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NGMA presents K.G.Subramanyan's masterful work

A retrospective of the versatile octogenarian artist, K G Subramanyan, opened at the National Gallery of Modern Art, Mumbai. The retrospective is an effort to put in perspective the different phases in Subramanyan's work; about 200 of them. One gets to see the different materials he has experimented with such as a woodcut from his student days. On view are drawings, prints, toys and painting on surfaces ranging from paper, canvas, terracotta and glass over last more than five decades. The works on display in this show come from various collections and some from his own.

K. G. Subramanyan, one of India's highly respected artists, is a multi-faceted personality. Apart from being an extremely prolific painter, muralist and printmaker, he is also an influential scholar and a teacher of art. A recently released book gives an kaleidoscopic view of his six-decade long artistic journey from the backwaters of Kerala, Mahe, Santiniketan, Slade in England and then in various towns of Europe, encompassing a vast range of media such as watercolors, gouache, oils, acrylics, relief murals, panels, fabrics and terracotta. It takes a look at the artist's oeuvre that has grown richer with passage of time.

"There are many things I consider fundamental to my art creativity; emotions, inspirations, the inner landscape of the heart, agonies, enthusiasms and such psychological minutiae that I do not feel comfortable talking about. People sometimes ask such questions. "That blue in your painting, what does that mean?" You don't know. But to avoid a second question you say may be I was depressed then.' That pink, you add in a light vein. "Maybe I was happy. That explains it; they declare you have two contrary streaks inside your placid self. You are a schizo with a grinning cat on the right, a growling dog on the left," Subramanyan has been quoted as saying in the book, giving an insight into his intriguing thought processes as an artist.

Rajeev Lochan, Director, National gallery of Modern Art, Delhi, mentions in the preface that the works of one of India's famous contemporary artists create a mosaic that link up the most isolating moments of our common past both to our present-day cultural practices and to the larger human landscape.

The artist, born in Kerala, received his art education at Kala Bhavan, Santiniketan, under the guidance of such renowned artists as Nandalal Bose, Binode Behari Mukherjee and Ramkinkar Baij. He was also a student at the Slade School of Art, London. In recognition of his varied contributions to the development of Indian art he was awarded the Shiromani Kala Award by the Government of India in 1994. He has participated in numerous solo and group exhibitions, and in several of the major Biennales, including the Sao Paolo Biennale of 1969 and 1971, the Tokyo Biennale, 1964 and the Menton Biennale, France in 1967 and 1976. He has also participated in the 1988 "Festival of India" held in Japan. Subramanyan's work can be found in the permanent collections of the National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi and Mumbai, and in several other private and public collections in India and internationally. He lives and works in the sylvan environs of Tagore's Santiniketan.

Fondly known as Manida, he has dabbled in illustrating books and designing children's toys in wood, leather and terracotta. Subramanyan has worked with craftsmen while making book, murals and toys in the '60s. His glass paintings, or reverse paintings were a major innovation after terracotta reliefs. His latest is work on enamel. He pioneered the foundation of the Fine Arts faculty in Baroda.

Early paintings and prints of still life, photographs of the murals he did engaging craftsmen in the process in the 60s, his innovation in the form of terracotta murals, the breakthrough work on glass, paintings made during a term in Oxford and finally works made 2000 onwards give an overall view of his oeuvre.

The NGMA retrospective is an effort to put in perspective the veteran artist's work done over six decades and offers a comprehensive view of the Manida's vast oeuvre. The book on him published by the NGMA, priced at Rs 2000, along with a portfolio with six images of his works, is on sale during the exhibition. Picture postcards are also available. The exhibition is continues till May 15, 2003 at NGMA, Mumbai.

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