Thursday, May 9, 2013

Rabindranath Tagore, Suranjan Basu, Soumik Nandy Majumdar and More


Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941)- Renaissance Man's 152nd Birthday

(Rabindranath Tagore)

A recipient of the Nobel Prize (1913) for literature, Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) was born in an affluent Bengali family. The versatile genius developed an acute sensibility towards various art forms such as literature, poetry, dance and music. He was well aware of contemporary cultural trends around the world. Tagore’s journey as a painter began in his late sixties as an extension of his poetic consciousness. Though he had hardly any formal training in art, he developed a highly imaginative and spontaneous visual vocabulary, enhanced by a sound understanding of visual art practices such as modern western, primitive and child art. 

Beginning as a subconscious process where doodles and erasures in his manuscripts assumed some form, Tagore gradually produced a variety of images including fantasized and bizarre beasts, masks, mysterious human faces, mystic landscapes, birds and flowers. His work displays a great sense of fantasy, rhythm and vitality. A powerful imagination added an inexplicable strangeness to his work that is sometimes experienced as eerie and evocative. Tagore celebrated creative freedom in his technique; he never hesitated to daub and smear coloured ink on paper to give life to his disquieting range of subjects. His drawings and ink paintings are freely executed with brush, rag, cotton-wool and even his fingers. For Tagore, art was the bridge that connected the individual with the world. A modernist, Tagore completely belonged to the world of his time particularly in the realm of art. 

(from NGMA website)

Last Harvest at NGMA, Mumbai

(painting by Tagore)

The Last Harvest is the largest curatorial project of the paintings and drawings of Rabindranath Tagore. Fine art came late to the Nobel Laureate. At the age of 67, after the world celebrated him as a playwright, author and poet—and he travelled across and assimilated cultures of the world—Tagore discovered the painter in him, a passion that he would have time for often at night after his day’s commitments and works were over, says Professor Raman Siva Kumar, a Tagore historian who teaches at the Visva-Bharati University in Shantiniketan. “I am hopelessly entangled in the spell that the lines have cast around me,” Tagore wrote at that time.

(painting by Tagore)

Across his writings, there are doodles and basic sketches, some of which are on the walls of Kolkata’s Rabindra Sadan metro station. Into his late 60s, Tagore developed his doodles and took them further to their aesthetic ends. Often the text under them erased. “Sketching was often a way to erase meanings for him, and to find new meanings,” said Siva Kumar, on a guided tour of the show of drawings and paintings that opened to the public on 20 April at Mumbai’s National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA). He never dated or titled his paintings because he said that contrary to his writings, which always began with an idea, his drawings and paintings began with a line of a form, and the idea emerged later.

(painting by Tagore)

As part of the 150th birth anniversary of Tagore, the Indian government asked Siva Kumar and Visva-Bharati to curate this show, that has already travelled to Berlin, New York, London, Korea, Chicago, Paris, Rome, Ontario, Kuala Lumpur and Delhibefore opening in Mumbai. From the collections of Visva-Bharti, Rabindra Bhavan and the NGMA, these works span from 1928-1941. During his lifetime, starting at 67, he created around 2,000 drawings and paintings.

The works are categorised in four groups: earliest paintings, geometrical, playful cross-projections of ink on paper; meditative landscapes and flower pieces; dramatic gestures and moments (influenced by his work as a playwright) and portraits that are products of social and psychological probing.

(painting by Tagore)

It is a fallacy to describe Tagore only as a “universalist or humanist” who borrowed rationalist ideas from the West and applied them in his art. He was a nationalist first. He found his subjects around his immediate reality; his eye and soul were in subjects steeped in situations common to Bengal and the nation—like in the work of all great artists, in Tagore’s work it is impossible not to find the provincial in the universal. Needless to elaborate, Tagore played a monumental role in India’s freedom struggle.

When it comes to his drawings and paintings, as this show illuminates, the provincial is more hidden, and needs to be found. In fine art, his lines are fluid, and they exalt in the possibility of infinite expression.


Suranjan Basu (1952-2002)

Artist, activist, friend, soul mate and a genial soul, that was Suranjan Basu for most of his friends. Art historian Soumik Nandy Majumdar remembers Basu who had been fondly called 'Tublu' by all. 

Suranjan Basu (1957–2002), fondly remembered as Tublu-da by his countless friends and students was a tall slender man with a sharp gaze and a deep empathy that characterized his persona as well as his art. We remember him as one of those teachers on the campus who was always ready to interact, argue, discuss and always with a refreshing urgency and passion which came very naturally to him. His passion was no doubt infectious. So was his teaching. Despite his own ever-growing commitment to certain artistic-ideals, by temperament he was amazingly open to a myriad of diverse, even contrary ideas and approaches without an iota of resistance. Suranjan’s resistance as an individual artist was ideological rooted and more political in nature. Even a cursory look at his images suggests that.

(work by Suranjan Basu)

Agonized people on the street, nameless yet explicit faces of deprivation and struggle, daily hardships of the browbeaten – these were some of the persistent motifs in Suranjan Basu’s art. Primarily a consummate and highly innovative printmaker, he reacted strongly to the social incongruities engendered by the exploitative capitalist forces, responded to the ugly realities of contemporary life and was peeved at the repulsive display of wealth by the upper classes in contrast with the abject poverty of the struggling mass. This particular sense of social realism, perhaps bordering on the imagined fear of cliché in the age of skepticism, was certainly political, developed as a reaction against the self-obsessed and self-indulgent narratives widely practiced in contemporary art. Gradually his project also encompassed concerns within a broader spectrum where he extended his thoughts related to art practice not only to its content but also to its place in society. Going further, he took up various strategies to re-educate and re-enlighten society which included initiatives like putting up works of art on the street of suburbs outside the elite cultural zones. His commitment to these values remained undiminished till his untimely demise at the age of 45.

 (drawing by Suranjan Basu)

Born and brought up in Santiniketan, Suranjan grew up as a keen observer who came into close contact with both nature and people with remarkable intensity.  Having completed his Graduation in Printmaking from Kala Bhavana, Santiniketan, Suranjan went to Baroda for his Masters in Printmaking, moved to Delhi for a while and eventually came back to Santiniketan where he taught at Kala Bhavana for the rest of his life. One of the founder members of the Artists’ collective called ‘The Realists’ in 1984, Suranjan believed in a certain notion of ‘real’ defined within the contours of the Left visual rhetoric dedicated to tell stories of the class struggle and unrealized democracy. Circumventing the typical rhetorical and propagandist imageries, Suranjan invested more on the thematic and narrative potentials of his art often with an overtone of satire and sarcasm.

(wood cut by Suranjna Basu)

Suranjan’s political urgency and his stylistic inclinations do remind us of George Grosz when the latter wrote, ‘…art is something which demands a clear-cut decision from artists’. For Suranjan, protest one such clear decision.

(woodcut by Suranjan Basu)

However, deep down the core Suranjan’s art is also about his compassionate share of subject’s predicament. One reads into the pictures not only the subjective insinuations but an earnest personal view of things. There is an element of care for the people and their belongings including their indigenous culture. In one of the woodcuts for instance, from the series ‘Sketchy History’, the image of a boatman holding and playing a dotara (popular folk string-instrument from Bengal) embodies a certain cultural pride and dignity with a rare conviction. The way the figure holds the instrument invests the object with the quality of a gift for one who has labored. In another work from the same series, one finds migration of the poor people is the theme with a family occupying the center stage of the space. When evictions and displacements have become a regular story in today’s market politics, this family group is a moving image of victims of deception and penury forced to walk towards a hostile world where impoverishment is the only certainty, as it were.

Suranjan, for whom political commitment was never a hindrance to art confronted this predicament head on, seeking a justice.


FICA ‘s Emerging Artists Award 2013 applications now open

The Foundation for Indian Contemporary Art, FICA, New Delhi, is currently accepting applications for this year’s Emerging Artist Award 2013. The EAA is presented by FICA in collaboration with Pro-Helvetia -  Swiss Arts Council, and Vadehra Art Gallery.

The winner of this prize will participate in a 12 weeks international residency program in Switzerland and a solo exhibition of works in New Delhi. The prize also includes a round trip from the city of residence of the winer to the residency and back.

This award supports young Indian talent, studying or practicing in India. An independent jury of art professionals and artists will select the winner, like every year.

The deadline for the application for the Emerging Artist Award is 30th June 2013. The application forms can be downloaded form the FICA website.

Being Moved - The Kochi- Muziris Biennale - A lecture by Rasna Bhushan

(Rasna Bhushan)

The Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum, Mumbai presents a lecture, ‘Being Moved - The Kochi- Muziris Biennale’  by eminent art critic, Rasna Bhushan. The lecture is taking place on the 11th of May 2013, 6: 30 pm, at the Origins of Mumbai Gallery, in the museum.

Rasna Bhushan will speak on the importance of India’s first Biennale, the Kochi-Muziris Biennale which was held from 12-12-2012 to the 13-3-2013. The subject explores the art awareness and consciousness brought about  by the Biennale. Discussing about certain specific art works from the biennale, she will be talking about the large site-specific and history-specific nature of the works on display, bringing together artistic communities from the world over and connecting the local and the global peoples.

Rasna Bhushan is an art critic who graduated from the Faculty of Fine Arts, MS University Baroda. She has written on several Indian artists and has lectured on contemporary Indian art in India and abroad.

Eternal Recurrence - Parul Thacker’s Web of thoughts

Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke, Mumbai, present the first solo show of works by artist Parul Thacker, in a show titled, ‘Eternal Recurrence’. The show displays a variety of mediums used to create the works, ranging from fibre, weaves and its variants, to unconventional  pigments like ash lead to create surfaces which merge and emerge from the substrates.

With degrees in textile designing and surface ornamentation, Parul blends two very disparate mediums to create sculptures, installations, drawings and photography.This organic amalgamation of these various mediums on canvas is Parul Thacker’s forte.

The show is on view for an extended period of time till the 30th of June 2013 with special  extended gallery hours till 9:30 pm, for Art Night Thursday, today, the 9th of May 2013.

Leonardo’s Mind Leonardo’s Art -  Workshop by Kedar Kulkarni

(sketch by Da Vinci)

Piramal Gallery, NCPA, Mumbai presents a workshop being conducted by artist Kedar Kulkarni specially designed for art and design enthusiasts. Not just any random ‘Art lesson’ this workshop offers a once in a life time opportunity to learn Leonardo Da Vinci’s system of drawing and techniques. The sessions are planned in a way that they can benefit anyone with an artistic bent of mind or intent.

The workshop intends to introduce and instill the thinking patterns of the great master by references to his notebooks, writings and sketches. The emphasis is on making the student aware of seeing an object correctly in order to emulate its essence.

The workshop can help Artists, Animators, Photographers, Digital painters, Graphic designers, Gallerists, Collectors, Illustrators and Architects

The workshop is on for two days, 25th May and 26th of May 2013.

To register please call : +91 9930916234.

(News Reports by Sushma Sabnis)

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