Friday, April 29, 2011

The Economic Times

India gets its second international art fair

IANSApr 27, 2011, 12.53pm IST

  • New Delhi|

  • Kochi-Muziris Foundation

  • NEW DELHI: After the success of the India Art Summit in Delhi, the scene of action in contemporary art is shifting south with the announcement of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2012, a mammoth exposition of international contemporary art, in Kerala.
    A statement issued by the Kochi-Muziris Foundation Tuesday said the fair would be held in the Kochi port city on the scale of international art fairs.
    A brainchild of Riyas Komu and Bose Krishnamachari -- two Kerala-born leading contemporary artists who left their native shores years ago, the biennale will showcase the best of Indian and international contemporary art with discussions, education sessions and corollary events themed on art. It will be modelled on the India Art Summit and the global art fairs.
    The fair will be partnered by the Kochi-Muziris Foundation, a non-profit trust formed in 2010 that aims to highlight cosmopolitan legacy of the modern metropolis of Kochi.
    The biennale will be spread across multiple venues in Kochi town and the adjoining port city, which was known as Muziris in early history.
    The works on display will be a multimedia panorama of conventional art, films, installations, sculpture, new media and performance art. The biennale will also create a platform for debate by introducing ambitious contemporary international visual art practices and theory to India, showcasing new Indian and International art, and enabling a dialogue among public, artists, curators and visitors.
    "The regional contemporary art from Kerala will occupy a pride of place," the foundation said in its statement.
    The exhibition will try to create linkages between the tangible built heritage of the ancient Jewish settlement of Muziris, which has been continuously inhabited since the pre-Christian era, and visual arts by using public spaces, heritage buildings and other non-traditional venues to display art.
    The ancient port city of Kochi was once known for its busy spice trade and was the landing ground of the first Dutch settlers in southern India. It was also home to Jewish traders. The ancient town of Mattancherry in Kochi was the nerve centre of pepper and cardamom trade.
    According to the organisers, the art fair is proposed to attract national tourism, cultural interest and promote social cohesion to project Kochi as a heritage and art tourism destination.
    The event will be supported by the Kerala Tourism department, local and national stakeholders and creative industries.
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    Showcasing the rich art forms of India


    This book celebrates the presence of the divine even amidst the mundane and the material in our country. It showcases popular, devotional art in India and also metal icons, masks, sculptures, puppets, and ritual objects of divinities from this country as well as from Thailand, Nepal, Tibet, and Indonesia, as displayed in the Museum of Sacred Art, Radhadesh, Belgium.


    It is an effort to show “how contemporary artists continue to create visual representations of Hindu divinities in new and refreshing ways.” Radhadesh being “a spiritual community belonging to the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON),” it is only natural that a majority of the paintings in the book should be on Lord Krishna.

    A separate section is devoted to the art of the Hare Krishna movement which was also influenced by Italian art and Russian artists. The clarity of photographs, especially that of the beautiful old castle where the museum is housed, is such as to transport the reader to the museum. Also included are brief biographies of the artists.

    J. Bhagawati, Ambassador of India to Belgium, Luxembourg, and the EU, in his preface, mentions how the collection “reflects the rich multiple art forms of India.” In her foreword, Chistiane De Lauwer, Curator (South Asia), MAS/ Ethnographic Museum, Antwerp, says she was struck by the lack of knowledge in Belgium about one of the world's most ancient and rich cultures. So, she went on to study Indian art, language, and religion. The museum and catalogue grew out of the need to spread awareness on Indian spiritual art.

    Unlike in the West, the genre of spiritual art is still vibrant in India, says Martin Gurvich, Director, Museum of Sacred Art, in his introduction. The museum's focus is on living art forms rather than historical pieces, and so most of the pieces are from the 20th and 21st centuries.

    In her essay on the “Living Traditions in Indian Art: The Divine Image,” Tryna Lyons describes how spiritual art is found everywhere in the country and goes on to speak of the art and artists in various regions. Among the beautiful photographs featured from the museum collection are the ones of Lord Krishna with Radha, with gentle-eyed cows, with the gopis on the river bank. Gold-leaf worked paintings in the Tanjore style and Mysore style; the pichhavais (cloth hangings) from Nathadwara in Rajasthan; paintings on cotton and paper by artists such as B.G. Sharma and Indra Sharma; inlay work on wood from Karnataka; beautifully proportioned bronzes of Tamil Nadu; eye- catching Madhubani paintings from Bihar; and rod puppets from Indonesia also find a place. In all, a catalogue that compresses the essence of the museum exhibits and communicates the spirit of popular and contemporary Indian spiritual art to the West.

    Wednesday, April 27, 2011

    Gaitonde Painting is Top Seller at Pundole Auction
      BY CHELNA KHATAU   APR 22ND 2011 AT 6:00AM

    NS Bendre's Mother and Child

    An untitled painting by India's master abstract artist VS Gaitonde was the top-selling lot at the Pundole Gallery's inaugural art auction. The art sale, held at the National Centre for Performing Arts in Mumbai on April 20 raised a total Rs.11,51,70,000. And Lot 11, the Gaitodne, sold for an impressive Rs. 2.97 crore, almost Rs. 70 lakh more than the pre-sale upper limit of Rs. 2.20 crore.

    The Gaitonde and 19 other works sold were from the NCPA's collection, which included works from Jamshed Bhabha's private art collection as well. An auction highlight was the staggering price achieved for a landscape by Bhabha. The 1945 painting, estimated to sell for between Rs. 50,000 - Rs. 70,000, went for Rs. 15.4 lakh. 

    Also, a world record was set for a NS Bendre painting. His 1980 oil on canves of a mother cuddling her child (aptly titledMother and Child) sold for Rs. 99 lakh. 

    Bids came in from India as well as the United States, Hong Kong, Japan and Europe.

    Monday, April 25, 2011

    A home for Jehangir's collection

    Saloni Doshi | April 23, 2011

    The magnificent collection of Jehangir Nicholson finally finds a home.

    ONE FOR THE ALBUM: Nicholson, who liked to introduce himself as RK Laxman's Common Man, with his wife Dina. It was after her death in 1967 that he took to collecting contemporary Indian art seriously.
    ONE FOR THE ALBUM: Nicholson, who liked to introduce himself as RK Laxman's Common Man, with his wife Dina. It was after her death in 1967 that he took to collecting contemporary Indian art seriously.

    On the evening of April 11, the doors to the Jehangir Nicholson Art Foundation's first exhibition, Six Decades: Celebrating the Bombay Artists from the Jehangir Nicholson Collection, opened at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS), formerly known as the Prince of Wales Museum in Mumbai.

    It was an important moment in the history of post-colonial Indian art. Finally, one of India's most passionate collectors was being given the respect and space he deserved in a gallery named after him. The works on display represent only a sliver of a collection that consists of close to 800 paintings, sculptures, drawings and prints acquired from 1968 to 2001 of 250 Indian artists. The oldest artwork dates back to 1930.

    The current exhibition showcases works of Bombay artists such as Sadanand Bakre, Prabhakar Barwe, MF Husain, Francis Newton Souza, Adi Davierwalla, Tyeb Mehta, HA Gade, VS Gaitonde, Bhupen Khakhar, Jitish Kallat, Anju Dodiya, Atul Dodiya, Nalini Malani, Akbar Padamsee, Homi Patel, Sudhir Patwardhan, Gieve Patel, Piloo Pochkhanawalla, SH Raza, Jehangir Sabavala, Laxman Shreshtha, Mohan Samant and B Vithal.

    DINING OFF ART: Artworks lined Nicholson's dining room at his Worli bungalow, Westmore.

    The Jehangir Nicholson Collection tells the story of contemporary Indian art. What was perhaps most important to the pint-sized collector was to collect works from different phases of an artist's life so that he had a record of the artist's progress and passage. He wasn't happy just to have one token work from every important artist. The works of Raza and Laxman Shreshtha's shifting phases, for instance, are dramatically evident in the collection, as Nicholson bought them steadily from the forties onwards. As art critic Ranjit Hoskote says, "These paintings demarcate a rich universe of concern, revolving as they do around the relationship between an ironic human consciousness and a vast cosmos that speaks to it in polyphonic voices and signs ablaze with mystery."

    Jehangir Nicholson or Jangoo Bhai, as he was fondly called by his close friends (1915-2001 ), was born into a wealthy Parsi family that had established itself in the raw cotton trade. He grew up to take charge as director of the family's cotton selection and purchasing agency, Bruel and Co. However, Nicholson himself was a trained chartered accountant, and among his many social roles was Sheriff of Bombay, a post that he held for one year, and advisory board member to the National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA). Tragedy struck in 1967 when his beloved wife Dina passed away. They had no children.

    It was grief that made Nicholson embark on his voyage as a collector of contemporary Indian art. Devastated by his wife's death, he began to fill the vacuum in his life with things of beauty. In the '60s, art was not fashionable, nor was it pursued as a hot investment. Paintings and sculptures of local artists were not thought to be worth more than a few hundred rupees. Recalls Laxman Shreshtha, "In the 70s, when art collector Bill Chaudhary bought Souza's master work Death of a Pope (now in the Nicholson collection) for one thousand rupees, Souza made a statement that he earns more money than the prime minister."

    Saturday, April 23, 2011

    TIFR to exhibit rare artwork assembled by Homi Bhabha

    Express news service

    Posted: Apr 22, 2011

    The famous, breath-taking Husain mural, "Bharat Bhagya Vidhata". Painted in 1964, the most spectacular work in the most amazing collection...

    Mumbai Homi Jehangir Bhabha has always been remembered as one of the founders of modern science in India. But many do not know that he was also an artist in his own right. Not only was he passionate about paintings, music and literature, he is known to have mastered the arts to perfection.

    In a fitting tribute to its founder, the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) is, for the first time, bringing together a rare collection of painting and sculptures, to be exhibited for the wider public. Consisting of over 250 artworks, the collection was assembled by the first two directors of the institute, Bhabha and MGK Menon, between the early 1950s and 1970s. Of this, the exhibition titled ‘Homi Bhabha and modern Indian art: the collection of TIFR’ at the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA), will showcase over 130 paintings and sculptures.

    “It was Bhabha who set the tone for acquisitions, securing a set percentage of the institute’s yearly budget on art. He was a connoisseur of the highest rank. One of his paintings was recently sold at an auction for Rs 14 lakh. The exhibition will showcase the highlights of one of the most important collections of modern Indian art in existence. Though the TIFR art collection has a well-established reputation among the academic community, the works have rarely been viewed by a wider public. It’s only fitting that a substantial part of the collection be showcased,” said Kishore Menon, public relations officer, TIFR.

    “The artwork being showcased is one of the finest produced in the post-Independence period and it’s fantastic that Mumbai will get to see one of the country’s greatest collections,” said Mortimer Chatterjee, the curator.

    The art collection boasts of some of the largest numbers of work by K H Ara, V S Gaitonde, Krishen Khanna and K K Hebbar. It also includes Tyeb Mehta, Baburao Sadwelkar, Badrinarayan, M F Husain and Jehangir Sabavala. The exhibition at NGMA will be inaugurated on Sunday and will be open to the public Monday onwards.

    “TIFR is the only scientific institute in the country which has such a rare art collection. It also highlights Bhabha’s contribution to arts and his attempt at a synthesis of arts and science, which is reflected in his ideas and the institutions he created,” said professor Spenta Wadia, convener of the TIFR endowment fund, who has been overseeing the collection.

    Sunday, April 17, 2011

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    Rooted in the every day


    With his latest series “Frontal Narrative Sculptures” exhibited during the recent Chennai Art Summit, sculptor S. Nandagopal looks back at his four decades in the art world.

    Nandagopal at work in his studio. Photo: Bharat Sikka

    Sculptor S. Nandagopal's “Frontal Narrative Sculptures” uses commonly found articles like ladles, hooks and cleavers in a series of whimsical yet interesting bronze and copper works. Nandagopal continues to blend the ancient with the modern as he infuses figures from Hindu mythology with his innovative style.

    “Frontal Narrative Sculptures” was hosted by Artworld as part of the Chennai Art Summit last month. During a conversation before the exhibition, the sculptor traces his artistic journey of 40-odd years.

    The art scene in the 1960s and 1970s in Madras had been vibrant. As a young art student in the Madras Art College and later as a young professional, what were the sources of inspiration you gathered from the local and international art scenes that enabled you to develop a personal sculptural language?

    I studied at the Government College of Arts and Crafts in Madras in the 1960s and 1970s when the Madras Movement was at its height. It was a marvellous place. I owe much to its curriculum, setting and remarkable ethos. It had an excellent craft section where I used to spend a lot of time. It had some of the most renowned craftsmen in the state: ironsmiths, goldsmiths, furniture designers, textile weavers, dyers and so on, working and teaching alongside artist-instructors in painting and sculpture. There was an arrangement by which one doing painting, for instance, could go across and work in the sculpture section or in the ceramic workshop, textile design section or in the workshop of any other master craftsman. I would therefore move around in the workshops and observe the craftsmen at work, assist them sometimes or go over work in progress in the workshops and studios of craftsmen, painters or sculptors I looked up to. I knew very little about art those days but I could react to its workmanship no matter what medium and could be quite carried away by it.

    In the late 1960s and early 1970s when I was there, a number of painters and sculptors were doing outstanding work. There was so much interaction, initiative and upsurge that I felt some of it happening inside me too. There was an important movement on. Notable among those I personally empathised with were the sculptor P.V. Janakiram, and the painters Reddeppa Naidu, L. Munuswamy and A.P. Santhanaraj.

    I am particularly indebted to a school of drawing my senior colleagues and teachers had developed. It consisted of a line as soft and spontaneous as a Japanese brush stroke and just as free. With that they had developed a figure drawing that was so structured that it could do such complexities as an elephant-headed presence or a monkey-mannered wind-borne spirit or one that could multiply its limbs, head and body at will or issue out into configurations of calligraphic signs. That drawing remains with me and nourishes me still. It is that which activates my sculpture. On the international front, I have studied the work of abstractionists David Smith, Anthony Caro and Michael Puryear but remain a figurative sculptor as I believe that “Man will remain Man's greatest subject”.

    Can you describe/characterise the major shifts that have come about in your sculptural articulations in the last four decades?

    Like most sculptors of the Madras Art Movement, I began my career as a painter before I took to sculpture full time. My early work was inspired by folk and iconic sculpture and “frontality” was a key element right from the start. There were, of course, a few instances where I ventured into third dimensionaliy but I was unhappy with it as I felt it reached a dead end. The 1960s were a turbulent time in the Indian art movement when a synthesis of the West and the East was pursued relentlessly. Reviewing my work in Art International, the critic Phyllis Granoff gives an insight into my early work: “Nandagopal's sculptures are often large but perhaps their most obvious characteristic is that they compel the viewer's attention in two strikingly different ways. They first impose themselves as objects isolated in space and then invite a close-up reading of their numerous surface details. This remarkable synthesis of large imposing external shape with intimate playful surface detail Nandagopal himself relates to India's ancient artistic tradition, both folk and courtly.

    The 1970s saw a consolidation of “frontality” and “linearity” in my sculpture. The late Dr. Mulk Raj Anand's view on my work at this stage gives you some idea. “The vision of Nandagopal conjures up images which are startling with their twists and turns of the figure. The sensation of the onlooker has to yield to deeper realisations of the subterranean currents of our age and transition. The aesthetic of Nandagopal's sculpture is in the disharmony which compels the overflow of emotion. Beneath the outer form with the violent gestures one can see the shadows of delirium of the human soul.”

    The 1980s saw a subtle change coming into my sculpture. The critic and theoretician late James Josef commented on the element of lyricism that was creeping into my work. “The medium and workmanship in which Nandagopal has excelled has a lineage and history in mainstream world sculpture from which he has certainly taken his lessons. But it was the developments in Madras and especially the developments in pictorial figuration which really launched Nandagopal.”

    From the early 1990s and into the new millennium, my work has taken on a new phase: the narrative element. Geeta Doctor sums it up aptly: “He calls them ‘Frontal Narrative Sculptures'. This however gives no idea of the exuberant quality of Nandagopal's series of copper and brass pieces. They soar and leap into space with all the power and grace of a traditional piece of South Indian art, whether chiselled on stone, as they are at Mahabalipuram or the exquisite bronzes of the Chola period. Yet they are rooted in the every day.”

    As a sculptor, you have done very large to very small sculptures. What are the formal, technical and other considerations while undertaking such different projects in different scales?

    My work varies from very small sculptures to monumental ones. My work at Priyadarshini Park, Mumbai, commissioned by the National Centre for the Performing Arts, is 20 ft tall and the Garuda at the headquarters of the Transport Corporation of India Ltd in Gurgaon in 15 ft tall. As they were to be placed open to the skies, they had to be made of a material that would not corrode. Hence both sculptures were fabricated from stainless steel, which is a wonderful material for outdoor purposes. When it comes to interiors, I prefer to work with copper and brass, which when polished and coated with a polyurethene film lasts for a very long time.

    Shivaji K. Panikkar is an art theoretician and has served as head, Department of Art History and Aesthetics, M.S. University, Baroda.

    TOI: Valay Shende paints dark side of the India progress story
    Neelam Raaj | April 16, 2011

    Valay Shende's deeply political art smoulders with the still-warm ashes of farmers who have committed suicide.
    Shende's dabbawalas, who are made of clock dials to denote their punctuality, and his table sculpture are displayed at a Helsinki museum.
    Shende's dabbawalas, who are made of clock dials to denote their punctuality, and his table sculpture are displayed at a Helsinki museum.
    He's often been compared to Subodh Gupta. And like the bartan boy from Bihar, sculptor Valay Shende uses everyday Indian motifs such as tiffins, scooters, cars and cattle. But the similarity between the two men of steel ends there.

    The 31-year-old Shende is quite the angry, young artist. One who burrows into the interiors of Vidarbha in Maharashtra to meet the families of debt-ridden farmers and comes back to make an eight-seater, silver-plated dining table to mock the rich. The poignancy lies in the salt-and-pepper shakers which contain the ashes of Narsinglu Rukmawar, a farmer who committed suicide. The table is currently on display at the Helsinki art museum as part of the show Concurrent India along with an untitled work depicting the ever-punctual Mumbai dabbawala made of clock dials, and the traditional tiffin boxes replaced by "hungry stomachs".

    Monday, April 11, 2011


    Go-Go Gauguin!

    NEW ORLEANS , Louisiana -- 07 April 2011

    "Fleurs dans un vase avec partition musicale" by Paul Gauguin.

    "Fleurs dans un vase avec partition musicale" by Paul Gauguin.

    (Rau Antiques)

    "Aline," charcoal sketch, by Paul Gauguin.

    "Aline," charcoal sketch, by Paul Gauguin.

    (Rau Antiques)

    Gauguin lovers usually recall the lush landscapes and voluptuous women that Gauguin painted using his trademark bold brushstrokes and muted colors during his self-imposed exile in Tahiti that began in 1891.

    Others may or may not know that Gauguin was involved in a quarrel with van Gogh in Arles, France, with whom he was staying in 1888 for nine weeks, when van Gogh's ear got sliced off.

    Regardless of Gauguin's temper, and whether or not he chopped off van Gogh's ear, clearly Gauguin's artistic talent shaped him into the Post-Impressionist master that serious art collectors vie for at high profile auctions. The recent retrospective at the Tate Modern that ended in January,helped spur a renewed interest in his body of work.

    Rau Antiques in New Orleans, the country's largest gallery of antiques and fine arts from the 18th and 19th centuries, has two impeccable Gauguin works in its inventory.

    Eugène Henri Paul Gauguin's artistic career really took off after his job as a stockbroker came to an abrupt end in 1884, following the Paris stock market crash of 1882. He had painted in this free time, and in his early, formative years of painting, Gauguin formed an alliance with Camille Pisarro and Paul Cézanne in the early 1880's. Gauguin even exhibited in the Impressionist exhibitions in 1881 and 1882.

    This wonderful still life below, "Flowers in a Vase with a Musical Score" (1874-1876), was created during a time when painting had been a hobby for him. Without the worry of the financial uncertainties that shaped his decision to pursue art as a full-time career, this example of his work is very classic yet colorful and fluid-a born master of the canvas. A vivid blue vase is full of pale pastel and white flowers nearing their peak, with several stems at the base of the vase, either in the process of being placed in the vase, or having been left there. The vase is set on top of many sheets of music. The overall tone is soft and romantic.

    It is in this composition that the viewer can discern the technical proficiency that attracted the attention and admiration of fellow artists including Camille Pissarro, Vincent van Gogh and Edgar Degas. It was Pissarro who convinced Gauguin to enter a painting to the Salon of 1876. Pissarro and Degas were so taken by his work that they invited Gauguin to exhibit at the 1879 Impressionist Exhibition and subsequent exhibitions thereafter. Pissarro took Gauguin under his wing, schooling him in the Impressionist technique, of which the current work is a perfect example.

    "Fleurs dans un vase avec partition musicale" is an outstanding still-life displaying Gauguin's remarkable eye for composition. Thickly-layered paint and luminous colors, hallmarks of Gauguin's distinctive style, are used to their utmost effect in this remarkable oil.

    This painting is accompanied by a letter of authenticity by The Art Loss Register and is featured in the Wildenstein catalogue raisonné on the artist. Paintings by Gauguin hardly ever become available for acquisition. This particular work was executed early in the artist's career, and is indescribably rare since he created so few compositions during this period.

    Another seminal work that Rau Antiques is offering is entitled "Aline" and is a chalk and charcoal sketch on paper of his daughter (1884; $495,000). Bold strokes outline the body, but then become soft and shadowy. With her back turned to the viewer, Aline appears shy and reserved. One wonders what she is thinking.

    Admirers of Gauguin can view these two works, and other masterpieces by Gauguin's contemporaries, at Rau Antiques in New Orleans' French Quarter, the country's largest antiques and fine arts dealer. Founded in 1912, Rau Antiques has remained a family owned business and has been tapped to source some of the world's most unique art treasures for private collections and museums.

    Saturday, April 2, 2011

    Running of the 'Bulls': A $2.8 Million Record

    [ICONS indian]

    Tyeb Mehta's 'Bulls' commanded the second highest price ever for a work of Indian contemporary art at Christie's Wednesday.

    Nine years ago, the Indian artist Tyeb Mehta set a record when his triptych painting called "Celebration" sold at a Christie's auction for $317,500. It was the highest sum ever paid for an Indian painting at an international auction and an early milestone in a market boom for contemporary Indian art.

    On Wednesday, a painting by Mr. Mehta, who died in 2009, set another record, bringing in almost nine times the price of the 2002 sale. His diptych "Bulls" sold for $2.8 million at Christie's. The only contemporary Indian art work that has sold for more is a geometric painting by artist Syed Haider Raza, which sold for $3.5 million last June.

    Mr. Mehta, Mr. Raza and a handful of other Indian artists, including the late Francis Newton Souza and Maqbool Fida Husain, who is still painting at the age of 95, are reviving interest in contemporary Indian art after demand slowed during the recession. "It's the same pattern as China, but delayed," says Hugo K. Weihe, Christie's international director of Asian art. "India is geared to be second to China in Asia."

    Behind the rebound are wealthy Indian buyers—some living in the U.S. and the U.K.—who are taking increasing interest in the art of their native country. Mr. Weihe estimates the market for contemporary Indian art is "half from India, plus a large chunk of nonresident Indians in London and the U.S., and to a lesser but growing extent, Westerners."


    The Telegraph

    Friday , March 18 , 2011

    Politics with an edge on canvas - No longer a spectator to suffering, artist protests through paintings

    Painting and politics go hand in hand for the artist Shuvaprasanna, whose exhibition of recent works opens at CIMA Gallery on Friday. Apart from a set of flora and fauna executed in the artist’s signature style and some portraits of Tagore and Gandhi, there are a number of large-format paintings in this show based on political themes.

    In one, prominent leaders of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) are seated around a table bearing a corpse, presumably of an iconic leader from a bygone era, draped in the familiar red cloth. The menacing edge of the work is heightened by the fact that all the leaders have their left hand missing.

    In another, a lady in a white sari plays the flute as she is trailed, like the piper of Hamelin, by a group of men and animals.

    Although the inspiration behind these works may be pretty obvious, the artist prefers to qualify his art somewhat differently.

    “I am not a politician,” says Shuvaprasanna, “though I am a firm believer in democracy”. With a successful career spanning several decades, he has seen West Bengal go through many ups and downs. “For years, the people of this state were almost unwittingly reconciled to political tyranny,” he says. “Very few had the courage to criticise political power.”

    Shuvaprasanna says that he has made many “journeys” as an artist, experimenting with styles and soaking in a range of influences from the life around him.

    He has been a spectator to suffering from his earliest years. As a child, he spent hours at his physician father’s consulting chamber, sketching portraits of the patients who gathered there each day. Later, he was much taken by expressionist art that flourished between the two World Wars. The works of George Grosz and Emil Nolde held a singular appeal for him.

    Shuvaprasanna’s friendship with the German writer and artist, Günter Grass, also proved to be a turning point in his life. “Grass encouraged me to speak out against injustice,” he says, “though I have always protested against oppression of any kind.”

    He mentions that he had participated in a protest march, along with a handful of other intellectuals, after 18 Ananda Margis were burnt to death in broad daylight in 1982 and also after a gruesome assault on three women in Bantala in 1990.

    “But nobody took much notice then,” he says, before adding, on a hopeful note, that the situation is changing now. “But the ambience is such that the good people are seldom able to express themselves fully and freely,” he rues.

    Although Shuvaprasanna acknowledges the influence of contemporary events on his work, his goal, he says, is to create art that transcends the limits of time and place. “The ultimate aim of great art, such as Picasso’s Guernica, is to reach a level of sublime abstraction,” he explains. “I am always haunted by a sense of sadness and dissatisfaction regarding my work in spite of the popularity of my paintings.”