Revisiting modern Indian art

Published on 16 October, 2014 in Mint

The 11th edition of Delhi Art Gallery’s signature biannual series brings together 75 of India’s best-known modern artists

Behind the glass door of Delhi Art Gallery in New Delhi’s Hauz Khas Village are 75 select artworks spanning a century (or more) of Indian modernism, each claimed by 75 celebrated artists, and each alive with its own story to tell. The 11th edition of the gallery’s biannual series, Manifestations XI, which started on 16 October, brings together selected works of significant modern art spread across six different genres—mythology, landscape, still life, figurative, narrative and abstract art.

Untitled (Ganesha) by M.F. Husain (oil on canvas)Prostitute by Sunil Das is an interpretation of the kohl-eyed women residing in the red-light area of Kolkata, a move away from his characteristic brush and ink drawings of horses and bulls. Oil Extractor by master painter Raja Ravi Varma, one of the first artists to use oil paints and master the art, is the depiction of ghani or the traditional method of extracting oil from seeds. And Untitled (Disappointed) by Jogesh Chander Seal is a realistic style of oil on canvas with the influence of India’s miniaturist tradition.

The highlight of the exhibition is The Ramp (Standing Musui)—one of K.S. Radhakrishnan’s largest sculptures demonstrating a labyrinth of bodies lost in an ecstatic dance. Crafted in bronze, the tall figure represents Musui, one half of sculptor Radhakrishnan’s alter-ego, the other being Maiya.

The exhibition also features works by several members of the Progressive Artists’ Group—M.F. Husain’s humanized illustration of Untitled (Ganesha), where the elephant-headed god sits cross-legged like a child with an upright trunk; S.H. Raza’s Prakriti, a modern rendition of the ancient tantras; and F.N. Souza’s Untitled, one of his many works that indicate his understanding of Christianity and its beliefs. Other noteworthy works include Rabindranath Tagore’s portrait of Head, an example of his unique style; Nandalal Bose’s usage of pen and ink on paper to reveal The Artists’ Studio at the Tagore family home in Jorasanko in Kolkata; and Bikash Bhattacharjee’s A Social Gathering, where he adopts the language of photographic realism.

One of the many interesting inclusions in Manifestations XI is a collection of ink-jet prints of film-maker Satyajit Ray from behind the scenes of his film sets through the lens of Nemai Ghosh. The photographs are evocative of the moments when Ray composed his frames with great care, when he took a break between shots to mull over a scene, when he sat in the rain next to cinematographer Soumendu Roy during the making of Ashani Sanket, and so on.

Manifestations XI is on till 15 November, 10.30am-7pm (Sundays closed), at the Delhi Art Gallery, 11, Hauz Khas Village, New Delhi (46005300).


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