Journeys: Four Generations of Indian Artists in Their Own Words (Set of 2 Volumes)

Item Code: NAJ670
Author: Yashodhara Dalmia
Publisher: Oxford University Press, New Delhi
Language: English
Edition: 2011
ISBN: 9780198073192
Pages: 619 (Throughout Color Illustrations)
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 11.5 inch x 9.0 inch
Weight 3.20 kg
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Book Description

About the Book


Through conversations with 30 artists from four generations, Yashodhara Dalmia maps the social, cultural, and historical matrix of art and art creation in India spread over the last 60 years. Spanning four generations of diverse art practices, the two volumes chronicle the journey of Indian art-from the initial years of art creation as it took root in a newly independent country, through the struggle of modern Indian art to establish itself in the face of conservative Indian sensibilities, to the digitization of art in recent times.


Accompanied by more than 200 illustrations of art works, in these freewheeling interactions spread over the last two decades-the artists talk about their ideas and experiences, work processes, and their relationships with each other and with society at large. As the artists dwell on critical issues to do with the social perception of art, influences in Indian art, traditional versus modern sensibilities, and dislocations and convergences, they open windows to the historic perambulations of the layered journey of modern and contemporary Indian art.


Affording rare glimpses into the creative world of artists who changed the course of modern and contemporary Indian art, this two-volume set will be a collector's delight.


About the Author


Yashodhara Dalmia is a well-known art historian and independent curator based in New Delhi. She has written extensively on art and culture and her publications include, among others, The Painted World of the Warlis (1988), The Making of Modern Indian Art: The Progressives (OUP 2001), Amrita Sher-Gil: A Life (2006), and Memory, Metaphor, Mutations: Contemporary Art of India and Pakistan (co-authored with Salima Hashmi, OUP 2007). She has curated several exhibitions including The Modems: Progressive Artists and their Associates, which inaugurated the National Gallery of Modern Art, Mumbai in 1996, Volte- Face, souza's Iconoclastic Vision in New Delhi in 2010, and a show of contemporary Indian artists titled Indian (Sub) Way at the Grosvenor Vadehra Gallery in London in September 2010. At present she is working on an in-depth project on contemporary Indian art.




The winding course of art in India could be likened to the billowing waters, which now cascading, now simmering, almost always impact the mind. Nothing could be more apt than to draw comparison with the protagonist of Orhan Pamuk's novel, The Museum of Innocence, who when spending the summer with his bethrothed with whom he is no longer in love, would stay awake in the nights. As the glow of the lantern on the passing boat would throw shafts of light on his ceiling and the sound of the oars cutting through the water wafted, the voices of the man fishing along with his son in the Bosphorus would float upstairs, old and wizened in one case, youthful and enthusiastic in the boy's case, which would in the coal black night, create silent ripples in his mind and then delve into deeper recesses. The wise man and the innocent, conjoined and inextricable, now touching consciousness, now the senses, leave an indelible mark of i:hose feverish Istanbul nights.


In the manner of those strangely echoing voices in the waters, Indian art has analogically marked syntax and text, claiming liminal yet unoccupied spaces, and ignited a maze of trajectories. A whole century has elapsed since Ravi Varma devolved expression, which would befit the aspirations of a people struggling for nationhood. About five decades of inspired work followed in the nationalist modern, and then the modern and post-modern art of a newly emerged nation. Since the beginning of the twenty-first century, we have energies harvested from the hi-tech revolution and post-globalization modalities, which have interfaced with the country and indeed with the world. It seems appropriate at this juncture to map art practices within the nation and to conjecture the path which will now be trodden. The 30 artists featured across the two volumes, among many others who could not be included because of constraints of space, span four generations of diverse art practices since Independence, representing the historic perambulations of this layered journey.


Among the masters artists, J. Swaminathan, F.N. Souza, Tyeb Mehra, and Paritosh Sen are no longer with us and it was fortunate that their views could be recorded before their passing away. The modernists here are of particular interest as their trajectory covers the initial years of art-making as it took root in a newly independent country, drawing inspiration variously from the School of Paris, Mexican art, the Renaissance, and Japanese and Chinese art as well as many indigenous aesthetic modes, which were already in existence. The social history of the period is reflected in their artistic memory, particularly of the early years when engaging with nationhood consisted of unseen pitfalls and triumphant successes. In the artistic graphs of many, we note the resistance that modern art met with and its struggles to establish itself. The Nehruvian years, as the 1950s and '60s are known, were remarkable for the valiant, almost heroic thrusts of the artists as well as the confusion and complexity of modern Indian art, indeed of modernism itself in the country. We see that in Bollywood films, it took its simplest and most obvious form, where modernity was equated with smoking, drinking, and other 'bad Western habits'. But many ideas, which are taken for granted now, were also looked upon with great suspicion by the layman. The distortions and fracturing of form which critiqued naturalism were far removed from the academia introduced into the country in colonial times. Modernism's arsenal of nudity, distortions, and alienation was considered 'foreign', and abhorred and opposed in a manner not dissimilar from that of warring tribes. It is also interesting to note that the interventions of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in the early years redeemed many art situations interlocked with bureaucratic tangles when unreasonable demands often brought processes to a halt. The interventions of an enlightened prime minister, however, could not be built into the art structure which has continued since. While institutionally art practices were not fully understood and hence their several lineaments were dysfunctional, the rise of the private sector and its presence in the art world gained primacy only in the last few decades.


The rudimentary structures of modernism were established by the 1950s and their divergent paths were as multiple and plural as the country itself. The heated debates about Indian art being imitative have now given way to the generally accepted belief that Euro-American modernism is not pivotal and that art in different countries established roots according toits own mores. Exemplars abound but to cite instances nearer home, the Iranian group Saqqakhaneh, termed after a traditional fountain installed for public drinking in old street corners, and formed in the early 1960s, first tried to formulate their art as being inspired by votive folk art like inscriptions, talismans, and the famous love stories of Iran. Its modernist dimensions were acquired from the West and its nuanced contours were locally inspired. The Nanyang Fine Arts College in Singapore was established in the 1930s and was based on Western art education. Its students imbibed the School of Paris methods and melded it with local styles such as Chinese brush paintings. Its beginning was fortuitous when in the early 1930s, a Japanese trained Chinese artist, Huang Suiheng, stopped by Singapore on his way back from Paris. Finding it strategically located and tropically attractive, he decided to set up an art institution and invited a Chinese artist and teacher Lim Hak Tai to establish the art school, and lessons commenced here from 1938. As it grew in stature and shifted from an old two storey bungalow, it was evident that the young artists would imbibe Western styles and inculcate them into Chinese and traditional forms. Conversely, Japonism was born in Paris when the prints of Hokusai, used as wrapping paper for ceramics and lacquerware, were noticed by artists in the mid-nineteenth century. The fluid orchestration of forms and the skilful positioning of objects in the works of Hokusai and Utamaro began to be incorporated as their prints became widely circulated and influenced artists like Manet, Van Gogh, and Toulouse-Lautrec.


The Ukiyo-e prints, with their elegance and eroticism, have also inspired Indian artists from Souza and Sabavala to Gulammohammed and Nilima Sheikh, Nalini Malani, and Anju Dodiya.


The pluralistic nature of the country retained its hybrid and multiple strain in the different forms of modernism that took shape. Thus, there were the Progressive Artists' Group and their associates, on the one hand, with artists like Souza, Husain, Raza, Tyeb, Akbar, Ram Kumar, and Krishen Khanna, who attempted a modernism which took into account the School of Paris methods. Their efforts were all the more pernicious as they were struggling on two fronts: the academic school style taught in the British established art colleges and the inclination to revive the country's past traditions. The veteran artist Jehangir Sabavala, who also trained in Paris, created forms which were deeply structured and refracted his own experiences while retaining a formal purity. The Kolkata artist Paritosh Sen, on the other hand, was a member of Group 43, which was the earliest to sever its links with academic practices. Satish Gujral ploughed his lonely furrow with his sojourn to Mexico and encountered masters like Diego Rivera, Jose Clemente Orozco, David Alfaro Siqueiros, and Frida Kahlo. On his return, he was to delve into craft-based traditions, experiments with form and material, and architectural constructs. The Santiniketan school had evolved a contextual form of modernism linked to the environment and these modes were further evolved by K.G. Subramanyan and his polymorphic forms, which reflected the diverse situation of the surroundings. The brilliantly conceived and magical forms of. Swaminathan, the earliest to be interviewed, more than validated local, including tribal traditions, which were yet contemporaneous and interfaced with the technocrat industrial basis of development in the country. This is also highlighted by the additional material attached to his interview truncated by his untimely death. Biren De, popularly believed to have founded the neo- Tantric group, vehemently refutes this and yet his powerful symbolic language of signs and symbols had a great bearing on later artists. The narrative of V. Viswanadhan, one of the founding members of the Cholamandal group, unfolds with his early influences under Paniker and his later sojourn to Paris. One of the first woman artists, Anjolie Ela Menon paved her own path, influenced by Romanesque and early Christian art, the Russian and Byzantine icons, early moderns like Amrita Sher-Gil, and even popular art to create her own liminal corridor of portraits and narrative forms.


If the furious debates of the early years have lost their edge, modernism's contested territories retain their contentious boundaries. The expressions of a newly found nation took recourse to a multiplicity of forms, the fervour and energy leading to a sense of C coming home' in the 1970s and '80s. The swelling migrations from the countryside, the imposition of the Emergency in the mid-1970s, increasing destitution and failure of governance, language and communal riots, and the impoverishment and marginalization of tribals, were all to take their toll on the individual. The early optimism gave way to a grave quietude and a strong critiquing of the establishment in imaginative and reflective ways. Almost of its own volition, figurative art burgeoned in different parts of the country as the mystique of existence gave way, and art became located and personalized. In the works of the Mumbai artists like Gieve Parel, Sudhir Parwardhan, and Nalini Malani, there is a quizzing of notions of family, city, and indeed politicians and nations, where the tensile equation of the ordinary man with his daily life becomes predominant. Rameshwar Broota, Arpita Singh, A.N. Ramachandran, Jatin Das, and Arpana Caur, situated in Delhi, focus on pavement dwellers, the poor, and the marginalized, and also gaze at wider notions of myth and history archived from memory. The Vadodara artist Nilima Sheikh finds expression in contemporary events of death and disaster, liminally relayed through the reflexive gaze of the miniatures, the thangka style among other aesthetic modes. A younger artist like Ravinder Reddy, while deriving his influences from international practices, retains the specificiry of his surroundings. If it is embellished and iconic, it is, at the same time, fractured, fragmented, and contemporary.


By the 1990s, the buoyant economic situation, the greater presence of the international corporate sector and their own tech-savvy, fast- changing society, rapid urbanization, and seamlesss traversions from one cultural mode to another had led the artists to incessant inventiveness, and a cross-cultural fertilization, and at the same time, a breaking of boundaries between different expressions. The prices of young artists along with the masters began to soar and Indian artists began to have a significant international presence. If modernism earlier could be located in the 'interstices' of cultures, the defining moment now became the intersection itself between high/low, art/life, national/international. Atul Dodiya's works archive art history, tradition, mediums, and his own locale to uniquely express the existing situation. He has, for instance, converged on bustling bazaars to paint shop shutters, which can be opened to reveal a diametrically opposite reality inside. Anju Dodiya, on the other hand, examines the fractured self by means of her own persona intertwined within the social setting. Anita Dube has assembled material from ceramic dyes used in temple icons to styrofoam wedges to instal the detritus of civilization. The site-specific installations of Subodh Gupta consist of steel objects of everyday use or trunks carried by migrant labourers, even thalis and katoris utilized in daily meals, and reconrextualize them to bring about a greater awareness of migration, labour, cross-fertilization of cultures, and other shifts of humanity in the present. The sculptor and painter Riyas Komu, in recent years, has made portraits which are culled from the deluge of mass media and included the dispossessed, the homeless, the marginalized-from the migrant labourer to the footballer-who have found shelter and evoked an intense scrutiny. If these are victims of historical circumstances, they are also survivors of their predicament and are shown in their dual identity as systematic citizens of an increasingly wider world order.


In these interactions, which took place over the last two decades, there is a lively interplay of ideas, which reveals the social, cultural, and historical matrix of art and art-making as it has taken place with four generations of Indian artists. As the artists gradually unwound layers of their experiences, their work processes, their interface with each other and with the society at large, many unknown facets of art began to emerge. Apart from providing a greater understanding, these constitute an archival record of the art situation in India. The exchanges took place in the artists' studios and other intimate places and sometimes seemed more in the nature of ruminations, providing access to the inner recesses of their consciousness. The incidental, the anecdotal, the accidental lead to the praxis of art and indeed of creativity, and acquire significance in this context. The trajectories of their lives reveal the early years of an independent nation, the travails of the Partition, the setting-up of institutions, the bunglings and successes which followed later, providing a distinctive social document of the period. All this is published in some detail so that the reader can avail of material otherwise inaccessible. These freewheeling conversations while being reflective and informative are, at the same time, informal and candid so that the scholar as well as the art aficionado can avail of them. Finally, the kaleidoscopic tapestty that emerges from 60 years of art practices, revealed in the artists' own words, can only be seen as a work in progress, which while being critical, is open- ended and subject to further conversations.


Contents Volume I




F.N. Souza


M.F. Hussain


S.H. Raza


Krishen Khanna


Tyeb Mehta


Akbar Padamsee


Ram Kumar


J. Swaminathan


Biren Di


Satish Gujral


Jehangir Sabavala


Anjolie Ela Menon


Paritosh Sen


K.G. Subramanyam


A.N. Ramachandran


Nilima Sheikh


Gieve Patel


Sudhir Patwardhan


Select Bibliography


List of Illustrations







Contents Volume II




Nalini Malani


V. Viswanadhan


Jatin Das


Arpita Singh


Rameshwar Broota


Arpana Caur


G. Ravinder Reddy


Atul Dodiya


Anita Dube


Subodh Gupta


Anju Dodiya


Riyas Komu


Select Bibliography


List of Illustrations







Sample Pages

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