22nd Feb, 2008

Surendran Nair, Atul Dodiya highlights of Saffronart auction
The Saffronart spring online auction of modern Indian art works will take place March 12-13 and feature 140 works by 55 artists. Paintings of Surendran Nair and Atul Dodiya will be the highlights.

The auction includes works of the younger lot of artists who have tasted success much earlier than their elders.

Top of the sale is lot 72 - Nair's 'Doctrine of the Forest: An Actor at Play' (Cuckoonebulopolis), an oil on canvas estimated at $144,740-171,060. This is the icon for the Saffronart sale that promises a host of great works and frenzied bidding.

In this work, the artist depicts a traditionally masked and lungi-clad Kathakali actor from Kerala, seemingly deep in meditation, perhaps getting into character for a performance. However, the gravity of the subject's elaborate make-up, vestments and yogic pose are compromised by Nair's placement of a bright yellow rubber-ducky peering up at him from his feet.

Nair, who lives in Ahmedabad, is an ardent observer and commentator on identity and socio-political change. He draws his images from the abundant global archive of historical, religious, mythological, literary, political and artistic facts, practices and traditions that he maintains. The artist's provocative canvases link previously unrelated elements from these annals to push the limits of his viewers' notions of identity, community and reality.

Equally enticing is Nair's 'Darwaja Kholo' on paper - a watercolour of a sari-clad beauty with a deer sitting at her feet. It is estimated at $52,640-65,790.

Subodh Gupta's 'Let Me Make My Damn Art' is estimated at $60,000-70,000. Marrying the worlds of high art and B-grade cinema, Gupta also uses this piece to comment on the violence inherent to his creative process. It seems that the cause of the armed dispute in the piece, unlike the movie it is based on, is an interruption of the artist's work.

His second work is the stainless steel sculpture 'Feast for a Hundred God' estimated at $70,000-90,000. To reflect India's unique growth and to voice his concerns about the new and undefined interstitial spaces that have come to exist between modernity and tradition, city and country, Gupta has chosen one of India's most commonest commodities as his medium: the shiny stainless-steel kitchenware that is a familiar sight in homes and stores across the country.

For more than 10 years, Gupta has been using the common steel goods of Indian kitchens as one of the primary materials for his art. Hid third work at the auction is an untitled oil on canvas that mirrors vessels and is estimated at $125,000-175,000.

Then there is Dodiya's 'Vansha Vriksha' estimated at $150,000-180,000. In this large scale, almost monochromatic piece, the map of the nation is reduced to shadows, barely visible beneath an assemblage of tectonic plates that seem to be forming a new, highly divided map over the existing one.

On closer examination, however, the spaces between these plates have joined up estuary-like to form a tree, emblematic of the nurtured bonds of family and culture that transcend such political divisions. In the same vein, the cleverly placed nest of eggs in one of the branches and his signature rising sun, adopted from an illustrated children's book, at the lower left of the piece stand for a new, optimistic future where such ruptures may be bridged.

Dodiya's second work is enamel paint and synthetic varnish on laminate board - 'Shri Jivan Chaya of Gandhi Nagar (With 17th Wife Madhuben and 18th Wife Jayashriben)' - estimated at $140,000-180,000.

Then there is A. Balasubramaniam's 'Waterbody', a work that is estimated at $90,000-120,000.

This auction is the twentieth in the series by Saffronart, which will take place exclusively on The structure of the auction and its time span allows serious collectors as well as first-time buyers worldwide to place their bids over a period of two days, as opposed to a period of a few hours at a live auction.

By Uma Nair (Staff Writer, ' IANS)

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