Towards a new beginning: Styles and subjects in contemporary Indian art

Towards a new beginning: Styles and subjects in contemporary Indian art

By BHUMIKA POPLI | | 16 December, 2017
(L-R) Pages From My Notebook, by Durga Kainthola; Rock hewn, by Jyoti Ranjan Panigrahi; Untitled, by Kaushik Tyagi.
A group exhibition at Delhi’s India Habitat Centre aims to engage viewers through a series of works by 44 contemporary artists from across India, who have dared to explore unconventional themes and experimental forms, writes Bhumika Popli.
A new show at Delhi’s India Habitat Centre aims to break the stereotypes surrounding our idea of the visual arts. Entitled Indian Contemporaries, the exhibition takes into account multiple styles and subjects that the country’s contemporary artists are pursuing. The show has on display, for instance, charcoal and ink works by Abid Zaidi, who for many years has used vultures as her subjects. One can also find embossed artworks by Jyoti Ranjjan Panigrahi, whose mixed-media artworks appear similar to the murals done by the Suara tribe of Orissa.
Curated by Aakshat Sinha, an artist himself, Indian Contemporaries was also a prominent part of the international art fair, Art Russia. It took place in the city of Nizhny Novgorod, Russia from 29 September to 8 October 2017. The exhibition was held on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of India-Russia diplomatic relations. This group show had brought together artists from different parts of India, with their varied experiences, and had garnered much appreciation abroad.
There are as many as 44 Indian contemporary artists in the present iteration of the show in Delhi. Sinha chose these specific artists to showcase a cross-section of creative practices in India, ranging from promising young artists to senior masters. “My idea for Art Russia was to present distinct artworks by a number of Indian artists. I wanted to showcase a lot of unconventional things our artists are doing. I am happy to say that our efforts didn’t go waste and we were able to create a dialogue among Russian viewers and those from the rest of the world. People in Russia expected traditional artworks, and we just surprised them.”
Artist Abid Zaidi has submitted a series of four artworks for the show, titled Vultures: A Story of Adversity. She intends to highlight the plight of the vultures in our environmentally-compromised world. In this work, she has given vultures a human figure. Zaidi says, “Through my work, whether it is about human beings or about animal and bird kingdoms, I have tried to convey the current state of nature. It is sad that we have played with nature for our material benefit. The way we have deprived animals and birds of their habitats and polluted the environment has led to the extinction of many species of birds and animals. Now, we are on the verge of losing vultures—the natural scavengers. I want to share the story of their plight and I have used different medium like oil charcoal and pen in my present work.”
Artist Jyoti Ranjan Panigrahi, originally from Odisha, is showcasing four works from his series Rock hewn. The coastal area famous for the Chilka Lake of Odisha is an inspiration to him. Looking at his works, one thinks of Suaran tribal art. He has used acrylic, sand and glue on canvas to depict scenes from tribal life. He says, “I had made up my mind to work on primitive forms quite early. This was not a decision taken in a day; rather, I nurtured this idea of using primitive forms in my heart for a very long time before I could manifest it in my work. During the course of my journey as an artist, I evolved my own forms and some symbolic script in order to create an atmosphere for the subject that I have undertaken for my paintings.” In this series of works he has made use of a wide spectrum of colours. Through his paintings, Panigrahi wants to appeal to one and all to save and preserve our ancient cultural treasures from perishing.    
The exhibition also includes paintings by Durga Kainthola, an artist who has showcased widely in India and overseas. The artist likes documenting history through her art and uses wide references from the past and present.
He says, “Here even though my script is ancient, my language is modern. My attempt is to reach out to a generation which is disconnected from its roots, in their race against time. With the use of contemporary universal colours I want to establish the cultural similarity which prevails in our modern society. This is my humble gesture to preserve this ancient and prehistoric heritage.”
The exhibition also includes paintings by Durga Kainthola, an artist who has showcased widely in India and overseas. The artist likes documenting history through her art and uses wide references from the past and present. In the show, where she has presented her series, entitled Pages From My Notebook, she uses pen, watercolour, and silk-screen print on sketchbook paper, pasted on rice paper. The artist, who has been educated at the Sir J.J. School of Art, Mumbai and M.S. Baroda, is of the view that a strong foundation in art goes a long way in helping young artists. 
“During my art education at J.J., I experimented with all kind of mediums and that is the fun of being an artist. After post-graduation, for almost five years, I copied the work of masters, be it Indian or Western and that formed the basis of my contemporary miniature series that started in 2001, and to date I keep painting anything that appeals to me from the past with reference to a contemporary theme. I like my work being experimental in nature.”
 
The show includes a total of 264 works by 44 artists, and is on view at the Open Palm Court gallery, India Habitat Centre, New Delhi till 20 December 
 

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