Sayed Haider Raza has stated, “sometime between 1975 and 1980, I began to feel the draw of my Indian heritage. I thought: I come from India, I have a different vision; I should incorporate what I have learned in France with Indian concepts. In this period, I visited India every year to study Indian philosophy, iconography, magic diagrams (yantras), an ancient Indian art, particularly Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain art. I was impressed by paintings from Basholi, Malwa, and Mewar, and began combining colors in a manner that echoed Indian miniature painting.” (Raza in conversation with Amrita Jhaveri, Sotheby’s Preview, March/April 2007, p.57).
Titled “Prakriti” or Nature, the painting reflects the artist’s lifelong commitment to depicting nature and its colors in his canvases. Evolving from his initial academic landscapes and abstracted expressionism on the same subject, Raza delved into the purest form of nature. Removing all inessential to attain the simplest interpretation.
He singularly used colors that naturally exist in the visible world, the primary palette of red, blue, yellow, white, and black to represent the fundamental elements in creation – fire, water, earth, sky, and air. To underscore his non-representative vocabulary and maintain the geometric symbolism that he adopted later in his career, Raza deploys the inverted triangle – symbolic of female sexuality and reproduction with the bindu – symbolic of the seed that bears the potential of new life. Depicted together, they represent the tree of life and the perpetual cycle of nature, of fertilization, germination, growth, reproduction, and ultimately death.
In the course of his lengthy career, Ram Kumar’s paintings gradually moved from figuration towards pure abstraction. His figurative landscapes came undone into swathes of colors, foregoing defined pictorial elements and slowly mutating to barely recognizable forms juxtaposed in an overlay of vertical and horizontal planes.
His unique visual vocabulary in painting landscapes was developed from treasured memory of scenery from his hometown and later his travels, as seen in the present work from the early 1980s. The works from these years are relatively flat in texture, with minimal build-up on the canvas. Although his landscapes were not realistic depictions of nature, “wedges of land and expanses of water; demarcations of land as arid and fertile; febrile rock and luxuriant vegetation; sunlight and shade; moisture; mist” are all communicated through his instinctive use of color. (R. Bartholomew, ‘The Abstract Principle in the Paintings of Ram Kumar’, Lalit Kala Contemporary 19 & 20, New Delhi, April – September 1975, p. 14.) Although his color palette ranging from browns, ochres, and yellows was limited during this time, “they derive their significance from their tonal subtleties, the tensions they create in passing from one tone to another.” (J. Swaminathan, ‘Ram Kumar – A New Stage’, Lalit Kala Contemporary 40, New Delhi, March 1995, p. 42.)
The nude has been a recurring theme in Akbar Padamsee‘s work starting from the 1950s. The stylistic evolution from the sharply defined figures to the almost abstracted figures of his later compositions on the subject provides a fascinating insight into the development of his visual language and creative process of the prominent artist.
Throughout his career, the artist has been enthralled with mapping the human form and capturing its emotive qualities using portraits and heads to experiment. His portraitures, however, are portrayed vaguely with a deep focus on the construction of the form rather than in the details of representation. In the picture, the central character is portrayed in a hazy dream-like scenario, almost as if the viewer is intruding into a private moment. The bold red color of the background juxtaposed with the nude sets the emotive tone in the image while the ingenious use of texture gives the body sculptural presence and dimensionality.
Clearly, Padamsee’s artistic concerns do not lie in the realist depiction but instead on the overall structure of the picture. Curiously, despite the detached treatment of the theme, Padamsee was able to maintain a sense of sensitivity to the lived experience of his subjects.
‘Sensitivity to the human presence has been Akbar Padamsee’s obsession, inspiration, and purpose of his art. Direct in a nearly-tactile way, but also sublimated and universalized, his heads and nudes initially exude a feeling of almost real persons. Gradually, however, they reveal themselves as distanced and generalized. Sometimes strong, even harsh in their impact, and sometimes indistinct and ethereal. Padamsee’s images are never portraits of identifiable people. In fact, they resemble a residual vision after an encounter. An aura is left by a presence transposed in the memory. They come through like quick notations of transitory meetings, the heads and bodies deeply attuned to what is experienced within them, while also absorbing the proximity of their surroundings, especially other human presences. The background becomes a part of the human situation imprinting it character and compulsions on people, and in turn, being influenced by them – the process both violent and soothing.’ (Marta Jakimowicz, Tracing Shadows of the Sublime, Akbar Padamsee Works on Paper – Critical Boundaries, Pundole Art Gallery, Mumbai, 2004).
Much like his predecessors and peers, M.F. Husain was drawn to the subject of India’s colonial past. He started working on a series of Raj theme paintings that embody his take on this period of Indian history by the 1980s. Dubbed originally as the ‘Images of the Raj’ when the artist first started producing them, their themes and motifs would subsequently spill over to Husain’s succeeding series until the later part of his life. But compared to other artist’s serious treatment of the subject, Husain’s Raj bordered on the satirical, combining elements of history and witty commentary on the effects of Raj on society and oftentimes juxtaposing contrasting subjects in the painting to illustrated the opposing dynamics present, ‘each subtly absorbing the identity of the other and each equally subtly resisting that absorption.’ (D. Herwitz, Husain, 1988, p. 19.)
Arguably one of Husain’s more popular series, the period of British colonial rule or most commonly referred to as the Raj, resulted in some of the sharpest, perceptive, and also most spirited, of works that he produced throughout his prolific career. “These works are densely packed with objects and people (British and native, high and low, male and female) and some animals as well, brought together in narrative action enormously revealing of the anxieties of imperial rule in India, even as their absurdities elicit a chuckle or smile from the viewer.” (Sumathi Ramaswamy, Husain’s Raj, The Marg Foundation, June 2016, pg. 12)
Titled ‘Afternoon Tea after the Kill,’ Husain depicts two of the most British tradition during the era, tea time and tiger hunting. With the sport referred to as ‘colonial hunt.’ The picture alludes to the defeat of the tiger, the conquest of India, and the eventual lengthy crown rule that follows. But aside from the obvious interpretation, the fallen animal was depicted resembling ‘Tipu’s Tiger,’ a mechanical tiger savaging a British soldier commissioned for Tipu Sultan, ruler of Mysore, and one of the fiercest and implacable enemies of the British. He was, however, defeated and killed in 1799. While the ‘colonial hunt’ represented domination of nature and natives, it also became the point of contention within the elite due to the perceived connection between hunting, power, and privilege, as hunting came to be regulated by laws by the 1900s.
Like his other paintings, his figures are intentionally obscure with vague references to historical figures that are often intentionally fictionalized. Here, the featureless Western lady wears a sleeveless dress with a sunhat, her companion is draped in his hunting garb while his counterpart is dressed in the majestic garb of a Maharaja. The tiger is placed most prominently in the center, reminiscent of photographs of British royalty photographed aside dead tiger carcasses from the same period. The Shikars, the traditional Indian hunters turned guide, is seen atop the elephant almost blending with the background.
Husain’s recall of the Raj is intensely personal but also fiercely political, a painter for the people, he immortalized each period of Indian history in his canvases, celebrating and informing his audience of the amalgamation of periods that gave rise to the composite culture of the present. By choosing to cast his eyes back to this particular period, he produced powerful works charge with nationalism and humor that are global in its form yet deeply Indian in its content.
20 September 2020, Dubai – Following the continued success of all their auctions this year including their last South Asian art auction held in March, Artiana is pleased to present their current catalogue of modern and contemporary artworks from the Indian subcontinent. Paintings and sculptures by South Asia’s leading artists will be available for online bidding from 24 to 28 September 2020 on their website www.artiana.com.
Collectors, seasoned and new, can acquire works by artists from the Progressive Artists Group such as Maqbool Fida Husain, Sayed Haider Raza, Akbar Padamsee, Francis Newton Souza, and Ram Kumar. The sale also features works by established modernists and contemporary artists Sakti Burman, Himmat Shah, Jogen Chowdhury, Zarina Hashmi, Jamil Naqsh alongside Neo-tantric art vanguards G.R. Santosh and Sohan Qadri.
Leading the collection is M.F. Husain’s seminal new to market work “Afternoon Tea After The Kill” painted in 1989 depicting the artist’s insightful and spirited take on the British colonial period in India and Untitled (Laxmi) depicting the Hindu goddess with a white elephant alluding abundance and auspiciousness painted in 1998. Another untitled work from the artist featuring two horses with an elephant is also part of the suite, all with impeccable provenance.
Interested buyers can bid online at www.artiana.com or through the ARTIANA mobile app, from September 24 (6:00 pm) to September 28 (9:00 pm) UAE time with a No Buyer’s Premium policy: ‘What You Bid Is What You Pay’. Artiana’s FlexiPay, which allows buyers to ‘Bid Now Pay Later,’ will also be available for clients subject to eligibility. (FlexiPay scheme details are available on their website.)
The sale catalogue can be browsed online while a viewing appointment can be arranged from September 12-24, 2020, from 11 am to 6 pm at Artiana’s art gallery located in Metropolis Tower in Downtown Dubai. For further information on how to register and bid, visit their website at www.artiana.com. For quick assistance and inquiries, call Artiana’s Help Desk at +971 55 815 3030 or write to [email protected].
Our upcoming auction presents works by leading modernists and contemporary artists from South Asia such as M. F. Husain, F. N. Souza, Ram Kumar from The Progressive Artists’ Group alongside Jogen Chowdhury, Sohan Qadri, Ganesh Pyne, Zarina Hashmi, and G.R. Santosh. The sale has signature subject works of Akbar Padamsee, Jamil Naqsh, and S.H. Raza, as well as a suite of watercolor works by Sakti Burman. Two sculptures by Himmat Shah and one by Akbar Padamsee are also part of this sale catalogue.