This Monsoon season, Gurgaon’s ‘Gallery Alternatives’ brings to us yet another Group Exhibition. This eclectic collection features artworks in a variety of media – from canvasses and paper to sculptures. The artists are of every age-group, and from all parts of India – from the 91-year old Tantric maestro Padma Bhushan S.H Raza, to the striving 33-year old glass sculptor Punkaj Kumar Manav; and other artists from various linear disciplines, such as Advertisting, Architecture and Illustration.
Of the time-tested thespians on show, the dizzying kaleidoscopic circular Mandalas of Raza are well-represented here by a 31” x 31” Print on Canvas depicting a multi-hued Chakra. It is executed in the Parisian-Indian maestro’s quintessential design of concentric circles, that are subtly ‘divided’ by a central linear ‘break’. Typically, a dark central Bindu, representing the indivisible Anu or Atom, tightly holds all this rippling energy together. This form stands as Raza’s recurring leitmotif in almost all his works of the past five decades, and embodies the philosophy that the Cosmic Life-energy is not linear, but circular; not time-bound, but self-renewing; and with no obvious beginning or ending.
Another stalwart, in a contrasting Figurative mode, is Thota Vaikuntam. The talented Hyderabadi artist, who has immortalised the timeless Dravidian woman in all her intense, vibrant hues, is well-noted for his uniquely-Indian idiom. Aside from gaining respect within India, in a career of over 3 decades, Vaikuntam has also been recognised by the discerning art circles of New York and London.
It is often seen that evolved artists retain one or two specific aesthetic ‘forms’ or ‘visualisations,’ as a recurring ‘visual code’, that embodies a lifetime’s thought-process. In Vaikuntam’s case, this form is that of a dark-skinned rural Dravidian woman, her broad forehead smeared with horizontal Shaivite bindis, humbly going about her daily domestic chores. At times she merges seamlessly into a watchful group of similar women; at other times she is seated alone, in a moment of relaxation, perhaps playing with a pet parrot or adjusting her toe-rings and nose-ring. The charm of this innocent, yet firmly-rooted Shakti-figure—like a prosaic Devi—has become Vaikuntam’s visual nom
Looking at the works of lesser-known young artists, one is heartened that they are not abandoning the intricate and quiet skills of linear drawing and painting, in favour of faster, facile theatrical modes. Among such emerging artists is Sanju Jain from Bhopal, whose mysterious 24” x 24” Mixed Media painting, depicting an eye-like form in deep blue monotones, employs textures and cross-hatching effects with praiseworthy finesse. The Mangalorean Praveen Kumar’s fascination for architecture has resulted in a blend of the geometric and the representational in his works. As a freelance architectural designer, his Acrylic on Canvas Series, depicting urban skylines and houses with peaks and edges, seems to bear an underlying Souza Cityscape inspiration. However, in order to achieve his own idiom, the artist needs to loosen his reins and allow his imagination to take flight.
Rajendra P. Singh’s saffron Buddhas, seated in meditation atop abstract cityscapes, evidence this necessary freeing-up of one’s inner imaginative muse. The 34-year old Bihar-born artist, now working in Delhi, retains his simple cultural roots, by repeatedly paying homage to Gautama Buddha in his visualisations. He has also worked with tiles and fibreglass, to decorate the Shahadra Metro Station -- a welcome innovation that more young Indian artists should aspire to, thus contributing to a city’s daily aesthetic heritage.
In the sculptural zone, Viky Arya and Punkaj Manav indulge in some promising textural experiments. Viky, a Delhi-based Advertising visualiser, illustrator and poet, cites the Himalayan peaks to be her main visual and spiritual inspiration, as she was born in Dehradun. Her delicate Zen-like metal sculptures aim to echo the grace, rhythm and flow of such transcendent Indian mountainscapes, while incorporating the human form within a minimalist mode. Punkaj’s sculptural glazed stoneware has been widely displayed all over India. He has also worked on the Delhi Metro Mural Projects, and taught Terracotta Art to children. Other promising artists in this collection include the intense Kolkata painters Rajat Nandi and Sukanta Das, and the Delhi-based artists Kunal, Nupur Kundu and Ajay Narayan.
Another noteworthy exhibition held this past week was Renge Art’s solo show of Kingson Swargiary. The show featured 15 Watercolours and 25 Acrylics on canvas, by an emerging artist who has been noticed for a playful geometric idiom, reminiscent of a kaleidoscope’s glass chinks. Kingson, an Assamese, provides an outsider’s observation of the capital’s dramatic contrasts – filtering out into two series, ‘Colourful Delhi’ and ‘Colourless Delhi’. In the former, Kingson claims to depict Delhi’s modern lifestyles, glamour and affluence; whereas in his ‘Colourless’ series, he concentrates on the city’s have-nots—its slum dwellers, beggars and street life—painted in sombre shades of ‘colourless colour’. This cowboy-hatted and booted young artist, enjoying his Gurgaon Club stint, says that he aims to convey hope and peace in his art.