponder at the text, which is not easily decipherable. Perhaps Kureshi is commenting on our easily consumable culture and intends to provide an alternative, where taking time and engaging with is imperative to understand the work.



Jeetander Ojha’s collection of aphorisms are cryptic and lead one to conclude that the artist is leading us towards an inner discovery of the self. Lines like “I love my Sins” and “I heard My Cry” may be seen as juxtaposed by more generic sayings like, “Whoever lives in love lives in art.”


Rumi Samadhan’s ‘Absence’ appears as a poetic comment on the ephemeral nature of human mortality, the void and the present both integral to the act of existence and being. Santosh Kalbande’s Jai, is a powerful work that obscures the name of the deity, perhaps making a comment on the generic nature of religion and the hidden violence within. The disappearing text is as significant as that which is visible and, in a sense, it ties in with Samadhan’s work.

The second instalment of Shukla’s curatorial venture features artists Jeetander Ojha, Hanif Kureshi, Surekha Sharada, Nikhil Purohit, Ajinkya Patil, Jenny Bhatt, Mithu Joardar, Yashwant Deshmukh collaboration with his son Soumitra, Baiju Parthan, Santosh Kalbande, Hemanta Roul, Sanjay Nikam, Moutushi Chakraborty, Ushmita Sahu, Prasanta Sahu, Manjri Varde, Nikhileshwar Baruah, Nilesh Shilkar, Alennott and Ashok Kadam’s Rap Group, Yuval Waikar, Pranav Rajput, Ankit Harchekar, Mayur Waikar, and Akshay More.

“I would like you to thoughtfully assemble what seems to be broken or scattered in language unveiling the layers of words historically,” says Shukla.  The project certainly has the scope of extending into a second part where more of the vision is realized and more of this lost art of communication is uncovered.













Workshops for the winter

13 Nov

Poonam Sahi Poster

1. Stop Motion Animation Workshop – by Nitin Donde
    9th to 11th November 2018
     Fee: Rs. 4500, for students Rs. 4000
2. Bane or Boon – What are photos to a layout? –  by Poonam Bevli Sahi
    15th December 2018
     Fee: Rs.1500, for students Rs. 1000