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A SUMMER KALEIDOSCOPE

A good title, perhaps, for this show. We have a kaleidoscope of colour, a kaleidoscope of  images. Wherever you turn, there is a different oeuvre, another style, a new shape, a new material – all encompassed under that great umbrella of Art.

There is debate - endless debate - on the need for roots from which will grow the works of individual artists. There is debate on Indianness and the need for it, on inward looking or opening outwards. If only inward, then how does an artist branch out into new dimensions of thought and therefore, of work. If outward looking, then how shallow are the roots from which an artist grows. Such debates are for others to enter. Artists have their own ideas and needs, and sources of inspiration, and internal resources from which they renew their inspiration. Art needs to express itself in every way possible - there can be no right way and no wrong way. There may be ‘fashionable’ ways and others which are not. But fashion, notoriously, and thankfully, has a short life span. Fortunately, real art is created by a hand which understands, and is able to express the feelings and emotions buried within the heart and soul of its creator and has no life span. That is the direction that real artists seek. And in this show we bring you some of these artists and some of their directions and some of their works.

Anjolie Ela Menon, in many ways, resembles ones idea of the complete artist. She has a very clear view of what she is and how she got there. She clearly acknowledges her debt to, and the influence of her colleagues and friends. But she is very much herself, and from that self knowledge, not only a sense of confidence, but also a spirit of hope, a desire for further improvement emerges. She says that without dissatisfaction no changes, or even experimentation, can take place. And, in openly acknowledging this, she challenges myths and creators of myths, who are content to work within the limitations of their talent. She resents ‘Motifs.’ She says, ‘when repeated often enough, a motif becomes a symbol which in turn becomes a cliché; a cliché becomes an absurdity, a cartoon.’ As also, ‘symbols’ - she says it is a critic’s word too big for what are female embellishments. She, in her erudition, in her reading, her love of jazz, her interest in drama and her ability to express herself, her facility with words, the nuances in her speech and the nice shades of meaning, resemble in many ways, the many facets of her work. And that makes her very much a complete person. Her works are melancholic perhaps, certainly iconic in construction. The frequent ‘eyelessness’ prevents a final look into the inner and secret parts, not only of the figure but of herself. Muted colours are seen more often than not, and the figures themselves, sharp etched at times, are hazy and dreamlike in others. All these facets of her work epitomise what is clearly an artist in her maturity and in the assuredness that stems from it

Arpana Caur’s work is built around narrative but with Time at its heart.  Life and death, good and evil, worship and transcendence, and almost all of it through the eyes of woman. Weaving through this tapestry however, is the thread of life - the cutting of it, a symbol of death. It is a woman spinning the thread, greening a despoiled world, drawing the thread from within herself in figures as old as history - woman not only as the preserver but also as its creator.  Her death, woman’s death, does not mean just the end of life, but the destruction of good. She pairs the opposites - good and bad, night and day, life and death and links them as Siamese twins, bound together, tossing and turning, seeking positions of comfort, but not finding them except in equal repose.
Her works of Yogis and Yoginis seeking enlightenment and ascension from this world of duality, are another aspect of her obsession with Time - her yearning to find Time’s meaning and see the direction in which it is leading the world and, also herself. 

Jayasri Burman keeps developing in her particular area. Woman, strong, voluptuous, is seated in her own domain. The background, a lush tropical garden, replete with trees, flowers, birds and most particularly the swan, animals - not frightening, even if they are tigers - tamed and at peace with the surroundings in which Woman reigns as a goddess. In this world, a woman’s Eden, there is no snake - the fantasy she creates incorporates her women, her goddesses of the Hindu pantheon, although she borrows from the Greeks or even the Egyptians in her works, and in the peacefulness of her setting, makes perhaps, a gender point about a woman-dominated world.
There is an intricacy in her works - not for her the majestic sweep - instead we see the labour of love in the detail, the sari’s border, the minutiae of her make-up, the fine cross-hatch, and in the majesty of her position, stillness, not of inertia, but derived of a woman’s confidence.  There are seldom men. If you see them, they are like interlopers, or if present as lovers, then secondary beings, allowed only a secondary position in the scheme of her fantasy.

Jayshree Chakravarty is difficult to write about if the intention is to pin her down.    However, when one abandons the framework in which a viewer too often wants to encompass an artist, then there is no limit to what can be said.  Sometimes one sees a landscape or cityscape, but always it is a living organism, clouded by the day to day business of living, entwined with old memories, not necessarily of the subject, but colouring a picture with different ideas - maybe dreams, and who knows, the rising, but not quite to the surface, of the semi-conscious or subconscious or even the unconscious.  To try to unravel her works as an intellectual exercise, however, is to denigrate the artist and her work, particularly as she seems to not want to lift the shroud.  It is this mystery that she works on - the mystery not only of the world, but of herself - her dreams and their layering, one over the other; the human mind, convoluted and fecund with new ideas, generally jumbled; far-off places once seen, then re-imagined. But in all this writing and talking one loses sight of the visual impact  her works make - do not look for peace in your reaction, you will be stirred, forced to think, pulled out of the mental slumber in which too many of us spend our lives. For she seems to say, look at what I have done - you and I are looking at it through a windowpane over which has been thrown a pot of paint.  Scan through it, seek as I do, and separate the real from the surreal and find then, that they are both really one.

Paresh Maity – he of the exuberant brush and sharply delineated line - that seemingly extroverted artist - goes much further and much deeper with each growing year. There were the years of just the landscapist - beautiful, serene compositions of the sea - misted, hazy, break of day paintings - all of them showing Paresh’s amazing brush-work and carrying hints of his approaching maturity.  Then were added experiments with figures - Rajasthan was a stand out - and eventually we came to see him, the bystander watching women - suitably veiled, but sexual all the same. Women with their lovers, women with other women, women at their toiletries. And his expression through form and line, whether curve or straight, the flat background, the repositioning of body parts, the mingling of modesty with eroticism - each work of his, rich with confidence, rich with energy.
And he changes his oeuvre, whenever he wishes - he has the confidence to do so and with each change - whether looking back or forward, he makes you smile as you are dazzled yet again. But through every change there is clearly a stamp on his painting which announces to the world that says Paresh Maity is here.

Rini Dhumal, is very much a woman artist. This does not mean that she is limited by her gender, but that she seems to be asserting the strength of Woman be it as Goddess or mother, sister or lover.  Her women sit centre stage and when they look at you there is no reserve in their eyes. When they look away, they are pensive, at rest, their eyes hooded.  Their bodies are rounded, fulsome, but not sexually charged. But they do suggest a healthy appetite for the physical, be it only as a part of the many sides of a human being. There seems to be a bonding between these women - a sisterhood of strength living in a man-dominated world. And there is a dream-like finish to many of her works. The background is generally non-figurative, but there are motifs often seen  –  birds, owls, fish, flowers that add a subsidiary dimension to her works. It is apparent that she will venture into anything, throw herself into every new idea, and then, draw from it, its essence

Thota Vaikuntam is an Andhra artist. By which we do not speak of his birth place, but of the people he depicts – of the earth, hardy, persevering village folk, and with them their customs, their dress and their personal adornments. Because of his absorption with this metier, he seeks little touches of humour, elements of eroticism, a narcissistic pleasure in the simplicity of the women, sometimes looking in a mirror, but always revelling in their self decoration. And for this, it is bright primary colours that he uses.  He does not use mixes in colour - they do not conform to his sense of earthiness of his figures. His women are buxom, voluptuous - no wraith-like figures for him - they are real and although his decoration of them might have come from folk theatre, in which he has long been interested, he obviously loves them and their rusticity and their innocence - be it their little vanities, or their unchanging sense of themselves as part of the Andhra landscape. So his figures will continue to sit in the middle of the canvas. There will be flat backgrounds and the gold will shine in the women’s nose rings and necklaces, and his men, sometimes present, will always be less than the females of his special Andhra species.