Printmaking | Art

Delhi printmaker Anupam Sud has her first retrospective in New York

Anupam Sud at work

Anupam Sud at work   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Put up by the DAG and KNMA, Sud’s first New York retrospective, which will travel to India soon, is curated by her former student and printmater Paula Sengupta

She was the youngest member of Group 8, a Delhi collective of printmakers that her professor and printmaker Jagmohan Chopra brought together back in 1968. Today, 75-year-old Delhi-based Anupam Sud, has her works showing in the United States, in a retrospective hosted at the Delhi-based DAG’s New York gallery.

Her last major showing, called Anupam Sud: A Retrospective, was over a decade ago, at the Palette Gallery in Mumbai. This current one, which will travel to DAG’s space in Mumbai over the summer and to KNMA in Delhi later this year, is curated by printmaker and former student of Sud’s, Paula Sengupta. “The last 10-12 years is really the thrust of this exhibition,” Sengupta says, adding that Sud, unlike a lot of her peers who came into their own in their 50s, really peaked only in the last decade or so. This, despite acknowledging that the artist is known mostly for her works from the 1970s and ’80s.

Sud, whose works have always focussed on the human body, shorn of all adornments including hair, has in the last decade, “moved increasingly to fluid spaces, spaces of androgyny, gender ambiguity, and alongside heterosexual relationships, she’s explored homo-social behaviour, alternative spaces, of which, from an early stage in her career, there have been glimpses,” Sengupta says.

Olympia, 2007: “It takes off from earlier European masters’ rendering of the nude Olympia, who was very much an object of the male gaze. But here, both are showing themselves off to each other. It completely topples all notions of the gaze that we’ve traditionally harboured,” says Sengupta.

Olympia, 2007: “It takes off from earlier European masters’ rendering of the nude Olympia, who was very much an object of the male gaze. But here, both are showing themselves off to each other. It completely topples all notions of the gaze that we’ve traditionally harboured,” says Sengupta.   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Fittingly therefore called The Soul (Un) Gendered: Anupam Sud, A Retrospective, the showing’s selections include 130 works spanning five decades, and is a collaboration between DAG (formerly Delhi Art Gallery) and the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art (KNMA). “Standing in 2020, I’ve been able to look back from a position of vantage, and that’s given me a complete reading,” says Sengupta.

Artistic concerns

However, Sud, who had earned a Commonwealth scholarship to study at the Slade School of Fine Art, London in 1971, isn’t entirely happy with her first New York retrospective. “It’s like you’ve hidden my colourful plumes and shown the crow’s feathers with which I learnt to fly,” she says after hesitation, one afternoon at the DAG’s new space in central Delhi.

This has to do, somewhat, with the fact that of the 130 works selected for the show, only 90 are on display in New York currently.

A view of the show at DAG’s New York gallery

A view of the show at DAG’s New York gallery   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Sengupta states paucity of space as one of the reasons for this tight edit, but adds that since “DAG acquired all these at the fag end of her career, they picked up what they could find. So a lot of her work form the ’80s has been sold out, with only proofs lying around. I can understand as a printmaker that you don’t want to put a proof print out there — but in the interest of establishing the narrative, I did exhibit some of these proof prints, because establishing the narrative was important in the curatorial process,” Sengupta clarifies. She has also written a detailed curatorial essay, which will be published in a book accompaniment to the exhibit when it comes to Mumbai. Also in the book will be an interview of the artist, by art historian and curator Lina Vincent.

Regardless, there seems to be a lot of interest in Sud’s works. Just over a month into the three-month long exhibit, KNMA has bought out the entire show. Additionally, the fact that the show opened directly in New York, only reinforces the familiarity that New York audiences have had with the Delhi-based artist’s works. She has, through various stages of her career worked at the Robert Blackburn Studio, Manhattan Graphics, and more.

“I found also that there is currently a lot of interest in [South Asian] women artists in general, in New York,” Sengupta says. For example, at the end of 2019, there was Phenomenal Nature, a retrospective of 50 works by sculptor Mrinalini Mukherjee at the Met Breuer, the modern and contemporary art museum that’s part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Currently at the Museum of Modern Art, there is Of All People, an atmospheric installation by Bengaluru-based Sheela Gowda.

Not disconnected

One of Sud’s biggest strengths is — her technical expertise notwithstanding — her major preoccupation with the concepts with which she engages. So much so that Sengupta admits that after a point in the late 1990s, it was a challenge to design the retrospective in a chronological fashion. Sud had constantly revisited some of her plates, adding and reworking not just colours and textures, but issue-based details, over and over.

“She’s responded to the Nirbhaya incident (2012 Delhi gang rape case), she’s engaged with the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks...her work has always been topical and therefore, continues to have resonance with today’s audiences,” says Sengupta.

Darling, Get Me A Baby Made, 1979: “It was the beginning of the days of artificial insemination. It is all around us now. In the work, I even depicted the first two doctors who had done this experiment; I had seen their photos in the newspaper,” says Sud.

Darling, Get Me A Baby Made, 1979: “It was the beginning of the days of artificial insemination. It is all around us now. In the work, I even depicted the first two doctors who had done this experiment; I had seen their photos in the newspaper,” says Sud.   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Through the interview, Sud apologises for being unable to remember details of her career and work. She pins this to the accident she had soon after the retrospective in Mumbai. It led to a brain haemorrhage that’s left lasting effects. Despite this, the once redoubtable academic who spent most of her career teaching at the College of Art, Delhi (she herself was a student there between 1963-67, before heading to Slade) Sud hasn’t lost her to-the-point demeanour that her students remember her for.

There is however, one episode of her own spunk that Sud clearly recalls: of unwittingly bullying Jagmohan Chopra, into starting Group 8. “The summer before graduating, I remember feeling lost and directionless. Where could I go to make prints now? It’s not like painting that you can do it without the machines and investment. So I asked Mr. Chopra: ‘Why do you teach this form if it has no future outside of the college?’ It seemed to have had impacted him, because over the summer he bought a machine and set up a makeshift studio in the living room of his house. The people who’d practice here came to be known as Group 8!”

The Soul (Un) Gendered: Anupam Sud, A Retrospective, on view till 7 March 2020, at DAG, the Fuller Building, 41 E 57th St Suite 708, New York

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Printable version | Feb 20, 2020 6:56:08 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/art/dag-and-knma-host-anupam-suds-first-retrospective-in-new-york/article30644298.ece

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