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‘From the Everyday to the Imagined: Modern Indian Art’

A significant show of Indian art at the Singapore Art Museum (SAM) presents an ever changing India as seen through the eyes of major stalwarts in the development of modern Indian art.

The exhibition features stunning works by A Ramachandran, K. G. Subramanyan, Gulammohammed Sheikh, M.F. Husain, S. H. Raza and Arpana Caur. Visual perspectives of everyday social realities are juxtaposed against the rich tapestry of Indian mythology tradition and fantasy in their works.

A curatorial note mentions: 'The exhibition gives an opportunity to explore the whimsical world of modern Indian Art. Art aficionados can learn more about India's evolving social realities, such as its political framework and attitudes towards gender roles ' all juxtaposed against the rich tapestry of Indian mythology, tradition and fantasy.'

The show titled 'From the Everyday to the Imagined: Modern Indian Art' continues till the third week of January 2008. This is the second exhibition of Indian art exhibition organized by SAM.

It's inspired by the lives and practices of these outstanding artists, whom the introductory note describes as the trailblazers of modern Indian art'

The Singapore Art Museum holds the largest public collection of 20th century South East Asian Art anywhere in the world. It owns over 7,500 artworks from South East Asia and is constantly acquiring new artworks from up and coming artists. Even the building itself is a work of art, built in the 19th century by French priests and based on St Peter's in Rome it lends a distinctly colonial look to the neighborhood! Their permanent collection 'Art of Our Time' holds 20th century art from various Asian countries.

Among the artists on view as part of the Modern Indian Art' show, is acclaimed artist and scholar A. Ramachandran. His large scale paintings are featured for the first time in Singapore. His work is often figurative and influenced by mythological traditions and Indian iconography. One of his key obsessions has been the study of lotus ponds in Udaipur, as seen in this series of large scale triptychs titled 'Trilogy of Color: Dawn, Noon, Dusk', washed in soothing hues of greens, purples and blues.

A multi-faceted artist and eminent professor of fine art, K.G. Subramanyan's work includes a rare series of large reverse paintings. The art of reverse painting can be traced to the glass painting tradition imported by India in the 18th century. In a nutshell, reverse painting requires the artist to apply paint to a piece of glass before turning the glass over and viewing the painted image through the glass.

Painter, art historian, and writer Gulam Mohammed Sheikh paints on formats ranging from hand-held paper to architectural scale, to bring the world he knows, sees and seeks, into his life; to illumine it in its complexities and contradictions, reinventing art history while painting. S. H. Raza calls his work a "result of two parallel enquiries." Firstly, it is aimed at a "pure plastic order" and secondly, it concerns the theme of nature. Both converge into a single point and become inseparable - the "Bindu" (the dot or the epicenter).

Self-taught artist Arpana Caur's art has always conveyed her concern for the condition of women and growing violence in India. Titled Soldier's Mother, the painting above depicts a woman in great sorrow and pain. Upon closer inspection, I discovered various images of armed soldiers embedded within; a mother's grief at her son's departure for the war, perhaps!

As reflected in the paintings, much of the personal lives and artistic journeys of these artists straddle both the worlds of reality and imagination. Together, they help define and establish a new 'Indian-ness' in the realm of Indian art.

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