KNMA, Saket, Delhi

Walking through a Songline

The Australian High Commission in India together with the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art (KNMA) is bringing a unique showcase of the immersive multimedia installation 'Walking Through a Songline' (WTAS) to New Delhi. This dramatic digital experience is based on a component of the National Museum of Australia’s internationally acclaimed exhibition Songlines: Tracking the Seven Sisters.

Songlines: Tracking the Seven Sisters, in which more than 100 artists are represented, is an Aboriginal-led exhibition developed in 2017 which takes visitors on a journey along the epic Seven Sisters Dreaming tracks, through art, Indigenous voices, innovative multimedia, and other immersive displays.

Image Courtesy: National Museum of Australia and Mosster Studio

The exhibition offers a glimpse into Raghu Rai’s life’s work in the five decades where he travelled and captured every nook and corner of our vast nation - India. Much is already known about Raghu Rai — a critically acclaimed photographer who has received national honours and gained international eminence over the years through the intensity of his photographic practice, primarily through his career as a photojournalist and photography books. This exhibition claims to focus on the enigmatic and lesser-known Raghu Rai, his extraordinary ability to gather the breadth of experiences and his all-encompassing vantage point in photographing India and her people. Very few have explored India and its multi-dimensional reality, its buzzing streets and bylanes, nooks and corners, walls and facades, bridges and bazaars like Rai has for nearly six long decades. Fascinated by the world around him, he has photographed the pulse of the ‘everyday’ and its simultaneous unfolding as ‘live theatre’.

This exhibition focuses on the pre-digital phase of Rai’s career, when he used analog/ film photography, exploring it with unprecedented fervour, freedom and imagination. From his inexhaustible archives of photographs that defy being contained easily within any of his exhibitions, a fresh slice has been pulled out which brings many extraordinary photographs into the public domain for the first time. Concentrating on his black and white photographs, this exhibition presents his longterm interest in photographing political and spiritual leaders, and also traces his practice that evolved at the interstices of his years as a photojournalist.

ABOUT RAGHU RAI

Raghu Rai (b.1942, Jhang, Pakistan) qualified as a civil engineer and began photographing at the age of 23. He joined The Statesman newspaper as their chief photographer (1966-1976), and thereafter he became the Picture Editor with Sunday, a weekly news magazine published from Calcutta (1977-1980). In 1971, impressed by Rai’s exhibition at Gallery Delpire in Paris, Henri Cartier-Bresson nominated Rai to Magnum Photos. Rai took over as Picture Editor-Visualizer-Photographer at India Today (1982- 1991), and worked on special issues and designs, contributing trailblazing picture essays on social, political and cultural themes of the decade.

He was awarded the Padma Shri in 1972 for his work on the liberation war of Bangladesh and its refugees. In 2009, he was conferred the Officier des Arts et des Lettres by the French government. In 2019, Rai was honoured as the laureate of the first edition of the Académie des beaux-arts Photography Award - William Klein.

Rai’s exhibition history in India and abroad is exhaustive and his photographs are widely collected by public and private collectors. Solo exhibitions include A Journey of a Moment in Time, Palais de l’Institut de France, Paris (2019), Trees at PHOTOINK (2013), Foto Freo Festival, Perth (2011), Format Festival (2011), The Journey of a Moment in Time: Raghu Rai at National Gallery of Modern Art (New Delhi & Mumbai, 2008), Photographs: Raghu Rai at Casa Asia, Barcelona (2008) and Asiatica Film Mediale, Rome (2008), A Retrospective: Raghu Rai at Les Rencontres De La Photographie, Arles (2007), India at Museo Capitolini Centrale Montemartini, Rome (2005), Bhopal 1984-2004 at Melkweg Gallery, Amsterdam (2005), Exposure at Drik Gallery, Dhaka and at Leica Gallery, Prague (2004), and Solo Show at Sala Consiliare, Venice and at Photographic Gallery, Helsinki (2003), La India at Centro de la Imagen, Mexico City (1999) and A Retrospective: Raghu Rai at National Gallery of Modern Art (1997).

Raghu Rai lives in Delhi and his works are represented by PHOTOINK

 

MIRROR/ MAZE: Echoes of song, space, spectre, Works from the KNMA collection

The formulation of this exhibition owes its stimulus to artists and their compelling forms of practice, initiating a re-thinking about art and its presence in our lives. Watching an artist push the limits of her body and mind to endure pain and perform her seven deaths is a telling image, perhaps of a long drawn struggle to liberate herself from the fear of mortality and the unknown. Deeper truths often lie beyond the realm of reason. Artists hold a mirror to the sensed, felt and partially known worlds.

The self-willed journeys of these artists not only highlight the meticulousness of their craft, depth of their content and enchantment with technology, but more so, their determination, focus and grit to confront the ineffable and indefinable through their practice. With a creative force oscillating between meditation and labour, stillness and action, aimlessness and purpose, they gather themselves to step out of their comfort zone, enter unfamiliar spaces and labyrinths and take us along into the deeper realms of our being. They raise difficult questions that have no easy or definite answers.

The exhibition in the form of a space-maze, takes the viewers through long corridors that lead us into dark spans and illuminated areas, into painted images and artificial hyper realities, immaterial presences and fantastical objects, evoking an impalpable sense of awe, beauty, and mystery in the ‘surreality’ of time and space.

These encounters open paths for newer understandings.

And we become much more than what we are, in that moment of realization.

'Very Small Feelings' is co-produced by Kiran Nadar Museum of Art and Samdani Art Foundation (SAF). It is the fourth exhibition under KNMA's multi-part, long-term program 'Young Artists of Our Times' which was initiated in 2019. First iteration of the exhibition was organised as part of Dhaka Art Summit 2023 (3 - 11 February).

The exhibition is curated by Akansha Rastogi (Senior Curator, KNMA) and Diana Campbell (Artistic Director, Dhaka Art Summit) with Ruxmini Choudhury (Assistant Curator, Samdani Art Foundation), Avik Debdas and Swati Kumari (Curatorial and Research Associates, KNMA).

Artists and Projects in 'Very Small Feelings':

Ade Dianita and Aditya Novali, Afrah Shafiq, Afra Eisma, Ahmet Ogut, Ali Sethi, Amitav Ghosh, Salman Toor and Ali Sethi / Junglenama, Anga Art Collective, Anpu Varkey, Artreach-KNMA Teaching Fellowship, Ashfika Rahman, Atreeye Dey, Blaise Joseph and NEG Fire, BenodeBehari Mukherjee, Chittaprosad, David Horvitz, Devi Prasad and Art Education at Sevagram/Nai Talim, Driant Zeneli, Ganesh Pyne, Ghazaleh Avarzamani, Joydeb Roaja, Roman Ondak, Ha Bik Chuen, Irushi Tennekoon, Jani Ruscica, Jessy Razafimandimby, Kabir, Ahmed Masum Chisty, Kelly Sinnaphah Mary, Lapdiang Syiem, Leela Mukherjee, Lokesh Khodke, Marzia Farhana, Matthew Krishanu, Mong Mong Sho, Murari Jha, Neha Choksi, Nidhi Khurana, Prasad Shetty and Rupali Gupte, Sanjoy Chakraborty, Samina Mishra / The Magic Key Centre, Simon Fujiwara, Susanta Mandal, Satyajit Ray, Thao Nguyễn Phan, Yasmin Jahan Nupur

Very Small Feelings (VSF) gently holds and hosts the figure of the child, and approaches childhood as a place that one can enter and exit at will. The exhibition gathers artists, child-artists and visitors to imagine and create environments, architectural spaces and a range of intensities that require exploration in their own terms through play, storytelling, participation and willful engagement. The exhibition seeks to encounter the eternal inner child who lives inside everyone, and binds us strongly to it. Interested in the spoken word, and the generative space of orality built through the telling and retelling of stories, it brings together forty-two projects ranging from new commissions, historical works, performances, books, personal and institutional archives, artist's creative prompts turned into installations, and many kinds of landscapes.

Nothing is older than a child. The adage is circuitous, expansive, like a labyrinth; it pushes one to find ways and meanings through it and makes one attentive to language, scale and selfhood of all things. VSF is speckled with artworks made by children, some with annotations indicating how to read, approach these drawings and the category of child-art, by artist-educator Devi Prasad. These drawings – from a three-year old’s scribblings to a fifteen-year old’s rendering of a summer afternoon in a village – are brilliantly expressive, intuitively alive and telling of how inseparable the self and the external world is for a child. With these drawings, ‘Very Small Feelings’ flows into a much less rigid register of the senses, of the instinctive muscular movements of the body, of memory, nostalgia and longing, and towards a subjectivity without consciousness. VSF uses the saying ‘Nothing is older than a child’ as a provocation to turn the museum into a playground and a creative space for intergenerational conversations.

We call this space for intergenerational conversations and entanglements a Spread. And this Spread is loving, permeable, ambiguous, and dazed; full of stories and fables, rituals and folklore, characters, popular cartoons, children's books and illustrations, memories, and actions that produce many kinds of surfaces. One end of the Spread highlights pedagogical experiments and creative collaborations between artists and young learners, historically looking at children’s culture and practices of select South Asian modernists as illustrators and initiators of platforms for learning and arts mediation. The other end deeply engages with idea of ‘a child’ as instinct, curiosity, play, imagination, innocence, language, future, past, and much more – a whole person with emotions, germs, feelings, pursuits, questions, silliness, joyous wonderment, inheritance, memories, and innumerable things passed down genetically and culturally.

Artists in the Spread appear as storytellers, researchers, provocateurs, educators, prisms, and makers developing different methods in their unique environments. They invite us to tap into our memories, feelings, experiences, and beliefs in the world beyond what we see with our eyes, beyond linear, sequential time. To feel the far away as near, the near as far, the minute as monumental, the monumental as minute, all with a sense of magic and awe. Playful and anecdotal stories change as they travel from mouth to ear and to mouth again, animating the uneventful repetition of daily rituals into something profound, amplifying the thud of a falling jackfruit that stuns two siblings, wafting smells of disappeared places, raising a swell of questions around gender that prod a young mind, amongst many other things examining childhood through our lived experiences and biases. While there is much that is hard to remember and to reconcile, we must return to our inner child to heal traumas we may carry as adults.

Inside the Spread, Who the Baer, Sanbras, Bonna, Meena, Bon Bibi, a stag, the two unnamed siblings, a young boy, a mother with her toddler, father and son, Shakchunni and many other characters who are real in the imaginations of many, tease out tales, histories, emotions, big and small, through their relationships with other bodies, with family, community, and the world around them. So, let’s enter gently, in pairs or with a chosen group. To play, to be the play, to do what we like. There are many rituals to choose from, stories to listen to, many ears to which to tell yours, too. It is all a day’s rhythm. The night shall bring its own hum.

About ‘Young Artists of Our Times’ series

Young Artists of Our Times (YAOT) is an evolving form articulating and shaping itself through a series of exhibitions, publications, clubs, libraries, conversations, and public art commissions, as a nomenclature and trace. It is conceptualized by Akansha Rastogi as a long-term, multi-part program at the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art. In its volitions, institutional partnerships, and assemblies, YAOT explores a range of artistries, approaching the ‘young’ as a sensory body. It engages with the idea of ‘youthfulness’ as a transformative, restless, and critical space of inquiry and experimentation, asking what it means to locate oneself in the language and terms of the young, not simply as an age, but as a larger conceptual framework and place to dwell on the anxieties and urgencies of an unfolding and unresolved present.

About Samdani Art Foundation

The Samdani Art Foundation (SAF) is a private arts trust based in Dhaka, Bangladesh, founded in 2011 by collector couple Nadia and Rajeeb Samdani to support the work of the country's contemporary artists and architects. Led by Artistic Director and Curator Diana Campbell, SAF seeks to expand the audience engaging with contemporary art across Bangladesh and increase international exposure for the country's artists. Its programmes support Bangladeshi artists in broadening their creative horizons through production grants, residencies, education programs, and exhibitions. To achieve this, SAF collaborates with the Bangladeshi government through official partnerships with the Ministry of Cultural Affairs, People’s Republic of Bangladesh, and the Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy.

Download Exhibition Booklet   Download Hindi ArtistBoards   Download English ArtistBoards

Outreach Activities for Very Small Feelings

Fluffy & Loose: Building fictional characters through a textile-based workshop

Facilitated by Afra Eisma

05 July, Wednesday | 11: 00 – 4:00 pm

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Poke Press Squeeze Clasp

KNMA presents a series of public talks, in conjunction to our ongoing exhibition Very Small Feelings. The first talk of this series titled ‘Poke Press Squeeze Clasp’ by Afra Eisma....

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Exhibition Walkthrough and an Evening of Readings

Led by Curators Akansha Rastogi and Diana Campbell with Ruxmini Choudhury, Avik Debdas, Swati Kumari and participating artists....

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Jungle Nama and the Power of the Oral: Lores, Legends and Climate Memory

They say when you retell a legend or listen to one, new voices come to it to haunt and change the narrative. The exhibition...

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The not-known, the not-yet-formalised: very small feelings

Co-curators of the exhibition, Very Small Feelings, Akansha Rastogi and Diana Campbell will be in conversation and will discuss how the exhibition took shape...

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The Question of Form

Form has been usually analysed as corruption of platonic objects, as an ensemble of components, as formation through different...

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The Question of Scale

In this workshop Diana Campbell will share case studies and speak about her curatorial process of commissioning artworks for different exhibitionary formats...

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Around the Table: Conversations about Milestones, Memories, Mappings is a recollection of times and practices of a generation of artists who shaped the landscape of art in post-Independence India. Playing crucial roles as individuals, as collectives and as fellows, they responded and sought remedy to the emerging demands of a young nation.

Around the Table: Conversations about Milestones, Memories, Mappings

5th November 2022 to 22nd December 2022

KNMA, Saket


Around the Table: Conversations about Milestones, Memories, Mappings is a recollection of times and practices of a generation of artists who shaped the landscape of art in postIndependence India. Playing crucial roles as individuals, as collectives and as fellows, they responded and sought remedy to the emerging demands of a young nation. As cities like Bombay and Delhi expanded with the spirit of cosmopolitanism, and places like Baroda turned into testing grounds for art-institutional experiments, the seven citizen-artists–Akbar Padamsee, Krishen Khanna, Gulammohammed Sheikh, Arpita Singh, Jyoti Bhatt, Himmat Shah and Vivan Sundaram—stood out as distinct voices with clear positions, unapologetically honest about their beliefs. For the times to come, they would remain as trailblazers of not just artistic languages but as pedagogues, initiators and interlocutors of modern and contemporary art in India, often blurring the contours of the nation through their commitment to cultural heterogeneity and transnational ideals.

A few trajectories that contour the exhibition seek to uncover intersections and chanceencounters between the practices of these seven artists as friends, colleagues or fellow travellers. They mobilized to form artists groups like Group 1890 (formed in 1962), set up publications such as the Vrishchik (1969-1973), gave rise to artistic experimentations in workshops such as the Vision Exchange (1969-1972) workshop or the historic exhibition Place for People (1981) to name a few, paraded together protesting against censorship and coercions. As initiators, institution builders, pedagogues, authors, spearheading art movements, mentors to generations of artists, milestone-makers with the force of iconic exhibitions and publications, their contribution remains irrefutable. Expressing themselves in diverse materials and linguistic idioms, their artistic experiments have been as layered and multifaceted as their lives as they have journeyed to the west in a bid to invent a new artistic vision for a new nation or travelled to the remotest corners of the country to observe the fast-changing rural contexts. Although the exhibition inspissates by the practices of seven artists, the show aims at creating signs and indicators towards the practices generated from the 1950s onwards by many others. The exhibition will unfold these interrelationships through iconic artworks, photographs and archival material primarily from the KNMA collection.

“The present exhibition is approached as a midnight feast where the seven co-travellers have gathered to rest their bundles of images and stories after their long travel. As dawn, slowly bleeds into the fading darkness and wanderers are placed around the tavern’s dinner table, a rich repertoire of ephemera and memories unfold. The many accounts constituted by the detritus of these artistic connections and crossings build up a vision of history and time that I was fortunate to inherit from some of the awardees showcased in the exhibition, who were also my teachers and mentors.”

- Roobina Karode, Chief Curator & Director, KNMA

About Asia Society India

Asia Society's purpose is to navigate shared futures for Asia and the world across policy, arts and culture, education, sustainability, business, and technology. Founded in 1956 by John D. Rockefeller 3rd, Asia Society is a nonpartisan, nonprofit institution with Centres in New York, Hong Kong, Houston, Los Angeles, Manila, Melbourne, Mumbai, Paris, San Francisco, Seoul, Sydney, Tokyo, Washington, D.C., and Zurich. It fulfils its educational mandate through a wide range of cross-disciplinary programming. As economies and cultures have become more interconnected, the Society's programs have expanded to address a range of issues and pressing concerns in Asia.

Established in 2006, the Asia Society India Centre presents an array of perspectives on business, policy and the arts in modern South Asia through multidisciplinary programmes, initiatives and research. It has hosted over 800 events since its inception and has established itself as an important platform for conversations, innovation and collaborations across the subcontinent and beyond.

“Asia Society India has always been deeply committed to the arts as one of its key areas of focus and impact - the Asia Arts Game Changer Awards are a testament to that. 2021 marked fifteen years of Asia Society in India, and to commemorate this milestone, we decided to present a collaborative exhibition that would celebrate the legacy of our flagship Awards, co-chaired by Pheroza Godrej, Sangita Jindal, Kiran Nadar and Radhika Chopra. Mrs. Nadar has had a long association with the Asia Society globally and it is therefore an honour for us to be able to partner with the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art for our first-ever exhibition. We are grateful to Roobina Karode, a member of our advisory council for arts and culture, for curating this - a small tribute to our Asia Arts Vanguard awardees, some of India's most eminent artists, with the hope that it can help viewers deep dive into their world, tracing the arc of their intersecting artistic journeys over their decades of practice.”

- Inakshi Sobti, Chief Executive Officer, Asia Society India Centre

"Printmaking can never be totally predictable. It is like a sunrise over a landscape. You know what is about to unfold but never cease to be surprised by the revelation."

- Anupam Sud

It is often said that the darkest hour is before dawn. Darkness and shadow, obscurity and illumination can be considered essential metaphors in the manifestation of light in a larger philosophical sense. If one were to subject these values to a formal analysis of art, then it becomes clear that they become vital constituents for the emanation and evocation of the chiaroscuro. A compositional device of contrasting light and shade deployed as a modelling technique, it is an effective aid in an artist or stage director’s toolbox, capable of unfolding time as well as piercing the heart of darkness. Anupam Sud is a grand master of chiaroscuro. The artist has over the years administered it to an intense, almost meditative and exacting investigation. But what are the sources and meaning of the strange life drama in Anupam’s world, a realm suspended between light and dark, theatric vows and broken words?

An exhibition on photography will be opening simultaneously at KNMA, Saket. Produced by intrepid travellers, writers, journalists, photographers and artists, the exhibits will span the colonial, modern and postcolonial periods of subcontinental history from the mid-nineteenth-century to the 1970s. It will feature works of notable French photographers over broad spans of time, such as Louis-Théophile Marie Rousselet; a French traveller in India during the 1860s who met India’s first photographer king, Sawai Ram Singh II in Jaipur. Marc Riboud a celebrated French photojournalist who worked for Paris-based Magnum Photos from 1953-78 and travelled all around Asia in the 50s along with the works of many other modern European masters such as Denis Brihat, Paul Almasy, Edward Miller and Bernard Pierre Wolff among others.

Convergence

A Panorama of Photography’s French Connections in India

28 April 2022 to 30 June 2022

KNMA Saket


An exhibition on photography will be opening simultaneously at KNMA, Saket. Produced by intrepid travellers, writers, journalists, photographers and artists, the exhibits will span the colonial, modern and postcolonial periods of subcontinental history from the mid-nineteenth-century to the 1970s. It will feature works of notable French photographers over broad spans of time, such as Louis-Théophile Marie Rousselet; a French traveller in India during the 1860s who met India’s first photographer king, Sawai Ram Singh II in Jaipur. Marc Riboud a celebrated French photojournalist who worked for Paris-based Magnum Photos from 1953-78 and travelled all around Asia in the 50s along with the works of many other modern European masters such as Denis Brihat, Paul Almasy, Edward Miller and Bernard Pierre Wolff among others.

The exhibition has been touring different cities across India, including Bengaluru and Ahmedabad and will be exhibited in Chennai, Kolkata and Mumbai in the coming months. We are glad to announce that the original photographs will being shown at KNMA, Saket, with Gelatin silver prints (modern)by Marc Riboud, Gelatin silver bromide prints by Paul Almasy and group portraits in front of painted studio settings. Photogravure on paper mount on card board by unidentified photographers will be amongst other in the display.

Somnath Hore (1921- 2006), or Somnath da as his students and appraisers admiringly addressed him, was born in Barama village in Chittagong, in undivided Bengal (present Bangladesh). His life and art exemplified an artistic practice that drew from a collective ideology of existential amelioration, equality and empathy, all in tandem with Hore’s own personal philosophy expressed through his writings and interviews.

Somnath Hore | Birth of a White Rose

28 April 2022 to 30 June 2022

KNMA Saket


Somnath Hore (1921- 2006), or Somnath da as his students and appraisers admiringly addressed him, was born in Barama village in Chittagong, in undivided Bengal (present Bangladesh). His life and art exemplified an artistic practice that drew from a collective ideology of existential amelioration, equality and empathy, all in tandem with Hore’s own personal philosophy expressed through his writings and interviews.

The title of the exhibition drawn from one of Somanath’s iconic work ‘Birth of a White Rose’ (which received the Lalit Kala Akademi National Award in 1962). It refers to the curatorial intention of exploring a practice which transcended fragile contours of the corporeal and the troubled geographical terrains, and touched the realm of the abstract by embracing the figural. This aspect of in-betweenness of the body and the spirit is central to the exhibition’s curatorial proposition.

A subcontinental match to Oskar Kokoschka or Käthe Kollwitz in artistic spirit and aesthetic idioms, Somnath internalised the crux of socialist values and transmuted them into a visual language—lucid, tangible and comprehensible to the masses. His works from various phases in diverse mediums were markers of the volatile times that the artist lived through. Chronicling societal dynamics by observing class conflicts and the violence around, they were contemporary to a transformative cultural juncture when literature, theatre, cinema and other creative expressions in Bengal were touching crescendo. Interrelations between lands, people and ideas were undergoing phenomenal conversions prompted by the manmade Bengal Famine of 1943, the peasant unrest of the mid-1940s, the Partition in 1947 and migration from the east of Bengal, and the two-decade long Vietnam War ending in the 1970s. Radical changes in artistic language responding to these situations were seen in the works of Zainul Abedin, Chittaprosad, along with the works originating from the Calcutta Group. Distancing from the European academicism and the lyricism of Bengal and Santiniketan schools, these artists became attentive to the power of figurative representation and social realism. Somnath, a student of Abedin and friend of Chittaprosad, shaped his own visual lexicon, with time attaining a stylistic singularity. Artistic responses to these situations were seen in the works of communist artists Zainul Abedin and Chittaprosad, who were Somnath’s teacher and fellow-activist respectively. While partaking in rescue operations as a communist activist in the early-1940s, Somnath tried to capture the daily struggles for survival and dignity in fast-paced documentative sketches.Some of these drawings were published in the Communist Party magazine Janajuddha (People’s War), along with his diary entries and sketches of the Tebhaga movement in North Bengal Rapid lines and expressive nuances of the faces with anatomical details, depicting intense moments of mass gatherings, establish his unique style from this phase. Many of these drawings were transferred to woodcut prints in the 1950s.

Eventually by the mid-1950s after estranging from active political involvement and the art of socialist realism, Somnath moved to New Delhi, and subsequently to Santiniketan. An empathetic pedagogue and convinced modernist by now, Somnath inspired generations of students and artists while heading the department of printmaking at the Delhi Polytechnic in 1958, and subsequently the department of Graphics, Kala Bhavana in Santiniketan, West Bengal.

Somnath’s etchings and engravings from the 1960s such as Refugee Family, with weary sorrowful expression, reminds his personal experiences and the collective pathos of Partition of the country. The recurring question of care and compassion or perhaps the lack of the same in society propelled him to revisit the theme of ‘Mother and child’ time and again through various mediums, sometimes through the gleam of bronze and at others through the strong rapid lines drawn or etched.

Renditions in a wide range of mediums such as oil on canvases, drawings in watercolour and crayons, different methods and techniques of printmaking and bronze cast sculptures, the exhibition will showcase a selection of more that hundred works. Metal plates that he used for taking prints, diaries, lithographs, woodcuts and etchings will be some of the lures of the show.

Somnath is widely applauded for the unique method of printmaking that was crystallised in the well-known ‘wound’ series. It started as a response to the Vietnam War and the socio-political unrest in Bengal by the late-1960s and 1970s. The historical trauma was expressed as incisions on the paper-pulp surface that Somnath made himself by transferring from a clay matrix. It contained of abstract impressions on paper pulp ground, evoking lesions on bodies, animate or otherwise. He is also known for his versatile handling of a wide range of mediums such as oil on canvases, drawings in watercolour and crayons, different methods and techniques of printmaking and bronze cast sculptures— a versatility that will be highlighted through the more than hundred works displayed at KNMA.

The figure of the artist as an outcast with a personality that verges on insanity and self-destructiveness is a recurrent yet barely understood trope of modernist narratives. Today, with the withdrawal of modernism, this solitary figure has become only more obscure, romanticized, and even stereotyped. However, the ongoing pandemic that forced many into seclusion has inadvertently offered the opportunity to finally return to examining, with greater reflectivity and sensitivity, the missing pages of history. The mythopoetic universe of K Ramanujam (1941–1973) appears to be an impenetrable citadel watched over by the peering eyes of demigods – a nocturnal world shielded by “an army of muses” to use the artist’s own expression. Despite the encouragement that he received from his mentor KCS Paniker at the Government School of Arts and Crafts and later at the Cholamandal Artists’ Village (Chennai, Tamil Nadu), Ramanujam lived practically as an outsider because of his speech impediment and alleged schizophrenia. Born into a conservative Tamil Brahmin/Iyengar family in Triplicane, the middle school dropout sought solace in Chandamama (‘Uncle Moon’), a South Indian children’s magazine beloved for its Puranic stories and intricate illustrations. As an adult, driven away by relatives, the penniless art student slept on the streets surrounded by Tamil cinema posters and gigantic hoardings. He frequented film shoots in Kodambakkam, fascinated by the elaborate sets created for mythological dramas. Further enriched by the Vaishnavite symbolism and Alvar Bhakti poetry tradition that he may have encountered as a child, Ramanujam’s artworks processed these experiences in sublime forms, at an intimate scale and in a material execution minuscule and modest. Finding admirers worldwide even during the artist’s lifetime, these intricate works often feature Ramanujam himself lounging cheerfully in the processional tableaux, having created and now commanding a world mysteriously his own. In reality, however, the artist’s quest for love and dignity remained unfulfilled, pushing him to take his own life at the age of 33. Art had the power to both pull Ramanujam into, and rescue him from, the profound, alienating forces of darkness. In his haunting absence, KNMA attempts to present how Ramanujam’s deep wounds and intense passion for the world around him peopled his solitude and art. Paying homage to him with the first solo exhibition of the artist to be held outside his native state, we invite everyone to partake in the moonlight parade of K Ramanujam.

Exploration of the world outside, one which is rooted in the real, yet silently allowing the fantastic to enter the image-scape. So far, what had only been subjects of routine observances turned into remote recesses. What he had not realised was the power of the subconscious to dredge up, from the depths of the mind, extemporaneous views of trees, creepers, plants, sky, clouds, water bodies and waves of imagination.

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