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

Interrogating truth

4 Nov

Saavdhaan: The Regimes of Truth poses questions to the voices of authority


Georgina Maddox

Stumbling through the dark, avoiding stones and brambles, one is not quite sure what one will discover down the rabbit hole that is Saavdhaan: The Regimes of Truth. The recently concluded exhibition, curated by Shaunak Mahbubani at the little-known venue, Kalakar Theatre near Saket Metro Station, Saidul-Ajab, is not the conventional well-lit, white cube gallery display, that we have all come to expect when attending art openings. The raw brick and motor bowels of the theatre, is shadowy with wisps of cobwebs festooning nooks and crevices. The exhibition is not easily forthcoming rather it slowly reveals its contents as one negotiates through the slightly bewildering space.


Arko Datto’s nigh-time photography captures the essence of the word Saavdhaan, a military call to attention as well as a neighbourly
hark of safety. All photographs of the exhibition are by photographer Polina Schapova

Digital ticker-tape projected into one of the niches ask if you know where to look for ‘Vikas’, as the arm of the waving cat meant to usher in good-luck and prosperity eerily waves at you from the other end of the hall. A shrill voice on a loudspeaker seems to be announcing some kind of political propaganda, while in another corner books and pamphlets are kept out for the purpose of reading them, earphones and a monitor beckon you to sit and listen to Ravi Aggarwal and Anita Dube holding forth, while another installation shocks you with the macabre sight of human body-parts hanging off meat hooks. If you are a little over-whelmed and expecting to meet the Minotaur in this labyrinth, then that is exactly what Mahbubani designed through this multi-media show.

“The exhibition is intended to be demanding and it requires you to take out time to read, listen and interact with the works. On many levels it poses questions to the voices of authority, history books and news in the digital era of political propaganda. It questions public pedagogy and the communalizing of our political and cultural spaces,” says Mahbubani, the recipient of the Apex Art scholarship with which he funded the exhibition, which is Part 2 of his series Allies for the Uncertain Future. He is also currently Curator, Programming at The Gujral Foundation.



Exhibition view of Saavdhaan: Regimes of Truth at Kalakar Theatre in Saket Metro Station, Saidul-Ajab.


The artists and collectives featured are Asim Waqif, Arko Dutta, AltNews, Dalit Panther Archive, Johar Jhangram, Mandeep Raikhy, Payal Arya, Sanket Jaida, Samar Grewal, Sarah Naqvi, Smita Rajmane, material and reports from The Wire, Vidisha Saini, Video Volunteers, Vishal Kumaraswamy and Zine: Medium as Message, by Karan Kaul.

The installation mentioned earlier, Ask Where is Vikas, is by Saini who takes a stab at the whole mythology of progress created around the Modi government, while the wool sculpture of human body parts hanging off meat hooks is by Sarah Naqvi who comments on the lynch mobs that have killed innocent Muslims in the name of Gauraksha (Cow protection) over the years.



Ask Where is Vikas, multimedia installation by Vidisha Saini;  wool sculptures of human body parts hanging off meat hooks is by Sarah Naqvi.

The interviews with Aggarwal and Dube are part of Waqif’s video-work that tackles the wave of fake news spreading through the country. Raikhy’s choreographed performance unfolds to the beat of disciplinary power. Arya’s immersive mood-piece creates a mimeo of a migrant worker’s home, with rickety and impermanent bamboo structures, fog created by a fog-machine and an old TV in the corner playing footage of children running around old structures and homes. The fog is symbolic of the fog of fear that has engulfed our society.


Payal Arya’s installation questions the fog of fear that has engulfed our society, through the metaphor of construction worker’s dwellings.

Sanket Jadia’s layered drawings mounted on a glass and wooden stand and lit by naked bulbs investigate the politics of visibility in the media coverage of these incidences. Violence against Dalits and other lower-caste communities has been an abominable part of sub-continental life for centuries but there has been no checks and balances put in place to stem the violence. Interestingly Jadia has intentionally blackened the faces of the perpetrators reducing them to a faceless mob.


Sanket Jadia’s layered drawings investigate the politics of visibility in the media coverage of  incidences of violence against Dalits and other lower-caste communities

Smita Rajmane​’s installation of broken earthen pots references the arcane and inhuman practice by the upper-castes, of insisting that Dalits carry an earthen pot around their necks so that their spit doesn’t touch the ground. The installation works in conjunction with footage of a film by Somanth Waghmare titled The Battle of Bhima-Koregaon Park playing on a TV monitor. The documentary was also screened as a separate part of the exhibitions programming on November 3. It questioned the domination of upper-caste where Dalit narratives continue to be over-simplified and misinterpreted in situations like the Bhima-Koregaon violence in Maharashtra in 2018.


The installation by Smita Rajmane and film by Somanth Waghmare titled ‘The Battle of Bhima-Koregaon Park’,  questions the atrocities committed against the Dalit community.   (Below) A detail of the installation. Also, a view of the exhibition indicating the Dalit Panther Archive, and the curator Shaunak Mahabubani at the entrance of the exhibition.

However, more importantly Waghmare’s film is a rare documentation of the annual celebration at Koregaon Park. Here Dalits of all age groups and gender gather around the war memorial pillar that commemorates the contribution of the Dalit Mahar community who fought alongside the Peshwas. Together the installation and film interrogate the reportage or lack of it, around Dalit issues in newsrooms dominated by upper-caste editors and journalists.



As we proceed through the exhibition we come to the second half of the show that examines how citizens can hold agency and moved forward to participate and question the nexus of alarmist culture and communalism. A display of the work done by Video Volunteers​, a network of over 250 community correspondents across the country, speaks of how individuals are empowered to take control of their narratives through the technology of video production. Other sections of the exhibition display the work done by the Wire, and AltNews​ that takes on one of the more dangerous tools in the neo-fascist arsenal: fake news.

The Dalit Panther Archive​ is committed to digitizing the archive of writings, magazines, and other materials from the Dalit Panther movement. The little magazine movement also erupted in India within and around the latter now popularly called the zine​, has grown in recent usage with illustrators, poets, and artists drawn to its subversion of capital and censorship. There are also other zines like Punter and Aunty Boom’s Almost Feminist Confessions that document queer struggles and lives.

RJ Shikha Mandi evokes narratives in a different format through her radio show, Johar Jhargram, spreading the Santhal Indigenous language and culture. The show broadcast entirely in Santhali, marries social issues with humor and village music, making it a big hit with local communities.

The exhibition leaves one with a lasting impression, one that grows with repeated visits and certainly it creates an atmosphere for debate and awareness about the times we live in. Mahbubani hopes that the exhibition builds connections beyond its physical avatar, into the realm of digital existence, which will continue to dissent and debate the issues tabled herein.




Asim Waqif’s video-work that tackles the wave of fake news spreading through the country.

‘Home and Beyond’

30 Oct

Chameli Ramachandran’s gentle brush strokes revere nature


Walking into the newly renovated Surrendra Paul Art Gallery in Sangeet Shyamala, Vasant Vihar, New Delhi, one comes face to face with the gentle creations of Chameli Ramachandran Tan Yuan. Mountains touched with gold, ocean-scapes that dance and pulsate with an internal rhythm, trees that sway and wave in the wind, carnations that yield their sensuous intoxication of pink and the curvaceous lip of a red dog rose, envelope one’s senses. The works are not very large and yet their delicateness and technical flair invite you to come closer for a more intimate look.

Chameli Ramachandran (2)

Chameli,  was born in Santiniketan, West Bengal in 1940 to artist parents. She imbibed the spirit of Santiniketan at a very early age and was surrounded by nature and sensitized to art by the likes of Rabindranath Tagore, who indecently picked out her name. After her schooling, in a Bengali medium, at Patha-Bhavana,
she joined Kala-Bhavana to study art under masters like Benode Behari Mukherjeeand Ramkinkar Baij.

Under their tutelage she perfected the wash-technique, a Japanese style of painting that utilized ink and wash. “I was very lucky to have been born in Santiniketan and whatever I know about art is because of that place. Its very different from the rest of the world,” says the artist. Through this technique Chameli captures
the gentle amity amongst natural elements with a meditative gaze that extends
beyond mere botanical observation.



“Chameli depicts the character of each tree with the flow of her brush. The
rhythmic treatment of the different kinds of trees that she paints while she
spends her winter months in the USA reflects her oneness with the spirit of
nature,” writes Ella Dutta.

The exhibition at Surrendra Paul Art Gallery is an abridged version of the larger solo that opened at Vadehra Art Gallery, which constituted around 90 paintings by the
artist executed in ink and water-colour since 2015. The artist is inspired by the vegetal life in her residential garden in Delhi and those in
the USA. Each study is an intimate conversation with her muse, nature.


Her meditative gaze that extends beyond mere observation, for she brings to each study a lyrical intensity which is in keeping with her own personality. Aware of the historical representation of the flowers she depicts in her compositions (such as the lotus, chrysanthemum and peony) in Asian art, Chameli opts for an amorphous, and often haunting,  performance of nature in her works that defy the limits of the page and express a wild sensuality.

Married to the doyen of an artist, A Ramachandran, Chameli has carved out her own niche as an artist and her style is very distinct to her husbands. Her palette is often muted and gentle while his flames with colours. However what both artists definitely share in common is the love for nature and a wish to surround themselves with its abundance and beauty.

Colours, only

14 Sep

Thanks Ankush!

art1st India

A new exhibition in Delhi introduces the rare genre of ‘colour field’ painting to art lovers

Ankush Arora

How does an artist’s canvas reflect natural landscapes, without using any kind of recognisable shapes, images, forms or human figures? A good example of this style of art-making is the work of Pandit Bhila Khairnar, who is known as a ‘colour field’ artist. Delhi-based Gallery Threshold recently inaugurated a solo show of the artist, who hails from Nashik city in Maharashtra.

Nashik_Flickr_Deeku's.jpg Nashik. Courtesy: Flickr

As a young man, Khairnar found himself drawn towards abstract painting, and began his training in art at Yashwant Kala Mahavidyalaya, Aurangabad, and L. S. Raheja School of Art, Mumbai. His early interest in abstract painting deeply influenced his artistic vocabulary that we see today, so much so that he is now considered one of the lesser known, but foremost, colour field painters of India.

Pandit Bhila Khairnar Profile Photo.png Pandit Bhila Khairnar…

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Second Generation concerns

3 May


Ganesh Pyne

Ganesh Pyne, Apu, Tempera on canvas, 18 x 15.5 inches, 2008



Ella Tito

In India when people say Modern Art, it is often to earmark the artistic production of the Progressive Artist’s Group (PAG) read, F N Souza, S H Raza, M F Husain, S Bakre, K H Ara,  K H Gade, Amrita Sher-Gil, Tyeb Mehta, Akbar Padamsee, Ram Kumar and others like Krishen Khanna and  Jehangir Sabavala to name a few. There is a subsequent generation of Moderns, who play an as important role in shaping the journey of Modern Art in India. These are known as the second generation of Modern Masters.

Surrendra Paul Art Gallery at Sangeet Shyamala and Vadehra Art Gallery, present The Modern Masters of Indian Art II, an exhibition that opened on the 27th of April and is on till the 11th of May, that highlights and features the second generation of Moderns like Arpita Singh, Anjolie Ela Menon, A. Ramachandran, Chameli Ramachandran, Ganesh Pyne, Jogen Chowdhury, Paramjit Singh and Rameshwar Broota.


Arpita Singh LR.jpg

Arpita Singh, Our Earth, Watercolour on paper, 23 x 30 inches, 2012


This group of Moderns displays a different set of concerns and a shift in stylistic approach, moving towards a more localized and personal idiom. Their lexicon is woven out of stylistic progressions made post the 1980s and the 1990s which connected to Independent India opening globally but telling its own stories in a local tongue.

The story of Partition of East Pakistan, the horrors of the Naxalite movement, of economic deprivation, of gender inequality and of the struggle of traditional arts to make the transition to the lexicon of the Modern are some of their concerns. Artists like Arpita Singh, Pyne and Chowdhury focused on the initial turmoil of India’s Partition from Bangladesh, the Naxalite movement and an ensuing of unrest, which inspires many of their works. In the latter half of her oeuvre, Singh focuses on the rapid urbanization of cosmopolitan India. The anomaly between the aging body and the residue of desire, between the ordinary and the divine and the threat of the violent fluxes of the impinging external world gives her work its piquancy and edge.

Pyne draws his inspiration from the city of his birth, Kolkata with its decaying mansions and Naxalite movement. In the summer of 1946, when communal riots had rocked Kolkata Pyne had his first brush with death. He and his family were forced to abandon their crumbling mansion and he came upon a pile of bodies in the street. It is that dark vision that continued to haunt Pyne and he continues to return to that as his source. He was also inspired by mythological stories, and fairy tales told by his grandmother and the political environs of Calcutta in its coffee houses. His works have a dark brooding quality, with a touch of the surreal.



Ganesh Pyne, The Head, Tempera on canvas, 13.5 x 17.5 inches, 2008


Jogen Chowdhury is known for his ability to successfully bring together traditional imagery with the zeitgeist of contemporary painting. His skillful blend of an urbane self-awareness and a highly localized Bengali influence makes him an internationally accessible name.


Other artists like A. Ramachandran and Chameli Ramachandran have chosen to focus on nature in a manner that references the tradition of the miniatures and Japanese wash technique, while Paramjit Singh evokes bucolic landscapes in a Modernist manner. Menon weaves a personal narrative of the feminine experience in everyday life. Each artist has made an important contribution to Modern Indian Art and this exhibition strives to tease out the themes and stylistic approaches of these artists.



A Ramachandran uses archetypal Indian imagery only after years of painting in the modernist vein. In most of his works, the decorative element does not stand out; it is intrinsic, built into his figures’ clothes and jewelry as a part of the overall design, while Paramjit Singh’s brush charts a course on the canvas that gives the viewer panoramic visions of mystic landscapes.


Rameshwar Broota’s mixed media has been sourced from his latest body of work that was part of his solo exhibition titled Scripted in Time at Vadehra Art Gallery in the month of March. The works are created out of epoxy resin and have the effect of a floating world, a microcosm where various objects and forms that have been trapped in its sticky surface, where they lead an afterlife suspended in time. The objects vary, from metallic nails, an X-ray of the lungs, stray feathers to the all-important bits of text upon which the inspiration of the exhibition hinges. One may note that the suspended objects, when treated to the resin, gain a kind of mysterious air to them. It changes their meaning adding another layer that goes beyond their visual play and glowing surface. Resin mummifies and when we consider the choice of Broota’s objects, one cannot miss that they hint towards a critique of violence.

It is wonderful to have access to such fine work by this ‘second generation’ of Masters, at an institute like Sangeet Shyamala where kids visit regularly for their music, dance, and art classes. It gives them exposure and inspiration.


Talent in the bud

13 Apr
Always musically inclined, Yashasvini took her first steps into the world of music at the tender age of five, when she began her formal training in Carnatic Music under Smt. Lalitha Nagarajan. Since the last five years, she has been under the tutelage of Sushree Sriparna Nandi in  Hindustani Classical Music.
Over the years, she has been consistently performing in various musical programmes and has won several accolades. She is also pursuing a diploma in music from Prayag Sangeet Samiti, Allahabad. Now aged 15 years, this is her first formal public performance in Hindustani Classical Music followed by a few songs in the Semi-Classical style. Catch her performing at the Habitat as she reaches yet another milestone in her musical journey.
At the Amphitheatre, India Habitat Centre, Lodhi Road, April 13th, 7 p.m. onwards.