DAG’s (Delhi Art Gallery’s) latest exhibition, Manifestations of Indian Art, on show from April 2018, highlights major works from its gallery collection with a display of more than 90 artworks by 70 leading Indian modernists. The exhibition will include paintings, etchings, lithographs and serigraphs. As a part of its 25th year anniversary celebrations, DAG will showcase its gallery collection from April through July 2018. The exhibition includes artworks by J. Sultan Ali, Eric Bowen, Prabhakar Barwe, K. H. Ara, Sunil Das, Ambadas and many more.
The prelude to India’s modern art movement began in the late nineteenth century. One of the first exponents of the movement was the visionary artist, Raja Ravi Varma, who drew upon Western traditions and techniques including oil paint and easel painting. A reaction to this Western influence led to a revival in classicism, called the Bengal School of art in Kolkata, which drew from the rich mythological heritage of India. It was under Rabindranath Tagore and the establishment of Santiniketan that the form found a new life and a larger audience in the guise of expressionism.
Today, DAG is celebrated as a leading resource for Indian pre-modern and modern art, with high calibre well-researched exhibitions, expansive outreach programmes, and a library of some of the finest art books in the country.
58, VB Gandhi Marg, Kala Ghoda, Fort, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400001
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- SULTAN ALI
Oil on canvas | 34.2 x 54.0 in. / 86.9 x 137.2 cm.
In search of his own style, and finding modern European art as formalistic and ‘cold’, Sultan Ali looked to Indian tribal art and the storehouse of mythology and folklore for the freshness of its language, drawn to symbols such as the bull, familiar to us from Indus Valley seals. In this painting, the animal’s wide eyes, gaping mouth and the body stretched against the width of the field behind add to his fearsome presence suggesting invincibility while the celebratory colours evoke his agrarian setting.
Font Before the Altar
Oil and encaustic on canvas | 63.0 x 47.0 in. / 160.0 x 119.4 cm.
Long associated with constructivism-inspired abstractions and op art, and soon after, to compositions of pure abstraction, Eric Bowen dramatically moved in the 1980s to tantra-inspired art. In these formulations, his imagery remained geometric and rectilinear, painting concentric rectangles in vertical compositions that moved successively inward to a point or a central vertical line – mimicking the temple design that illustrated this spiritual journey.
PRABHAKAR BARWE (1936-95)
Brush and pen and ink on paper pasted on paper | 20.2 x 19.7 in. / 51.3 x 50cm.
The high minimalism of this work is unusual for Prabhakar Barwe who mostly painted forms and motifs in abstraction. Crisscrossing lines form a dense grid, drawing inspiration as much from the geometric abstraction of the West as of the East, the latter seen in the latticed jaalis or window screens of medieval Islamic architecture. Known for a range of modernist innovations in his work, Barwe attracted international attention in the Sixties and Seventies as a significant artist to watch out for.
Gouache on paper | 30.2 x 22.0 in. / 76.7 x 55.9 cm.
- H. Ara had garnered a great deal of acclaim and success as a ‘painter of still-lifes’ when he surprised everyone with his nude drawings in the early Sixties, works that didn’t carry the raw sexual charge of F. N. Souza’s nudes, his celebrated fellow Progressive. A little stiff and conveying little by way of sexuality, his nudes were criticised as ‘ungainly’, ‘not involved with anatomy’ and ‘uneven in quality’, their quality of stillness comparable only, oddly, to his still-lifes.
Untitled (Prostitute IV)
Oil on canvas | 58.0 x 70.0 in. / 147.3 x 177.8 cm.
Sonagachi, Kolkata’s red-light district, even though it is merely hinted at in the painted and scribbled walls and alleys that form the backdrop for Sunil Das’s Prostitute series, is nevertheless part of the panoply of his theatrical engagement with these ladies of the night. Shorn of glamour, they are not without their tinselly charm as they peddle their bodies, the sometimes lush or corpulent flesh made attractive for the male clients they are sometimes seen with.
Oil on canvas| 59.5 x 36.0 in. / 151.1 x 91.4 cm.
Ambadas’s work is unique, refusing to adhere to any norms of representation and interpretation, mostly from his constant struggle to paint ‘nothing’. However, his painting is redolent with an abstract expressionism reflecting his restiveness. In his own words, he ‘works with a restless speed’ to let the process take over. His quivering brushstrokes are immediately recognisable as the characteristic mark of the artist in this Untitled painting, with the characteristic colours of red, white, blue, yellow and green and unbounded forms.