‘Freedom 2008’ – wide array of works on view

Kolkata based CIMA gallery is hosting a major show of Indian art that covers a gamut of artists and art practices to give an insight into the various developments and related trends that have shaped Indian art.

Works by several significant artists have been included in this show. Nandalal Bose, Ramkinkar Baij, A. Balasubramaniam, Manjit Bawa, Jyoti Bhatt, Arun Bose, Jogen Chowdhury, Bikash Bhattacharjee, Amitava Das, V. S. Gaitonde, Somnath Hore, Ram Kumar, Tyeb Mehta, Sailoz Mookherjea, Binode Behari Mukherjee, Akbar Padamsee, J. Swaminathan, RM. Palaniappan, Jeram Patel, Manu Parekh, S. H. Raza, Lalu Prosad Shaw, K. G. Subramanyan and F.N. Souza are included in the show.

Among other names that form part of this show at The Museum Gallery, Mumbai (till third week of February 2008) are names like Prabhakar Kolte, Jaya Ganguly, Nalini Malani, Ravinder G. Reddy, Dayanita Singh, Arpita Singh, Anjum Singh, Paramjit Singh, Anumpam Sud, Yogesh Rawal, Debraj Goswami, Jitish Kallat, Subodh Gupta, Baiju Parthan, Sanjeev Sonpimpare and Chintan Upadhyay.

Among the most influential artists whose works form part of the show is n iconoclast known for his powerful imagery, Francis Newton Souza. His oeuvre was noted for bold linear imagery and flat colors set against a two-dimensional picture plane that became the dominant stylistic features of his paintings and which he used to create powerful and provocative imageries.

Mention must be made of legendary Abanindranath Tagore whose visual language was deeply moored in the indigenous ideals of the turn of the century. His art was idyllic, mystical, profound and deeply rooted to the sentiments of his time. The Bengal School movement of which he was a major part and force caught the imagination of the entire subcontinent and influenced most painters across the region.

One of India's most prominent artists, Nalini Malani's work reflects a deep commitment to women's issues, particularly with regard to social and family relationships in which women's skills often go unappreciated. For Sarbari Roy Chowdhury, music is the inspiration for his work. One of India's leading sculptors, he believes that the abstraction of music can only be expressed through another abstract form. For him, music and pain are the two elements that transform an intellectual perception into an experience.

K. G. Subramanyan has achieved a successful synthesis of India's linear folk tradition and modernism. His sense of design, especially the manner in which he plays with pictorial space by filling the entire surface with Indian fauna and flora, makes his paintings vibrant and rooted in Indian spirit.

Baiju Parthan's concerns as an artist are to reflect the changes that occur around me for one, and also to generate fresh metaphors and symbols that have the potential to expand the range of meanings that we can wrestle out of life and reality. On the contrary, Chintan Upadhyay's work challenges the viewer to look at oneself afresh and forces us to confront our hypocrisies about sex, our bodies, consumerism, thought and visual culture. The artist does this by using the language of advertisements which sell products through selling sex.

Lalu Prosad Shaw is a master of both printmaking as well as tempera. In printmaking, Lalu Prosad expresses his modernity, both in terms of technique and imagery. His imagery is taken from everyday life, depicting simple objects and events. His single figures and still life are done in a style that is very indigenous and, yet, very sophisticated.

Painter, poet and political activist, J. Swaminathan played a major role in contemporary Indian art both as a painter as well as an ideologue. A founder member of Group 1890, the artist gave Indian art a whole new direction. In 1960s, his paintings, which he called Color Geometry of Space, reflected his mystical bent of mind and showed his closeness to the European painter Paul Klee.

Widely travelled, Paritosh Sen was amongst the very few young Indian artists to have had the opportunity to meet and spend time with the great modern masters of our time like Pablo Picasso and Brancusi. All these experiences left a lasting influence on the artist. A figurative painter, he uses bold lines against a two-dimensional picture plane to express his views on contemporary life.

Acknowledged as one of India's leading printmakers, Anupam Sud is known for her finely crafted etchings. Her preoccupation is with human forms and their configuration within a highly demarcated space. It is this sensitive handling of space along with the use of powerful sculptural forms which creates an interesting link between the figures, resulting in prints which are visually provocative.

Paramjit Singh, among India's leading landscape painters, honed his skills at the Delhi School of Art under Sailoz Mookherjea. Over the years, the artist has created his own unique vision and style. With a brush loaded with pigments and with short brisk strokes, Paramjit creates in his paintings what painter Gulam Mohummad Sheikh had once described as 'visual hypnotism'.

Arpita Singh creates a world which is part naive and part real. She uses simple objects like telephone, bunches of flower, bushes, pots and pans, child-like graffiti on walls and over-crowded roads, snarled traffic, even guns and violent death as icons of contemporary life. According to her, culture and tradition is handed down from woman to woman, mother to daughter, like the rituals performed by women in Bengal for the welfare of their family.

Anjum Singh's compositions are an amalgamation of curious color and form where blues-greens-oranges applied on flat two-dimensional pictorial space do not fuse into harmonious tonalities but maintain their own intense identities, clashing against one another and setting up a 'movement' of their own.

T. Vaikuntam's figures, mostly of women, evoke the sense of earthy voluptuousness found in the mural and folk painting traditions of south India. On a flat, two-dimensional surface his large figures occupy nearly all of the pictorial space and express a sense of monumentality. The painter achieves this with the use of controlled and fluid lines juxtaposed with brilliant primary colors while the use of simple details like caste marks, flowers and an occasional parrot give his paintings a distinctively Indian flavor.

Among the younger artists on view, Sanjeev Sonpimpare has created works that have been labeled to be autobiographical because the artist includes his self portrait in most works. The artist says that the trait is merely incidental, and that he wants to share the sense of alienation which is both, a private and a universal experience, more common now than before.

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