Flaunting Modern India @ Masterpiece

Masterpiece London is underway on the lawns of the Royal Hospital Chelsea till July 4.  DAG, formerly known as Delhi Art Gallery, is showcasing 11 hand-picked works by Jamini Roy, Krishen Khanna, Tyeb Mehta, Rameshwar Broota, GR Santosh, MF Hussain, Ram Kumar, Shanti Dave, FN Souza, Bikash Bhattacharjee and Rabin Mondal. The paintings straddle the period from the 1940s to the 1980s - when Indian modern art was at its zenith.

The idea is to raise curtain over a narrative on Indian modern art during 20th century.

Kishore Singh from DAG, who has carefully curated the show, explains, “This is the third year we are participating at the Masterpiece. We are driven by the idea that Indian art gets a better exposure, globally.”

He recalls how the first time DAG participated in Masterpiece, the booth was curated to present a picture of Indian art, representing various histories and geographies from Bengal School, Bombay Progressive, Abstracts from Delhi and the Baroda School. “Last year we curated a bit further – taking works with people from London – like Souza or MF Husain’s works from London. This year we have gone all out to take the gems – 11 absolute masterpieces. This is only a fair where anyone can come and buy. However it’s unfortunate that in India we cannot sell anything that is over a 100 years old or paintings of our national treasure artists. Hence, we are showcasing works of these artists, which have gone out of India before 1970 when the act was formed and has been collected by our New York gallery.”  The nine national treasure artists of India are: Raja Ravi Varma, Amrita Sher-Gil, Rabindranath Tagore, Gaganendranath Tagore, Abanindranath Tagore, Nandalal Bose, Jamini Roy, Nicholas Roerich and Sailoz Mukherjee. DAG is showcasing a huge painting by Jamini Roy.

Singh adds, “Not only it’s a rare work but also a very large work by Jamini Roy. He didn’t make very many large works like this, which was painted on mat.” There is Rameshwar Broota who has used a technique where he has painted the canvas with dark colours and used blades and knives to cut through paint to achieve a sense of perspective.

“These were not just great painters but the way they have evolved their art. We have GR Santosh - the first artist to use the abstract construction of traditional tantra in modern art called neo-tantra movement in 1960s and soon became a cult. During this time Ajit Mukherjee published his book Tantra and the West, which became very popular and coincided with the hippie movement. We tried to draw this parallel and tell these stories though a book,” says Singh.

Sudeshna Banerjee