Drawings by 100 Indian contemporary artists – in pictures

An exhibition in New Delhi focuses on the medium of drawing spanning seven decades in Indian art.

Gallery Espace in New Delhi dedicates its 25th anniversary celebrations to the development and evolution of drawing in Indian art. Featuring works by some of the most influential Indian modern and contemporary artists, the show surveys the breadth of drawing from 1947 to the present.

Ram Kumar, Untitled, pen and ink on paper. Image courtesy Gallery Espace.

Ram Kumar, Untitled, pen and ink on paper. Image courtesy Gallery Espace.

Gallery Espace’s “Drawing 2014: Seven Decades of Indian Drawing”, on show at the Exhibition Hall of the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA) in New Delhi until 28 November 2014, is co-curated by Prayag Shukla along with Annapurna Garimella and Sindhura Jois DM from Jackfruit Research and Design, Bangalore.

Rollie Mukherjee, 'Dilemma', pen and collage. Image courtesy Gallery Espace.

Rollie Mukherjee, ‘Dilemma’, 2013, pen and collage. Image courtesy Gallery Espace.

The exhibition features the work of more than 100 artists, including influential modern and contemporary art practitioners and, according to the press release, “seeks to document, analyse and celebrate several art historically distinct Indian approaches to drawing.”

Manjunath Kamath, Untitled work. Image courtesy Gallery Espace.

Manjunath Kamath, Untitled work. Image courtesy Gallery Espace.

On display is the work of renowned artists such as older painting and sculpture pioneers Tyeb Mehta, F. N. Souza, M. F. Husain, Jogen Chowdhury, Meera Mukherjee and Ram Kumar, and younger generations of multidisciplinary and multimedia artists, including Atul Dodiya, Anju Dodiya, Riyas Komu, Arpita Singh, Birendra Pani, Surendran Nair, Zarina Hashmi, Jitish Kallat and Subodh Gupta, among others.

Somnath Hore, 'Untitled', watercolour on paper. Image courtesy Gallery Espace.

Somnath Hore, ‘Untitled’, watercolour on paper. Image courtesy Gallery Espace.

Atul Dodiya, 'Stag in Traffic'. Image courtesy Gallery Espace.

Atul Dodiya, ‘Stag in Traffic’. Image courtesy Gallery Espace.

Drawing has always been special to Renu Modi, Director of Gallery Espace, who opened the gallery at influential artist M. F. Husain’s insistence. She reveals in the press release:

It was the legendary M.F Husain who introduced me to the finer nuances of drawings and the intimate, small format nature of this genre has remained a personal favourite with me ever since. The smoothness of a Jamini Roy drawing, the performative nature of Husain’s own works, drawings by Laxma Goud and Manjit Bawa – these were part of my initial introduction to this genre.

Amitava Das, 'Untitled', mixed media on paper. Image courtesy Gallery Espace.

Amitava Das, ‘Untitled’, mixed media on paper. Image courtesy Gallery Espace.

Modi tells Art Scene India about her affinity for the medium:

I feel artists bare their souls in drawings, these are like musical notes, their mental notes. Drawings are also the foundation of any art, any discipline.

Akshay Rathore. 'Introspection', watercolour on paper. Image courtesy Gallery Espace.

Akshay Rathore. ‘Introspection’, watercolour on paper. Image courtesy Gallery Espace.

KG Subramanyan, 'Untitled', pastel on paper. Image courtesy Gallery Espace.

KG Subramanyan, ‘Untitled’, pastel on paper. Image courtesy Gallery Espace.

Drawing in Indian art history

Drawing can be a form of communication, a sign, a plan, a map or a mark on a surface. It is an essential part of an artist’s training and is used to sketch studies for sculptures, designs and artistic projects, but it also can be a final artwork.

Meera Mukherjee, 'Untitled', ink on paper. Image courtesy Gallery Espace.

Meera Mukherjee, ‘Untitled’, ink on paper. Image courtesy Gallery Espace.

Drawing in India has gone through changes and transformations throughout the centuries, from the Jain manuscripts and Ajanta murals dating back 2000 years, to the expression of nationalist sentiment by artists such as Jamini Roy, and the creation of an Indian modernism in dialogue with its European counterpart during the British colonial period, evident in the work of modernists such as F. N. Souza.

Anupam Sud, 'Leave some candles for tomorrow', conte on paper. Image courtesy Gallery Espace.

Anupam Sud, ‘Leave some candles for tomorrow’, conte on paper. Image courtesy Gallery Espace.

From the nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century, Indian artists started considering ‘art’ as a profession, and experimentation with what was popular in the West overshadowed drawing, making it a less valued form of art.

Krishen Khanna, 'Untitled', pencil on paper. Image courtesy Gallery Espace.

Krishen Khanna, ‘Untitled’, pencil on paper. Image courtesy Gallery Espace.

Anju Dodiya, 'Diamond in the Zoo'. Image courtesy Gallery Espace.

Anju Dodiya, ‘Diamond in the Zoo’. Image courtesy Gallery Espace.

Drawing as experimentation

With the 21st century and the Indian art market crash, drawing has taken on a new meaning in artists’ practices and is now being re-evaluated. Today, it is not merely a two-dimensional medium, but has transformed to embody a whole new set of forms of visual representation, including performance, installation, video and animation, textiles and embroidery, and sculpture, among others.

Birendra Pani, 'Day Dreamers in Baroda', serigraph drawing on paper. Image courtesy Gallery Espace.

Birendra Pani, ‘Day Dreamers in Baroda’, serigraph drawing on paper. Image courtesy Gallery Espace.

As Modi explains to Art Scene India:

[…] the time of two-dimensionality in art is over, it’s now about functionality, materiality and performative aspects of drawings that are being looked at. […] The approach to drawings has changed so much, they are no longer pen and ink works, or sketches on paper. For instance, in the 25th anniversary show, we have embroidered drawings by Rakhi Peswani, print-based scrolls by Paula Sengupta, very minimalistic works by Somnath Hore, video by Sonia Khurana, installation by Chintan Upadhyay, a sculptural drawing by Riyas Komu…and so much more – but all celebrating drawings.

Nagji Patel, 'Untitled', waterproof ink on archival paper. Image courtesy Gallery Espace.

Nagji Patel, ‘Untitled’, waterproof ink on archival paper. Image courtesy Gallery Espace.

In the press release, Curator Annapurna Garimella explains the concepts behind the exhibition:

“Drawing 2014” […] seeks to create a pedagogic space, which holds the possibility for theorising an important but under-studied practice in post-Independence art making. The project is also engaged with the prospect of creating a platform where the debate over categories such as “modern,” “contemporary,” “tribal” or “handmade” are historicised and contextualised. […] “Drawing 2014″ maps the multiple routes that the practice has travelled and celebrates seven decades of experimentation.

Amit Ambalal, 'Untitled', watercolour on paper. Image courtesy Gallery Espace.

Amit Ambalal, ‘Untitled’, watercolour on paper. Image courtesy Gallery Espace.

 C. A. Xuan Mai Ardia

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Related Topics: Indian artists, drawing, gallery shows, curatorial practice, events in New Delhi, picture feasts

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