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Creative confluence

The exhibition brings together works of three generations of Indian artists...

AN INTERESTING exhibition curated by Paris-based Ravi Kumar brings to Bangalore representative works of three generations of contemporary Indian artists. Those featured — Akhilesh, Sujata Bajaj, Rajendra Dhawan, Seema Ghurayya, Manish Pushkale, Syed Haider Raza, and Velu Viswanadhan — though differing in style, technique, and temper, find a common opening to share their rich, creative repertoire in a resonating visual language.

Akhilesh works on a web of inter-related spaces. Simultaneously creating and dissolving intricately designed grids, which are geometric in structure and often geographical in impression, the artist delicately holds the web to prevail upon an intriguing hide-and-seek mosaic.

Sujata holds a Ph.D. in Fine Arts (her thesis is on Indian tribal art). Says Sujata about her thesis: "I enjoyed visiting the villages in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, and Rajasthan making a serious survey of this extraordinary culture." Her brilliantly-coloured and pulsating works, which imbibe the spontaneity and simplicity of tribal art, are made even more alluring through the use of Sanskrit or Hindi scripts, which, according to her, are not mere pictorial elements, but reflection of the nourishing rural culture of India.

New Delhi-born but settled in Paris for more than three decades, Dhawan mesmerises the viewer by creating images, which, at first glance, appear to be gentle landscapes swamped by a mood of hushed silence. But slowly, the magical elements of abstraction transform the images to a higher plane, beyond the confines of literal insinuations. The soft, dark shades and shadows created with deft caressing of grey, blue, and brown colours expand the visual tranquillity of Dhawan's paintings.

Seema too works on hushed tones and soft hues, but the result is markedly dissimilar to Dhawan's. The intensity of her works is derived from use of brighter colours, which are deliberately softened to an extreme. A feel of translucency pervades her canvases. Through an interesting interplay of colour and forms, Seema creates a visual debate on the frontiers of existence and extinction, even as her works cajole and tease the viewer to deliberate on their inner and peripheral articulation.

Manish, who is the youngest among the featured artists, is another painter using softened and misty colours to structure transparent forms and probing patterns: "Colours have a special role to play in my pictorial mutations. My colours convey a sense of displacement or de-centeredness of being unhoused." Manish, who entered the art scene with no formal training or initiation, is reported to have been accidentally "discovered" by Raza and Ravi Kumar, while he (Manish) was being unceremoniously asked to wrap up his works by a gallery owner in Delhi, in early 2002.

...which are different in style, yet one finds a common opening in a resonating visual language

And what can one say of the celebrated Raza, a pillar of the Progressive Artists Group, which arguably laid the foundation of contemporary art in India? Despite his more than five decades of stay in France, Raza's art is rooted firmly in the Indian culture. Now in his early eighties, Raza is inspired as ever by the concept of bindu, which remains to be the predominant motif in most of his paintings. The bindu enclosed in the heart of a Mandala — with its breathing spaces and spiritual affirmations — enthrals the viewer in this exhibition as well. One also gets to view a couple of his small but delightful impasto works, which are full of life and energy.

Viswanadhan, another well-known artist based in Paris, also provides an exciting set of works. "Painting, like poetry, is the medium of thought," says Viswanadhan. "The fundamental character of a painting is the purity of its presentation, the way that leads to the essential." In his works, which are characterised by snatches of broad horizontal colour bands, Viswanadhan treads a familiar but fascinating path of self-discovery.

(The exhibition concludes at the Time & Space Art Gallery on January 24.)


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