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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
C. A. Xuan Mai Ardia
- Curator Riyas Komu on political football and the Kochi-Muziris Biennale – video – October 2014 – Kochi-Muziris Biennale co-curator shared his thoughts on football, conflict resolution and his curatorial practice during ECH 2014
- Splintering boundaries: Ram Shergill’s kaleidoscopic photography – in pictures – August 2014 – British fashion photographer returns to his Indian roots, blurring the lines between commercial photography and contemporary art.
- From cosplay to steampunk: Artist Chitra Ganesh on her multi-discursive practice – interview – July 2014 – Chitra Ganesh talks about her training, how her identity influences her work and her new show at the Lakeeren Gallery, Mumbai
- Artist Prem Sahib exhibits for the first time in Mumbai – in pictures – April 2014 – British-Indian artist exhibits for the first time in India with a collection of minimalist work
- 15 years of Bharti Kher at Shanghai’s Rockbund Art Museum – picture feast – January 2014 – Shanghai’s RAM revisits 15 years of Bharti Kher’s artistic practice, exploring hybridity, female identity and traditions in Indian culture
Subscribe to Art Radar for more on contemporary art from South Asia