A new thematic show that maps pictorial propositions

‘Frame. Figure. Field’ at Delhi Art Gallery features works by several noteworthy artists including Shobha Broota, Avinash Chandra, Amitava Das, C Douglas, Shanti Dave, Jaya Ganguly, Sheela Gowda, Satish Gujral, M F Husain, P Khemraj, Ambadas Khobragade, Sovan Kumar, Altaf Mohammedi, Rabin Mondal and Gogi Saroj Pal.

The diverse artworks are chosen to highlight some of the pictorial propositions manifested in the 20th century Modern Indian painting and to indicate how its overlaps with contemporary art practice. Concept is by noted art critic and curator Roobina Karode. A curatorial note mentions: “Against the polarized paradigm of ‘figural-narrational space’ and ‘transcendental space’ in ‘Frame, Figure. Field’ emphasizes the co-existence of a range of options with artists, especially from the 1970s onwards, grappling with eclectic influences, mixed languages, past styles, claiming a heterogeneous inheritance through the medium.

“The uneven reception of European Modernism in India and a selective adoption of the indigenous traditions opened up a field of pictorial possibilities, resulting in oscillations between figuration and abstraction, simultaneously symbolizing the painted gesture and the figural trace. Method, material and meaning were fused into novel visual articulations both poetic as well as provocative in intent. Taking away the distinct identity of the figure and ground, the concepts of representation and abstraction were further expanded by relying on encounters with conceptual ideas.”

Works by artists Sohan Qadri, G R Santosh, Paritosh Sen, Nataraj Sharma, F N Souza, Vivan Sundaram and Vasudha Thozhur are also included in the show. A majority of artists presented here have addressed the potential and limitations of the pictorial form, raising at times the question of what constitutes a painting. The chosen works embody radical acts performed by artists within the pictorial frame/ field. It is not difficult to comprehend that the artistic purpose was certainly not to display brilliant rendering and drafting skills, but attempt the shaping a personal language that translates formal, conceptual as well as thematic concerns into creative expression.

Belonging to different generations and with their practice located in different regions in India, artists grouped here have often changed course and therefore the selected work may represent perhaps a phase in their art before it got recognized within a certain art making paradigm. The works showcased, make for an interesting mix, especially those done in new media and formats, using computer generated imagery, organic and recycled materials and the sculptural-installation format.

The exhibition highlights the constant challenge for the medium of painting in present times to reinvent itself and reconfigure meaningful equations between the frame, figure and the pictorial field. The curator explains: “At the outset, the most visible overtures that radicalized the modern pictorial language were experienced in the realm of spatial modulations and surface explorations, which dramatized the figure-field relationship in the preferred large-sized canvases, with its enigmatic scale of imagery, cropped details and informal composition. From compositions made of multiple frames, some of the artists moved towards the exploration of unstructured terrains/ fields, recording the movement of the artist’s hand in the action of the paint.

“Most dramatically, responses to the pictorial frame underwent a change. The idea of ‘frame’ that refers to containment, creating order and organizing elements within the pictorial space was adventurously explored and defied by artists who composed their paintings to overcome the sense of bounded/closed space through cropped imagery, dissolved edges, infinity of unstructured fields and de-centred compositions.”

The works in the exhibition embody radical acts performed by artists within the pictorial frame or field. The purpose of exhibition is to attempt the shaping of a personal language, which translates formal, conceptual and thematic concerns into creative expression.

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