Contemporary Indian Art Series - Part 1:  Set of 12 Books

Contemporary Indian Art Series - Part 1: Set of 12 Books

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Author: Eminent Contributors
Editor(s): Amit Mukhopadhyay
Publisher: Lalit Kala Akademi
Year: 1990
Language: English
Pages: 440+
ISBN/UPC (if available): N/A


After publishing five monographs in bigger format the Lalit Kala Akademi has decided to go back to the smaller size. This series dealing with contemporary Indian artists is being undertaken by the Akademi with the intention of popularizing the work of India’s leading artists. Each publication will contain a short note introducing the artist and his work to the public at large.


While speculating about the creative process of an artist, one must understand both his personality and his work. I recall the remarks made by Dr Mulk Raj Anand in 1954, when he reacted to Amarnath Sehgal’s sculptures and wrote that creative art is the necessary instrument of the efforts implicit in the human metabolism to perfect itself, to enable the inner vitalities to flow across inhibitions, frustrations and handicaps in the evolution towards wholeness. The remark indicates his, and echoes my sympathetic awareness of the difficulties Amarnath had to overcome in his initial struggle for skills to achieve his significant works.

His works serve as abridge between the artist and ourselves. They possess an expressive power that move us into action, a particular kind of behaviour. The value of the work of art does not, however, depend finally on its public function, it also depends on its aesthetic intentions. Whereas Amarnath comments on many problems that face the mankind today, he also celebrates the infinite variety and richness of human nature which is to him a theme of endless fascination and interest, including the element of humour in life.

Amarnath established The Creative Fund in 1985, based in Luxembourg to assist and encourage the artists of the Third World, in the pursuit of their creative endeavours. And he no doubt hopes that they, too, will not be content to be mere witness to the tragic events of their time.


Art always had a very high place in the Indian way of life and the Indian view of life. Akin to the highest experience of human life Brahmanand Sahodar, it led to an intuition of reality and subtle identity. It is not exclusively Indian view, it is an universally shared view held by the Neo-platonists, Goethe, Blake, Schopenhauer and Schiller, and supported by Croce and others in the modern times.

B N Arya has perfected the incredible technique of wash painting. The impact of colour in his works in vibrant and pulsating with life. Wash painting has been defined as a poem in line and colour. Hence poetic effects are heightened y the use of this hazy lines and colour. The tones of colour when superimposed on one another, promote phantasmagoria of colourful shades, ennobling and uplifting its appeal. The effects of the wash painting are highly metaphysical, poetic and thought provoking, like Sanwari.

The art of B N Arya is the result of dedication and hard work, as in the wash painting highly steneous and painstaking efforts are need to express subjects so as to maintain the soft and delicate effects of water colour.


Today, past seventy, Bimal Dasgupta has a fully stabilized status as one of India’s distinguished painters. But it has been a long inner odyssey. The external circumstances of his life will not take long n narration. However, if in a swift review this trajectory seems uneventful, it would still be advantageous for the appreciation of his art to note the experiences which, seemingly unremarkable, had long gestations in the deep interiority, in the accumulating fund of impressions that lived on as fine memories, to take birth later as creations of enduring quality.

Dasgupta seems to go back to the genesis when God created light and to the later play of that light on the icebergs of the glacial epoch, the transparent pelagic forms of the sunlit surface of the sea, the phosphorescent gleams in its depth which burn like rubies or emeralds. Simple shapes derived from the ovate and the spherical balance themselves in light and elegant compositions. At times their contours are drawn with fine precision, but often they melt into the fluid ambience. The bodies of the forms have transparent laminations which reveal complex structures within as in pelagic organisms. And Dasgupta’s artistry ahs ever fresh revelations to offer every time one closely studies the details of the images in the magically evocative paintings.


In the artistic development of DHANRAJ BHAGAT the development of modern Indian art is somehow exemplified-almost completely, almost, because there is a point beyond which Dhanraj Bhagat is greater and more original than the ordinary run of modern Indian art history. About the year 1948 he was about 30 years old –Bhagat delighted in these liquid, stream-like forms. His sensitive and lyrical wooden figures flowed like music, and melted forms one into the other, with soft, undulating lines, from the top of a Chignon of a woman, through her gently sloping rounded shoulders, through large and beautiful breasts, long and sensuously shaped buttocks, down to the feet that disappeared into the block of wood. This was the poetry of longing, of unsullied, clean dreams not yet shattered by the horrors of Partition.

He’s wood carvings acquire a rough edge, the chisel marks are left unsmoothed, a sturdy force enters his poetic work. Reunion (plate 3) talks of the sorrows of separation, and in 1952 he can make a head a sorrow stricken as the tragic face in plate 8.

It is thus that Dhanraj Bhagat, the humanitarian, the man of religion, the compassionate artist, retains the human element in his abstract are: whilst others have lost Man, Dhanraj Bhagat has found him. In the midst of masses of houses in the vast cities of the world, Man remains a sturdy structure himself, not easily defeated.

It is unlikely that this great creative artist, always able to produce new and new sculptural forms, would have reached now the end of his journey of exploration. The achievement is very great indeed: in Dhanraj Bhagat we have among us a descendant of those great masters who had created, age after age, in ancient India, in every period, fresh forms of sculpture, always ready to change and learn.


Biren De is one of our avant-garde painters enriching Indian contemporary art for over three decades. Through his work, he initiated a new mode of pictorial expression which is now being practiced by many other artists, giving it the character of a movement.

His work unfold their meaning and significance gradually and reveal an imagery coming from the depth of the unconscious as the most basic and universal forms, the archetypal exploring the cosmos. Driven by an inner urge, his personal and artistic evolution has followed a long, unbroken thread, leading to progressively-maturing tantra-consciousness.

His compositions from 1950 onwards were mainly figurative; human figures in nature, painted not three-dimensionally, but suggesting plasticity with flexed lines and strong colours. He drew heavily from his experiences of the life-style of the tribal people, the adivasis, whose settlements he had been visiting frequently during his years in Calcutta.

To many of us, the recurring vision of effulgent light and wholeness is the end of the quest, end of all wanderings, a perfect state of bliss. But Biren believes this sate of bliss is not the end of the journey. It is only a stage that prepares one for the final surrender to, or merger with the supreme source-energy, he Mother-energy. The highest expression of Tanta also realizes the return to the ultimate. Collectively Biren’s work of so many ears records and projects his intuitive understanding and assimilation of this fact. In this he is carrying on the tradition of our shilpiyogin, i e burning all of one’s personal energy in order to achieve something which is essentially beyond he personal, and therefore, universal.


Chittaprosad was the leader of a distinct trend in the national art movement of India. He was an artist of the people-the great multitude of India. He was an artist of the people-the great multitude of India; Poverty-ridden, exploited, but of unbounded vitality, keepers of its unique cultural heritage with a legacy of hundreds of years of stoic survival against all odds. He identified himself with these people, living a life of poverty and working for the cause of the common people, through his art.

These drawings of Chittaprosad, mostly sketched ion the spot in pencil were finished later in black and white either in pen or brush and ink and were published in the then communist party journals like Peoples War and Janayuddha. They profoundly moved the intellectuals of India of the time, both communists and non-communists and a number of well established as well as young talented artists and writers were drawn towards depicting the life, suffering and struggle of the down-trodden through their arts.

Chittaprosad was one of the most significant artists and a colourful personality of the mid-twentieth century India. His life of self-imposed poverty combined with the most scrupulous honesty, a stern sense of self respect, an unbounded capacity for love and warmth and his towering handsome personality makes his career a fascinating and inspiring study. His works are of lasting value. His creations have a message of hope for the humanity. If properly preserved, they will convey the artist’s message for generations to come.

Chittaprosad had made thousands of drawings, hundreds of lino-cuts and a large number of paintings in water colour, pastel and oil. It has not been possible so far to make an exhaustive inventory of them.


Simple, dedicated and one of the pioneers of Renaisaance school in Rajasthan is a name known as Goverdhan Lal Joshi Baba Sab. Baba Sab for all age group people, loved by his contemporaries, source of inspiration to younger generation and a model for contemporary art scene. As a creative doyen Baba worked a long way amalgamating dazzling colours with somberness, wild nature in a balanced way and tropical sunlight enhanced by deep shadow. Though confined to Bheel tribal life, he concerned himself more with local surroundings which provided him a vast field of study and exploited every possibility which could add to his work. Here, instead of mention in by his name or surname, I would take the liberty to call him Baba.

His paintings are a mixture of landscape and figurative compositions. Glowing browns, ochres and grays well represent the earth of Rajasthan. Strong sunlight and deep shadows have been used to erect three dimensionality maintaining overall two-dimentional effect. Less craftsmanship and more vigour and power are the essential qualities of his works. As for subjects, we find some historical subjects more landscapes and still more Bheel life, represented very powerfully due to his regular study of such subjects. He goes to this life, participates in their rituals and ceremonies fully involved.

On the whole, he dedicated his heart and soul to art. Simple and lyrical like folk life and people, he is fully alive with all colours on his palette and not stale as far as he has gone or reached. He has achieved something inspiring which is appreciated by artists, critics and art lovers equally. It is a happy augury for art scene of Rajasthan in particular and India in general to haave this original creative veteran.


The renascent pioneering endeavours of Gurcharan Singh and other professional studio potters, whom he had inspired and trained, have already revealed tht the traditional skill still flows, from the veins of the highly evolve Indian sensibility, across the surface of ceramic artifacts, of most varied forms and designs with their innovative glazes and textural effects. Their venture to carry the craft of pottery to the joy of creative impulse and form has indeed yielded a fulfillment of their dreams. And of which main credit goes to Gurcharan Singh. Besides many honours and awards conferred upon him, his contribution to the field of creative arts was duly recognized by the government and he was awarded Padma Shri in 1991.

Gurcharan Singh was a founder member of the All India Fine Arts and Crafts Society (set up in 1928), and has been a member of its Council and its Hony Treasurer for over two decades. Presently he is one of its Vice-Presidents.

Gurcharan Singh’s pottery has been described as having dynamic lyricism; his shapes having a stunning rhythm. He has brought beauty to the house, the kitchen and its dinning tables. His pottery, like the man himself, is simple and direct. His shapes are strong and graceful. Decoration, if any, is reduced to the essential. Sometimes a simple brush stroke is all that he needs to express a feeling. His colours are subtle and contemplative, the colours of earth. Jade-green, blue, copper and earth brown mark his later style, and the opaque slip-ware, delicate crackle glazes and rough stone-ware surfaces add a charming variety to his ceramic ware.

In 1991-92, Gurcharna Singh Created, The Delhi Blue Pottery Trust and in the basement of his present premises started a school for training in pottery where many young contemporary potters and ceramists are discovering their roots.


It is a year ago that Swaminathan left us. As happens so often here honours are belatedly bestowed as if to expiate a poor conscience. Not that he cared for public or State honours. He was acknowledged by his peers as one of the most significant artist of our times. By the time he died he had a large following and was eagerly sought by collectors. Yet his success never altered his life style. He continued to live in his working space which was always crammed with stretchers, cans of beesware, oils of various description, powdered pigments, tubes of paints, brushes, knives, rags, finished and unfinished paintings and goodness know what else. His friends who came to see him had to navigate carefully till they reached some place where they could settle for a prolonged convivial evening with much promise of discussions on poetry and sparkling good humour.

J Swaminathan was born in a Tamil family, settled in Simla, on June 21, 1928. After matriculation, he joined the Pre-Medical Course (Hindu College, Delhi) but left college and home soon after to lead a restless and roving life till 1955, when he married Bhawani. In this period, he worked actively as a political agitator, a writer of stories for children and a journalist. His disenchantment with politics brought to the surface his childhood aptitude for drawing and painting. He started painting seriously after marriage, working off and on as a journalist and as a writer on art till finding sustenance as freelance painter. Swaminathan Studied art for a while at the Art Department of the Delhi Polytechnic and later went to Poland on a scholarship at the Academy of Fine Arts, Warsaw, in 1958. He was awarded the Jawaharlal Nehru Fellowship (1968-70) for working on the thesis: The Significance of the traditional Numen to Contemporary Art. He was a member of the International Jury for the Sao Paulo Biennale in 1969.

Swaminathan was elected to the General Council of the Lalit Kala Akademi from the Artist’s constituency and was a member of the Akademi’s Executive Board. His works are widely represented in private and public collections both in India and abroad. He held more than 30 one-man shows and has participated in important national and international exhibitions.

In the last few years, he traveled extensively in the tribal belts of Madhya Pradesh. Swaminathan wrote poetry in Hindi and articles on problems relating to the contemporary movement in art. Was a Commissioner for the Adivasi and exhibition at the Festival of India, Japan, was a member of the Philatelic Advisory committee, Government of India, the Crafts Museum Committee, HHEC and the Programme Committee of the North-Central Zone Cultural Centre. He published along text on the tribal art of Madhya Pradesh entitled The Perceiving fingers. The last exhibition of his painting (before he died) was held at the Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi, 1993. Government of Madhya Pradesh Samman in 1994 and mounted a large exhibition of his works at Bharat Bhavan in 1995.


One must be out of one’s mind to discuss in 1991 an artist who is out of date by at least a hundred years. But Kodaikat Madhava Menon 84, is not ashamed of living in the 19th century mentally. In fact he proudly asserts that what the 19th century gave him, the 20the or the centuries that follow will never give him, and more importantly, he will spare no effort to protect his cultural ethos of the 19th century from the ravages of the so-called modernity of the 20th century. He is a man of strong convictions and can never persuade himself to compromise with what he considers evil or ugliness or dishonesty. Modernity, according to him, is all these things and much else which he resents. He firmly believes that modernity its totally alien to the Oriental spirit and sensibility and his is a neat, well-integrated world of beauty, peace and sanity where man is in perfect harmony with nature which in turn remains clean, green and serene so that he rests quietly in her lap and thinks his noblest thoughts, sings his sweetest songs, writes his greatest poems and paints his finest pictures. Totally disillusioned by the hatreds and hypocrisies of the art scene in India today, he has chosen to retreat to an idyllic, rural hermitage in picturesque Kerala where he lives with his family, untroubled by and contemptuously indifferent to the unseemly goings on in the art world.

Menon’s love of Nature, which is indeed his magnificent obsession, is what puts life into his pictures. He is particularly fond of flowers, birds and trees which he studies minutely and intensely. He is a great birdwatcher. When he does not paint birds, he plays with them. He talks to them. He listens to them. In fact he spends most of his time with them in his large, sprawling garden full of coconut palms and mango trees. Birds can be seen perching on his shoulders listening intently to his music on the flute.

He paints not only on papers but on canvas, silk, chiffon, masonite board and plan cloth. Though he is a very keen observer on Nature, he paints only from memory. Any visually exciting scene registers in his mind like a photograph. He finds that on the spot sketching interferes with his meditative communion with nature.

The village, Thiruvanjikulam where he lives, is very ancient. King Solomon landed 300 Jews here. The great Tamil classic of the 2nd century AD, Silappadikaram, was written here. Its hero Kovalan visited the site. So did Vasco da Gama. The village is only a suburb of Crangnore, the ancient Chera capital. There is a Krishna temple in the village, built by Kulasekhara Azhwar. There is no other artist in the family. Menon has four sons and tow daughters. He lost one son some time ago.


Kulkarni was born at Belgaum on April 7, 1916. His interest in painting began with billboards. He studied at the Sir JJ School of Art, Bombay, from 1935 to 1942, doing diploma course from 1935 to 1940 and post-graduation for one year (1941-1942). His brushes with the police during the Quit India movement of 1942 interrupted his studies briefly. But finally, armed with a well-earned diploma in mural painting, he launched out on his artistic career. A chance meeting with a Deli-based textile magnate at an industrialist friend’s residence in Bombay resulted in the offer of an appointment as textile designer which took him to Delhi in 1943.

His nineteen years at the Triveni (1949-1968) as director of its Art Department were very well spent. He trained a number of brilliant students who are today eminent artists. These days he works in his studio at Garhi when he is not taking evening classes at the Delhi college of Art where he is held in high esteem both by the staff and the students because of his integrity, independence and impartiality.

As a teacher Kulkarni gives his students absolute freedom. They learn more from watching him at work than from listening or talking to him. For he himself does not believe in theorizing. He suggests alternatives to them. But he does not impose these on them. It is up to them to accept his suggestions or not. He takes MFA classes at the Delhi College of Art. Kulkarni lives far away form the rat race, enjoying his well-deserved peace and privacy. No visits to or from friends or relations. He paints for his own pleasure, since he is too honest and self-respecting to hawk his wares in the market place.


Kanwal Krishna was cut out to e different. He proved himself so, in many ways. Montgomery in the undivided Punjab where he was born (1910), once, for its vast and arid expanse infused in many, as sense of insecurity. While to the young lad, love and proximity to music and poetry came from the parental side, he witnessed as well how his near and dear ones attempted to equip themselves with kinds of technical qualifications, for a proper foothold in life. He too, in due course, as a young man found himself reaching Calcutta.

Training and background so far, brought out the artist in a particular light. People and places rendered by the artist showed invariably a realistic inclination. If he did snowpeaks, hills and dales, he presented people in the mountains and other areas too. Besides the landscapes, he became much known for portraitures as well. While he often resorted to water colour medium to depict the views and the people in the interiors, he switched over to oil on canvas, for portrait paintings, often of the durbar personalities and high dignitaries, monks and so on, in Sikkim and elsewhere.

A colourful life and certainly quite productive, he was much inspiring as well. An adventurist and explorer in him, was easily recognizable. But the artist, no less a teacher and leader, was surely not far behind. Altogether, he played a purposeful role, enriching the country’s art scene and Delhi’s in particular. His election as a Fellow of the Lalit Kala Akademi (1976) came not a day too soon, by way of recognition Kanwal Krishna by all reckoning was a traveler in time and a beacon light for many others to follow.


This collection includes picture albums of following artistes: Amarnath Sehgal Badrinath Arya Bimal Dasgupta Dhanraj Bhagat Biren De Chittaprosad Goverdhan Lal Joshi Gurcharan Singh J Swaminathan K Madhava Menon K S Kulkarni Kanwal Krishna and Devyani Krishna