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Articles on Indian contemporary art
by Swapna Vora

Swapna Vora has written on Indian art for years. She was VP at Asia TV Network, GM at UTV, and editor at the Taj magazine and the Indian Express. She has lived and worked in Hong Kong, Kenya, Lebanon, Britain, etc. and misses them. She now works in America and in India.
 
Shrinathji's pichhavais: Doorways to the Lord
Pichhavai paintings are created for Krishna in his form as Shrinathji, a representation of Lord Krishna, who is worshiped at Nathdwara near Udaipur, Rajasthan. These lovers of Krishna worship him, not with penance, deprivation or hardship, but with joy, delight and fine art. Music, especially delicate flute notes, poetry, fine painting, dance and drama are all seen as paths to pleasing god, to religious achievement and spiritual joy. Krishna's devotees do not seek liberation, they ask only to be his servants eternally.
Published: November 06, 2012
 
Satadru Sovan Banduri's Rare Blue Moons
Satadru Banduri paints two gay men with gorgeous masculine backs under a rare blue moon, staring at a far-off destination. One is in low-rise blue jeans, the other, not to be outdone, in a low-rise lungi. One has nicely gelled hair, the other holds a cell phone, presumably to make connections. Their tattoos, low rise outfits and well-developed bodies pay homage to the religion of physical beauty, paramount all over the globe. The cobalt tinged with turquoise night reveals secrets and falsehoods securely covered during the day.
Published: February 14, 2012
 
Julius Macwan's One Square Kilometer
One Square Kilometer: Julius Macwan tells us about meetings and partings, of five friends, now all rather established artists, including one who died too early. One artist's loving memories of another artist form a soft backdrop to discussions about the Sir J.J. School of Art in Mumbai, the learning of skills and the exuberance of youthful hope. Until recently, most Indian artists had no access to the international art world, apart from some old books, a print somewhere or tattered texts on pavement shops.
Published: November 24, 2011
 
Kanwal Dhaliwal: Immigration
Kanwal Dhaliwal has drawn, sculpted and painted the many themes of immigration, the country one grew up in, the country one learned to call home where everything looked the same and nothing was familiar: Homes with shoots but no roots, horizons of fool’s gold glimpsed while traveling, children who speak a strange language and look at you as if they do not know you, new bugs, new officiousness, strange climates.
Published: December 15, 2010
 
Ayesha Durrani: The girl next door
Ayesha's mannequins represent creatures without personality, uneasy, bound with pale pink ropes, with the fragrance of roses and the memory of dead flowers. She spins tales of female subjugation: cruel and wasteful. Faceless mannequins are a reminder, a bundle, of others' hopes and desires. Dark beauties stand in unreal surroundings like halos, bouquets of stylized roses and in golden bondage.

Published: July 15, 2009
 
Om Soorya: Random Mirrors
In the city of villagers, Om Soorya tells us stories. His paintings, rather his random mirrors, reflect villagers who find themselves, overnight, in the midst of cities. In their fields, skyscrapers descend, water tanks ascend as multinationals multiply profits. Flyovers have arrived as they continue washing clothes in lakes, tramping across fields, making new paths where none existed. They need to, for an old road may vanish when a new building comes up. "Hyderabad", he says, 'became a big city suddenly."
Published: July 09, 2009
 
Mahendra Mistry: Once upon a time
Filled with unbelievably gorgeous men, and unbelievably holy, divine looking women, Mistry's work depicts Indian movies: a golden corridor of nostalgia when love between the genders was a fact of life, when children were considered everybody's and movies still aimed at highlighting humanity's highest values. This painted universe brimming with drama, love, heroes, contrasts between the rich and poor, empathy, and the joy of independence is recreated in tints of soft ochre, old gold, brass, bronze and charcoal while light, like studio spotlights, pours in.

Published: February 20, 2009
 
Amisha Mehta: Rainbow Girl
Amisha Mehta: She's like the rainbow! Her paintings offer rang leela: the story of colors, and rang raag: color, love and passion. Her work looks at our mysterious being, the grandeur and control that keep us going while asleep and awake and the millions of unknown, hardly noticed inner stimuli, the colors and chemicals that keep us alive. What heals, what are these chakras, why these particular colors? A modern depiction of ancient religious art where colors and shapes are doorways and corridors to ecstasy.
Published: February 13, 2009
 
Shelly Jyoti and Mithila: The joy of decoration
"What I could not understand at twenty, I have begun to understand at fifty: the relationships between colors, styles, sizes. One learns and learns. I love Ravi Verma, his designs on garments, his decorative elements. I admire his rich colors, fine clothes and accessories. When I depict 'zardozi', it looks like it, not a pallid imitation, 'kantha' clearly shows stitches. I use block-printing techniques, I paint embroidery. I know weaving, knitting, knotting. My painting takes off from my textile work, this rapport is good."

Published: February 09, 2009
 
Talha Rathore: Unclaimed Territories
Maps of the heart have roads which resemble no known road. Until a country becomes ours in the maps of our hearts, until it becomes instinctive to call it mine, we still remember other towns, and consider other dwellings where we no longer live, as 'home'. A child's dreams of home linger long after she has left it. In the waiting before we become another country's people, we discover that everywhere we look everything looks the same and is yet different.
Published: July 21, 2008
 
Natvar Bhavsar's cosmos
There are gradual heaps of grains, fuzzy, soft focused stars, brilliant red and glowing, aubergine galaxies, encounters with velvet and ebony. Such a lot to see: gemstones and geodes, layer upon layer of pigments, subtle strokes that look like the cold tornados of space, starscapes and solar maps. The huge paintings doubtless overwhelm immediately with their sheer physical impact but the curlicues, slowly shifting irregularities, bars, curves, cells, and drifting, smoking oblongs too hold myriad secret stories.

Published: July 18, 2008
 
Antonio Puri and The Tenth Door
It is so fragile out here in this world that reincarnation appeals, rishis fascinate. Detachment from this temporal habitat is hard, if not impossible. How does one participate in life fully, yet remember to remain aloof, remember that everything is moving, leaving, arriving? The body has nine doors and the tenth door, the final portal, leads beyond the Sahasrar chakra. This door at the Sahasrar or crown chakra is the final exit for release from the other nine portals of the human body. Antonio Puri's 'Tenth Door' depicts this last exit to awareness.
Published: July 18, 2008
 
Pushing the envelope
"Human skin is a huge topic, it is physically large, conveys much, holds much, this bag, It is complex and this complexity is used to advertise and influence so much." And so Prasanta Sahu pushes this envelope for skin defines race, the treatment of people, of countries, and is a huge emotional metaphor in advertising. Sahu's large paintings show an interface between the possibilities of electronic technology and human, manual skills. He concentrates on the human body, often his own.

Published: July 16, 2008
 
Conversations with Raza at eighty five
"I wanted to learn what is painting, I wanted to paint. I remember the day I was not satisfied in the eighties and questioned: Where is your country with its great civilization? I started visiting India for learning Indian poetry, thought and studied Sanskrit. I did a detailed study of sculpture and saw whatever was most important in Indian art. I collected Jain miniatures." With great certainty he adds, "Only in silence can you create and then bindu emerges."
Published: June 16, 2008
 
Tenzin Rigdol's mandala: Particles of prayers
A really small, blond boy saw the colorful Tibetans dance across his work and asked, concerned, "Don't you mind if it is destroyed?" Rigdol replied, "No, not destroyed. Just in another form." However the mandala grew more and more beautiful as dancers moved over it. Finally, but not surprisingly, it resembled what our earth looks like when viewed from outer space, a blue sphere filled with humanity's colors, hills, beloved valleys and cherished rivers.

Published: June 11, 2008
 
Found in translation, an interpreter of human maladies
Taiwanese Chen Chieh-jen has worked in myriad mediums from paint and performance, to films and installation. His melancholy, often gently silent videos comment on awful human behavior. He shows the fragility of small operators, sometimes covered with the shrouds of their work, and speaks of humans 'palely loitering' in search of work, even appalling, indifferent work. He comments on an image much beloved in the west: the barbaric east.
Published: May 16, 2008
 
MF Husain: In some of his own words
Sitting sideways on time, MF Husain painted 'Lightning'. This then is the story of its acquisition, about Srikant 'Kent' and Marguerite Charugundla, the manager at Delhi's Maurya Sheraton, Indira Gandhi, the Congress party, the fruit of Indian engineering brains and the telecom millionaires. Indian horses are often christened Toofan (Storm) and Pawan (Wind), and M F Husain, riding the same wind, called his, 'Lightning'.

Published: May 14, 2008
 
Once we were one: Erasing Borders 2008: Passport to Contemporary Indian Art of the Diaspora
Laughter, irony, mockery and anguish are there, especially after 9/11, after Iraq, after racial profiling. Youngsters who had basked in the suburban wealth created by their adventurous parents, now knew they were not simply American but brown and Asian. Race, color, religion had again become major parameters to measure humankind. How did they see their world and how would they depict it? 'Erasing Borders' provides some doorways, some glimpses.
Published: May 02, 2008
 
Caught in crosshairs: Pakistan's Muhammad Zeeshan
Zeeshan's transparent metaphors of hairs and horses are in New York. Young and with a bobbing pony tail, Muhhamad Zeeshan speaks slowly and carefully, sometimes ironically, as he puts his painted stories into words. Each painting looks simple and yet the stories and strokes are really refined and moving, and like Scherazade's stories, one leads to another, to another.

Published: April 17, 2008
 
Padmaputra Ashok Shah: Saraswati's Son
Ashok Shah always liked painting. However, undecided about his future career; he went to 'the science side' in college. He started painting tentatively, part time, and later full time after receiving a sadhu's blessing rather mysteriously. Today he paints religious paintings partially in the Rajput miniature tradition and more so in the Jain temple heritage style, the mother lode of western Indian art.
Published: Janurary 11, 2008
 
Prema Murthy: Weaving the Web
Prema Murthy knows the intersection between what is handmade and what is hi tech or digital is not always precise. Her pictures on the wall show modern, if conventional, placing of pictures, like a controlled scatter of framed prints on an uneven, brick wall. It is not dramatic and an artist at the PS 1 museum said, somewhat fancifully, it brings memories of a constellation.

Published: September 07, 2007
 
Jayashree Chakravarty: Herstory: Palimpsests of the maps of memory
Jayashree Chakravarty's work is very detailed, unbelievably painstaking and full of stories, memories, and images from childhood, from her many travels, and her schooling in India and France. Her work has layered images, uneven sheets of colors, and even black and white pats.
Published: August 31, 2007
 
Raza’s runes: visions of the self
As a child, Raza must have seen nocturnal wild creatures padding softly and dark birds flitting through damp jungles and dry forests and his early work was mainly landscapes. It was later, much later, that his handprint, or dare I say, pugmark became the ‘bindu’. Bindu is the sparkling, infinitesimal dot, the spark, the blue pearl from which worlds, (and Raza’s universe), unfurl and into which they curl back.

Published: July 19, 2007
 
Amitava: Days and seasons of the self
Hemant and Shishir are short fleeting periods in tropical India, when the seasons shift into winter. They have to be observed, perhaps, only as they pass on. The pale pinks and rich autumn colors of Amitava’s Hemant are a visual delight and he charmingly explains his involvement with the seasons.
Published: July 10, 2007
 
Chiru Chakravarty: Every day, judgment day
Chiru offers limbs, muscles, bones cloned with animals, shards of existence, of disaster. There is anger, suffering and chaos, with no well remembered limits, no recognizable boundaries. We momentarily halt and watch the anguish in his works. Are these responses to catastrophes, humanity's disasters, bloodshed, generated violence, mindless mobs? Chiru Chakravarty: Every day, judgment
Published: May 01, 2007
 
Anish Kapoor: Stone Fire, Black Flame
Stone fire, black flame For a few brief weeks last September and October, Anish Kapoor’s new ‘Sky Mirror’, an enormous stainless shimmer, a giant’s salad plate, sat at Rockefeller Center. It stretched New York and reflected it upside down. It was a time for delight as New Yorkers smirked at themselves, jumped up and down, grimaced at their images and ‘do si doed’ around the Sky Mirror, possibly the most instantly interactive art installation in the world.
Published: March 09, 2007
 
Padmanabh Bendre: Fields, layers, unbroken expanses
Splashed, split, sometimes gently lacerated colors, infringed, annulled prisms, interrupted regularly, ruptured opportunities, breaking news. So I see Padmanabh Bendre’s current work. Art in Bombay now has glittering doors, gala openings and glamorous boys as everyone strains and stares across the room to see the next winner of a million. And so the whirligig of contemporary art continues with sly appreciation for nothing but the price. Padmanabh Bendre
Published: March 05, 2007
 
Anti matter? Kausik M's universe
Anti matter? Kausik M's universe Kausik Mukhopadhyay, a part of India’s post Midnight Children, wryly comments on those complex cyborgs called cities. We live in spaces with no space and in times when time has, without giving notice, slyly slipped away. Kausik creates models of cities that are Mumbai but could easily be New York.
Published: February 08, 2007
 
The Baldly Beautiful 108 Dabbas of Bose Krishnamachari
Bose Krishnamachari, bold and bald, sits surrounded by his explosive, multihued art: a perspective on the ghosts of his own practice. He observes bodies in a time warp, twisted and stretched out in the universe’s black holes, he is interested in ghosts, ‘misunderstood, misconceived’, the chaotic order and vibrancy of Mumbai and, astonishingly, attempts to understand and portray other artists. The Baldly Beautiful 108 Dabbas of Bose Krishnamachari
Published: December 04, 2006
 


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