ARTIANA – Highlights – Lot 31 – Modern And Contemporary South Asian Art – Online Auction – No Buyer’s Premium

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K.G. Subramanyan – The Visitor – 1994 – Acrylic on Canvas – 54 x 54 in. – Lot 31 

ARTIANA’s  upcoming auction on October 13-17, 2016 features an important painting of K.G. Subramanyan – ‘The Visitor’. This iconic work of the artist has been exhibited in his retrospective and published in the book K.G. Subramanyan: A Retrospective, National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi, 2003.

The philosophical and mystic traditions of India are replete with stories and symbols. The ease and clarity with which these convey the deeper narratives and connotations intended from them, appeal powerfully to the artistic eye. The number ‘three’ is very significant in the philosophical symbolism of the Shaiva and Advaita traditions. Shiva is considered to be the singular principle of all existence, the Brahman. He manifests Himself as the One Conciseness that illumines the three states of experience: the waking, dreaming and deep sleep states. He is also considered the pervader of all three worlds — heaven, earth and hell — and the ground on which the past, present and future are conjoin to form the progression of time.

“In this painting Subramanyan uses the colours of the earth, images of animal skins and the trees to create a dense visual field. The Visitor seems to refer to the iconography of Shiva who appears here with the three faces of a trimukha, a snake, suspended from his right shoulder. The fact that the face is rendered like a mask adds to the piquant quality of the painting. Shiva’s conventional seat, the hide of the spotted deer appears in different parts of the painting. This work is typical of Subramanyan’s involvement with myth, his ability to rework it for his own purposes. It also demonstrates what he calls the bahurupee or disguise in play ‘mixing the normal with the hieratic’, the human with the mythic, the world of play and the imagination” (Gayatri Sinha, Jiva – Life: Contemporary Indian Art, Bodhi Art Exhibition Catalogue, Singapore, 2004, p.46).

ARTIANA – Highlights – Lot 28 – Modern And Contemporary South Asian Art – Online Auction – No Buyer’s Premium

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Akbar Padamsee – Mirror image – 2003 – Oil on Canvas – 48 x 96 in. – Lot 28

An exceptional and rare painting of Akbar Padamsee from his Mirror Image series leads our upcoming auction on 13 October, 2016.

Inspired from his iconic Metascapes series, Padamsee’s Mirror Images draws on the elements – earth, water, fire, air – to present a new series of reflection. In Mirror Images, the dual aspects of every event in nature is emphasised on two separate canvasses, one representing the apparent and the other, its inverse. To Padamsee, the chasm, that separates opposites such as exhalation and inhalation, the conscious and the unconscious , is manifest even in the compliments of colour, form and space.

This series features Padamsee’s well-known fascination for ideas of duality and iteration and their depiction on the picture-plane. In Mirror Images, the artist has relied on two halves to form a complete image; in each half, forms are not mirrored but echoed in the other, thus forming dual representations of similar realities. “These works bring together the artist’s philosophical interests with his formal interests in color […] Dualities seem to define the career of Akbar Padamsee; an Indian who uses European forms, a colorist who paints monochrome works, who uses oil as much as he relies on ink and deploys both line and stain, a figurative painter who paints sublime landscapes, and an artist who is intuitive as he is intellectual.” (Amrita Jhaveri, A Guide to 101 Modern and Contemporary Indian Artists, Mumbai, 2005, p. 60).

“Space-cognition and time-cognition depend on a compound duality, inside-outside, expansion-contraction, exhalation-inhalation, the round and the square. We inhale, the trees exhale, we exhale, the trees inhale, a mirrored symbiosis. Expression must contain its dialectical opposite, the conscious and unconscious on the same psychic plane. I have two eyes, two retinas, but the mind compounds the two images into one […] Colours expand and contract, colours reach out of their skins to invade each other’s territories, the blue goes in search of its complementary counterpart yellow or orange. The further away from each other I place them the greater the space and the voyage.” (Artist quote, Mirror-Images, Exhibition Catalogue, Pundole Art Gallery, Mumbai, 1994, unpaginated).

Syed Haider Raza (1922-2016)

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Raza during his early years in his Paris studio

A dot marks an end in script. However, when speaking of Syed Haider Raza, a special legend it led to new beginnings, both in his early years and later in his art journey. Raza was a restless young man with an unbridled mind. While at school, his teacher drew a dot on a wall, trying to make him focus on it with the intention of calming his wandering mind. Raza recollects this incident as formative in his approach to art and even life.

A visual depiction of the sacred through the modern idiom invokes only one name in Indian art – Raza. His early years by the Narmada valley shaped his perspectives on culture, tradition, religion and their broader interpretations through art. His deep meditations on these subjects, all through his artistic journey, resulted in the emergence of a unique motif in Indian contemporary art – the ‘bindu’.

Raza’s art was nothing short of an obsession. This obsession wasn’t limited to a certain theme, but was a quality of mind that pursued everything it touched – whether it be geometry, theology or natural phenomena – with an encompassing intensity. His fascination and love for poetry, nature, and the elements at large inspired him. His exposure and training in Paris were ideal in shaping this enthusiasm. Raza’s landscapes were therefore strong, vibrant and even his ‘Bindu’ was derived from the intimacy he maintained with his themes. He reflects on this in his own words: “Painting is something alive as human beings in its different manifestations… It is a vital process of becoming. Just imagine how fascinating it is that the seed contains the total inherent forces of a plant, of animal life, and so on and so forth. And that could be the same process in form too!”

Raza will be remembered as an indispensable force that energised the modern art movement in India. His emergence as a modern artist was at a time when the genre was struggling to find its unique language in the country and his was an influence that catalysed this seminal art movement.

At 94, Raza left behind a verse from the Bhagavad Gita in his personal diary:
Hidden in Nature, which is Mine [My] own,
I emanate forth again and again
All these multitudes of being
necessarily by the force of nature.

Bhagavad Gita – IX, 8.

Raza found and met art at the source of his being; the beauty of this encounter is that it is one that continues to flourish, in the minds of all those who seek from it, even in times that know him no more.

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Kalapathy Ganapathy Subramanyan (1924-2016)

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Kalapathy Ganapathy Subramanyan, fondly referred to as ‘Mani-da’, was a student at the Presidency College. He grew up under the influence of the Indian nationalist movement that was sweeping through much of British India. A Gandhian at heart, he participated in the Quit India Movement. Having learnt that Rabindranath Tagore’s Santiniketan was a destination of sorts for nationalists and artistes alike, Subrahmanyan began his artistic journey at the Visvabharati’s Kala Bhavan, where he had had the distinct privilege of training under stalwarts like Nandalal Bose, Ramkinkar Baij and Benode Behari Mukherjee.

Subramanyan tended to view art integrally and did not restrict him self to any particular artistic tradition. He worked on children’s illustrations, toy-making, wood-cut printing, terracotta reliefs and glass painting; he also developed a deep understanding of the mural traditions in India while apprenticing under Benode Behari Mukherjee.

Subramanyan’s approach, similar to his contemporaries, was influenced by European modernism; but his art practice which was very individualistic and progressive, based on his deep understanding of folk and rustic cultures in India. His style encompassed the formal contours of modernism, Santinikentan’s narrative tradition and the visual skill of Indian folk traditions. He engaged with complex images that were steeped in myth and narrative and improvised through various levels including technique, practice and skill. His search for pure meaning was evident in his work; in this effort, nothing was excluded — contrasting elements of life, including conflict and serenity, love and disdain, truth and denial, had their place in the scheme of this thought. In this was included irony, a certain sense of revisionism and a freedom from defined genres. In his own words, he says: “My work, so to say, deconstructs an old concept and sees its similarities with others.”

Subramanyan was also an accomplished writer and would often elaborate on his creative themes through his essays and stories. This quality of Manida being a storyteller was infused in his work very significantly.

His legacy was unparalleled both as an artist and teacher that served to inspire an entire generation of Indian artists after him.

K. G. Subrahmanyan’s passing away has created a vacuum in Indian art – not just of an extraordinary artist, but of a writer, teacher and philosopher. His contribution stands in many shades and isn’t likely to fade in our memory.

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