KNMA, Saket, Delhi

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.

Zarina: A Life in Nine Lines | Across Decades - Borders - Geographies is a solo show dedicated to the artistic career of Zarina Hashmi. Primarily exploring the medium of paper and her fascination towards it, the exhibition showcases woodcut prints, lithographs and etchings along with a few sculptural objects. Her life fraught with migration, fascination for architecture and symmetry and interaction with varied cultures influenced the themes, techniques and methods in her works. The trauma of Partition and pain of un-belongingness take complex existential dimensions, through a mystically elevated minimalism that takes history as its point of departure. Absorbing the intensity of longing to return to an origin, and transforming the desire into a poetically minimal visual language, Zarina conjured a world with the idea of ‘home/s’ which recall different times, places and emotional states. Home is often interpreted in the form of nostalgia, relations, geographies and place.

The show Line, Beats and Shadows presents artists Ayesha Sultana, Prabhavathi Meppayil, Lala Rukh and Sumakshi Singh and their eclectic interpretation of abstraction. The artists use an array of material, often disguising it to appear in a different form. Ayesha Sultana masquerades fragile paper into metal, her aesthetics drawn from the visuals of Dhaka’s shantytowns marked by disparate class conditions. On the other hand, Prabhavathi Meppayil’s works of metal parts marked by an economy of means harmonizes modernist practices with traditional craftsmanship of goldsmiths in southern India. Sumakshi Singh uses the aspects of nostalgia and memory to recreate domestic architectural spaces using lace embroidery. In place of brick and mortar, the fragile space breathes a new life as people inhabit the space while engaging with spectral cob-webs of past memories. Encapsulating Lala Rukh’s parallel photographic practice are a suite of six works on display which were recorded during Lala’s travels across South Asia between 1992 and 2005. Laced with minimalism, a philosophy which she carries throughout her studio practice, each series of small works reflect time-captured tranquil topographical views of water bodies, devoid of people or beings.

A mirroring of approaches is seen in the show Abstracting Nature as the artists Mrinalini Mukherjee and Jayashree Chakravarty amalgamate myriad objects found in nature into their own oeuvre. Seeking solace in the serenity of nature also deeply resonates with the artists’ philosophy. A corpus of drawings, etchings and watercolour produced by Mrinalini Mukherjee showcases the artist’s long standing connection with nature including her self-absorption in the flora and fauna in her immediate environment. A careful look at these works reiterates Mrinalini’s perception of nature- where cords, knots, tangles and twists become apparent as her unswerving preoccupation. In addition to these work, Mrinalini’s bronze piece and her hemp sculptures crafted by knotting jute ropes/ fibres into sculptural material through enormous muscle power, energy and time are displayed. 

 

Over the last three decades or more, Jayashree Chakravarty’s art practice has addressed the exigent situation of shrinking natural habitat and water bodies in ever-expanding Indian cities. Jayashree through her works reminds us that the earth is continuously being pushed towards a precarious edge, where the threat of daily damage has taken on precipitous dimensions. Through poetic evocations, she weaves into her personal vision, the need for environmental balance and resurrection. Nature continues to be the subject as well as the substance of Jayashree’s art. Her works draw sustenance from the organic materials she puts to use, collecting dry leaves and dry flowers, twigs and delicate branches, roots and medicinal seeds, and now, crushed eggshells as well, weaving and mending, as if the ruptured fabric of life.

A thought-form part of the Young Artists of Our Times series Devised by Akansha Rastogi

Kush Badhwar + Alexander Keefe + Vidisha Fadescha Anish Cherian + Simultaneous reading of Paul Lafargue's The Right to be Lazy and Aman Sethi's A Free Man

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