Featured in ARTIANA’s upcoming online auction on December 6-10, 2018, is this striking painting by artist Francis Newton Souza – ‘Red Houses with Front Garden’. This work of the artist had been exhibited and published in the South Asian Modern Masters of Grosvenor Gallery in London.
Francis Newton Souza is arguably one of the greatest and most celebrated painters in the history of Indian contemporary art. Versatile and spontaneous over the command of his pen and brush, his facility with his craft shows in the diversity of his works. From landscapes, nudes, still-life and to his widely popular strongly drawn heads, Souza spanned the entire gamut.
Painted in 1957, the picture is part of the culmination of both technique and subject in the artist’s prime decade. “Red Houses with Front Garden” depicts an English suburban landscape in Souza’s signature strong and expressive style. The houses, situated in a grassy space, are rendered in simple rectilinear structures punctuated by gnarled trees. The trees set in the foreground give the picture a sense of depth. Unlike other artists, Souza’s landscape is not figurative or life-like, instead, they are vehicles of his mood and expression. Inspired by the ecclesiastical architecture of the Roman Catholic churches from his native Goa, the palette of the work was indicative of Souza’s interest in stained-glass windows illustrated with his use of luminous hues framed by dark outlines. Like his other landscapes, the sky appears stormy and turbulent lending a disconcerting sense in the otherwise peaceful scenario. This can be attributed to Souza’s angular brush strokes.
Artiana Auction House will host its South Asian Art online auction on 6- 10 December 2018. Featuring a total of 50 lots, the sale boasts work from modern masters and leading contemporary artists from the Indian subcontinent. Marquee lots to go under the gavel at this auction will be exhibited for viewing at their Downtown Dubai gallery starting December 1st until the 6th by appointment. This includes Sayed Haider Raza‘s seminal work, ‘Prakriti’ (1998) estimated at $150,000 – $250,000.
Throughout his career, Sayed Haider Raza has been influenced by the mystical power of nature. Drawn by his Indian heritage and driven by his desire for the elimination of the inessentials he began extensive pictorial research of the elements, the potency of colors, and symbols which soon become the formal elements of his paintings. Preoccupied with the use of these elements, it became the center of Raza’s artistic vocabulary and true raison d’être – the purpose of the existence of his painting. He went on to perfect this symbolism throughout the 1980-1990s.
Maintaining harmony in the use of simple geometry and pure color, he adopted a symbolic language to represent different aspects of the natural world. The current work is delineated in sections, with each of them containing an image, usually in geometric shape suggesting the essence of the element. He uses primary colors to highlight the elements; fire, water, wind, earth and the sun. Here he utilizes vibrant red, electric blue, black, ochres and white colors which are also significant colors to the Indian tradition.
S. H. Raza exploits shapes, lines, and diagonals to illustrate the union of forces in the universe not merely from form and color but also from their arrangement on the canvas. His works express a highly simplified perception of the powerful forces inherent in nature. “At the epicenter of many of these paintings is a dark, blank void. Emanating from this inner core the forms and shapes are like veins, energizing and giving life to the painting. The viewer begins a visual journey outwards from this center, a journey through the elements of life itself. Raza explains that at the heart of this unique visual language lie the five key symbols of fire and water, earth, wind, and sky, brought together within a geometric framework that also contains signifiers of fertility and fruitfulness, all together underlining the inevitable interrelationship of the key components of the universe and the interconnections of our humble lives within it” (S. H. Raza, Saffronart and Berkeley Square Gallery exhibition catalogue, 2005, not paginated).
A collection of Company School paintings will be offered as part of ARTIANA’s upcoming online auction on December 6-10, 2018. Showcasing the miniature tradition, the works, marked by muted colors, recorded everyday rituals of local people in British India between the late 1700s and 1800s.
Southern Indian artists in the 18th century were among the first to adapt their styles and subject matters for their new patrons from the French and English East India Companies. Hindu deities and religious scenes had been the traditional decorations on the walls of temples throughout the south, so it was a simple matter for the artists to produce sets of deities and festivals on paper to inform westerners of the many unfamiliar aspects of south Indian Hinduism. These paintings were painted in brilliant colors against an uncolored ground. It was again a relatively easy further step for these artists also to produce sets of occupations, castes, ascetics, and festivals when British tastes changed to want permanent records of local life. The figures were normally in the early period painted in pairs, a man and his wife, originally standing on a simply painted ground and with a blue sky background behind them, sometimes with a narrow strip of tangled clouds at the top. Around 1800 more details of landscapes and more naturalistic clouds were added and the clouds began to cover the whole sky in jagged alternations of blue and grey.
Men from Tanjore of the muchi or leather-workers caste are thought to have been the artists of these sets, although inscriptions of some of the albums and paintings indicate that they must have moved to other towns, particularly Madras, in search of employment, where they continued to paint their traditional subjects. Other centers where they are known to have painted included Vellore and Trichinopoly. The artists based in Trichinopoly specialized in painting on small sheets of mica that were mounted on paper guards and bound into albums. By the mid-19th century the artists had often abandoned painting couples, a man and his wife, and instead concentrated on single figures, as found here in this set.
The figures in the set are well drawn, lively and colorful, with good modeling of forms and facial features. Without inscriptions, however, some of the women especially are difficult to identify, but most are normally based on earlier identified figures. Many of the single women seem modeled on the ‘wife’ half of the earlier couples. The women normally wear the elaborate jewelry of the south, with various heavy earrings, hairpins, noserings, necklaces, bracelets, and anklets, not detailed here.
ARTIANA’s upcoming auction on December 6-10, 2018 features an important painting of Sakti Burman – ‘Musicians Playing for Krishna’. Painted in 2015, the notable work showcase Burman’s exceptional technique and whimsical ethos.
Sakti Burman’s artistic vocabulary spawned from a mutually replenishing relay between two levels of mythological narrative. Much like his influences from both India and France, he organizes the narratives of his work from grand mythologies of the world with its vibrant iconography and from personal myth. He draws instinctively from varied religious traditions and folklores as much as he borrows from his everyday encounters. His frames are graced by families and friends often seen accompanying gods, nymphs, heroes and celestial emissaries into ethereal fantasy and reverie.
Sakti’s fascination with demotic imageries is apparent in the current lot. Employing the Kalighat ethos, he humanized Lord Krishna in the picture. Here, he presented the god as a child dancing with the cow as his mount. Lord Krishna as a dancer and flutist is a recurrent object of painterly devotion for Burman. To one side stand a human father carrying his child and on the other side is a flutist. Seated below is an accordion player. Both musicians playing music to Krishna’s dancing and blurring the boundaries between the world of mortals and gods. The picture also includes Sakti’s recurring characters like a harlequin and other mythical creatures joining in a blissful coexistence. Sakti conceives paradoxical imagery depicting familial relationships, celestial and terrestrial figures of dreams and perceived reality cohesively tying them in a powerful narrative.
“Child and Supreme God, serenader of women and killer demons, the divine flutist is often at the center of a dance of other figures from Burman’s ongoing fantasia: sometimes, the peacock; at other times, a chorus of adolescents; on occasion, a centaur-like figure who prances yet remains melancholy, keeps the beat of the dance yet retains the detachment of the observer. Perhaps that centaur-like figure is, once again, the artist as chronicler and archivist of human dispositions, marking the rhythm of point and counterpoint.” (Ranjit Hoskote, Sakti Burman: In The Presence Of Another Sky, Art Musings, India, pg. 245)
Part of the upcoming online auction of South Asian Art are miniature paintings from the Indian subcontinent, showcasing different schools of classical paintings from 17th to 19th century. This one in particular uses opaque pigments and gold on paper, a medium unique in classical Indian miniature painting.
Maharao Ram Singh of Kota (r. 1827-66) is one of the best represented of Rajput rulers with many aspects of his life both public and personal documented by his artists. He is represented in durbars with his court and with British officials, in the many festivals of the Hindu calendar, including Dussehra as here, the Asapura festival (Kreisel 1995, fig. 132), and the riotous spring festival of Holi (Topsfield 1980, pl. 7), as well as personal worship of the deities (Seyller 2015, no. 60) , and of course many scenes of personal interest such as riding an elephant on top of the chajja of a pavilion in 1853 (Ehnbom1985, no. 64), playing polo with his noblemen (Welch 1997, no 63), entering Delhi in 1842 (ibid., no. 65), and scenes of him enjoying himself with his women (Seyller 2015, no. 61). Here, he is celebrating the autumnal Dussehra festival, commemorating the slaying of the buffalo-headed demon Mahishasura by the Devi, by hunting and killing a buffalo in a ritual slaying. Other pictures suggest that this was not a solitary affair but was a communal ceremony undertaken with his nobles (Kreisel ed. 1995, fig. 133).
In our splendidly energetic painting, the Maharao is gorgeously apparelled in helmet and body armour, with room of course for jewels, over a lilac jama. He carries a small shield in his left hand which holds the reins, while an empty scabbard is by his side, the sword being used to slice at the neck of the buffalo, which is falling to the ground behind the horse. The horse is even more gorgeously caparisoned than the Maharao, with its tasselled mane, jewelled bridle and many chains with attached gold plates. Two attendants run beside on foot, one with a khanda sword and a chowrie, and the other with a sun-burst parasol. The latter may also be carrying an upright spear, unless it is attached to the horse in some way or held by an invisible attendant. The scene is set below a plain green hillside dotted with a few trees and with a walled garden near the summit of the hill.
The Maharao here appears relatively young, being without his full set of bushy sideburns that grew gradually over the course of his reign. He came to the throne at the age of 19 and one of his earliest datable portraits shows him about 25 (Bautze’s fig. 14 in Welch et al. 1997, p. 53), when his sideburns were already heavier than they are in our painting. His profile with its bulbous ending to the nose and protruding lips is instantly recognisable.
The horse rolls its eyes as the buffalo falls dying to the ground, its horns obtruding into the margin, but Ram Singh’s grave face is devoid of the pleasure of the hunt but rather intent on doing his ritual duty. A later and rather stiffer picture dated 1859 in the Mittal Museum in Hyderabad (Seyller ed. 2015, no. 63) shows the same ritual killing of the buffalo but with the Maharao using a spear rather than a sword, while a preliminary drawing for that painting is in the V&A Museum (Archer 1959, Kotah fig. 49).