Art

The palette of the modernist

Exhibition of paintings and sculptures organised in honour of artist M. V. Devan's first death anniversary at Durbar Hall Art Gallery in Kochi. Photo: Thulasi Kakkat   | Photo Credit: Thulasi Kakkat



Works by some of the pioneers of the Indian Modernist movement were exhibited at an exhibition at the Durbar Hall Centre Art Gallery, Kochi. It was an opportunity for the art lover to take in the works of artists such as Tyeb Mehta, F.N. Souza, K.K. Hebbar, Laxma Goud, Bhupen Khakar and Akbar Padamsee to name a few whose works were among the 40 works on show. It was possibly the first time that works of these artistes were shown in Kerala or were a part of an art exhibition.

The occasion was the commemoration of the first death anniversary of the veteran artist and former Chairman of the Kerala Lalithakala Akademi, M.V. Devan. The event, ‘Remembering M.V. Devan’, included a series of lectures on the artist, an exhibition of a few of his works, which were exhibited along with the works of his former students, peers and friends and another which showcased works from the collection of the Lalit Kala Akademi (New Delhi) of Devan’s contemporaries.

Devan passed away on April 29, 2014. Trained under K.C.S. Paniker at the Government School of Arts and Crafts, Chennai, he was a member of the Progressive Painters’ Association. He was multi-faceted – an architect, who served as the art consultant who designed the FACT Ambalamedu township besides a number of other projects; a teacher who founded Kerala Kalapeetom (Kochi) and Malayala Kalagramam (New Mahe); an administrator as chairman of the Kerala Lalithakala Akademi; a literary figure associated with several literary movements and magazines.

The show was curated by M. Ramachandran, secretary, Lalithakala Akademi. The works showcased the path the modern art movement in India took as it evolved in the 1960s and 70s. A student of art would have perceived the various influences of the many ‘isms’ and how each artist attempted to develop an individualistic idiom. The early works of some of the artists, still living, throw light on how these artists evolved their current styles.

The others whose works were exhibited included A. Ramachandran, Anupam Sud, Arpita Singh, Bikash Bhattacharjee, Ghulam Mohammed Sheikh, J. Sultan Ali, J. Swaminathan, Jagmohan Chopra, Jeram Patel, K. Jayapala Panicker, K.M. Adimoolam, K.C.S. Paniker, K.G. Subramanyan, Krishna Khanna, Ganesh Haloi, N.S. Bendre, Nasreen Mohammadi, Prabhakar Barwe, Ram Kumar, Sailoz Mukherjee, Somnath Hore and V. Vishwanadhan (Paris Vishwanadhan).

“This generation of artists was trying to create composite Indian visual language within the modernist framework. The Indian Modernist movement was different – the artist created a pan Indian modernism despite the contradictions. These artists were trying to get an idea of oil colours and mixing colours to find colours; colours couldn’t be found so easily or were expensive. Therefore the artworks have the same palette, the same dull colours. And Devan’s work from the 1970s, ‘Buddha’, from the Great Cochin Development Authority’s (GCDA) collection, melds perfectly with the works of his peers,” says Ramachandran. Indian modernism, he says, is not simple. The fact that it is layered, and has its own set of contradictions, was clear in the works of these artists and the idiom they developed. The works are contemporary even after more than 40 years.

The sculptures included works by Raghav Kaneria, Latika Katt, Dhanraj Bhagat, T.R.P. Mookiah, S.Nandagopal, Rajnikant R. Panchal, Rajendra Kumar Tiku and, of course, Kanayi Kunhiraman. Unfortunately, the exhibition lasted only a week. A bit too soon, according to Kaladharan. “It is not often that a show of this stature comes to Kerala, in fact it is the first time such a collection came here. Since the works were here, the exhibition could have been extended to 10-15 days. Had it been extended more people could have seen the show.” The event was organised by the Kerala Lalithakala Akademi in association with Orthic Creative Centre, Kochi.


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Printable version | Jun 18, 2021 11:09:41 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/art/the-palette-of-the-modernist/article7204944.ece

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