Dhoomimal Art Gallery celebrates the art of printmaking with its latest exhibition, “Of Divergent Practices: The Trajectory of Printmaking” curated by Ina Puri and designed by Reha Sodhi.
ACF shares a deep insight into the printmaking exhibition; in conversation with the curator Ina Puri and the participating artists.
Curator Ina Puri brings forth one-of-its-kind printmaking exhibition ‘Of Divergent Practices: The Trajectory of Printmaking’ with the aim to provide the viewer with an in-depth perspective on the trajectory of this significant genre of printmaking that deserves to be more firmly a part of the mainstream.
The exhibition showcases a range of prints from non-representational prints to the simplicity inspired by Japanese aesthetics with regard to space and abstraction. Ina Puri shares, “The exhibition showcases the recent work of the printmakers’ group but also rare prints from DMG’s own archives of veteran artists. Taken in this context, the show acquires even more critical significance, offering the viewers a glimpse of valuable prints from different practitioners of the medium from times past to present.”
‘Divergent Practice’ hopes to become part of an ongoing dialogue that draws in more participation from the younger practitioners of the medium. Talking about the works of participating artists Anandamoy Banerji, Dattatraya Apte, Kavita Nayar, Moti Zharotia and Sushanta Guha; Ina Puri says, “From Kavita Nayar’s fragile petals strewn on the ground to Dattrataya Apte’s impressions of textures as if created by the raking of arid and thirsty earth. Anandamoy Banerji’s powerful etchings of violence and man’s existential crisis by portraying the fallen figure encountering catastrophes beyond his control to Sushanto Guha’s recent work, which grapples with those same themes but is technically stronger than ever to Moti Zharotia’s dreamlike compositions of surreal landscapes are made in sensual pastel shades, which is quite distinct from the palette of the other printmakers.”
Twenty-three veteran artists’ rare prints from the gallery’s own archive are also part of the exhibition, from Raja Ravi Varma to Somnath Hore to M. F. Husain, F.N. Souza, Jogen Chowdhury, K. Laxma Goud, Manjit Bawa including works of other legendary artists are on display.
The art of printmaking exists in India since the early 1900s’, when Raja Ravi Varma had set up a press, to encourage printmaking as a means to popularize art and reach out to a larger audience. Till then, art was restricted principally to the Royal families. Afterwards, many presses were set up in Calcutta and thereafter in Delhi and Mumbai. Delhi Silpi Chakra was an artist organization that encouraged and promoted printmaking in a big way in the 1950s and 1960s.
Ina Puri shares her understanding on the art of printmaking as a senior curator. “I have spent the last few months debating and understanding the merits and importance of printmaking as a medium with the printmakers who had formed a collective in 2000 in order to popularize the medium and bring the younger generations of artists into their fold. Their initiative was titled ‘Multiple Encounters’ and the founding members were Vijay Kumar, K. R. Subbanna, Dattatraya Apte, Anandamoy Banerji, Kavita Nayar, Moti Zharotia and Sushanta Guha, practicing printmakers who were determined to showcase printmaking and towards this goal, worked single-mindedly. In their conversations with me, the artists reminisced about the early years when each one of them had their own individual spaces at the Garhi Studios working alongside senior painters like Jagdish Swaminathan, Manjit Bawa and Krishen Khanna.”
“Those were great years, indeed, when the art scene in Delhi was just establishing itself. New artists flocked to the capital and new art spaces were opening providing new opportunities. Sometime in the year 1990, a group of 12 printmakers decided to form a group they called the Indian Printmakers Guild, with the idea of focusing on their medium and exhibiting printmaking exclusively. While things went smoothly initially, differences soon arose and the artists parted ways. Sometime later, a splinter group teamed up with Vijay Kumar and K. R. Subbanna, Anandamoy Banerjee, DattatrayaApte, Kavita Nayar, Sushanta Guha and Moti Zharotia who took the decision to continue working together. Their first collaborative show was titled ‘Multiple Encounters’.”
Talking about the current printmaking exhibition at Dhoomimal Gallery, Puri says “In the next decade, their trajectory was not always easy as it depended on the vagaries of the art market and collectors. Yet, they persisted and showed, often in their individual capacities till an opportunity arrived from the newly refurbished Dhoomimal Gallery to exhibit, not only their works but also the gallery’s archival collection alongside.”
The Indian printmaking artists have relentlessly pursued their passion for printmaking and being together as a commune.
Participating artist Kavita Nayar calls her creative journey –‘Search Within and Beyond’, as she creates manuscript series in prints inspired by the 13th and 14th century palm leaf manuscripts. Nayar says, “The experience of working in the studios of Oxford University during Charles Wallace residency changed my attitude towards prints. I started installing prints as freestanding accordions and continue to experiment with prints and matrixes as assemblages, collages and installations. Along with prints I like to display my heavily etched zinc plates.”
Artist Moti Zharotia, who has learned printmaking from veteran Manjit Bawa has executed many mini and imperial size portofolios like ‘Fantasy 2000’, ‘Purusha & Prakriti’ and the recently titled ‘Impressions on Impression – part I & II’.
Sushanta Guha who is well known as a black and white print-art maker has been working with social and economic issues. She says, “In earlier works, I have used social satires. Right now, my works reflect a kind of protest against religious fanaticism and other atrocities.”
Artist Dattatraya Apte, who had the opportunity to study under professor Jacky Perry at Glasgow School of Art in the paper-making studio. He made pulp from waste paper for exploring castings from wood and other surfaces. “I personally like the lithograph as it is as direct as drawing on a paper and its prints are exactly the same way,” he shares.
With young and old artists expressing their art of printmaking in varied forms and techniques, Apte believes it’s a promising future for printmaking with its own challenges of the time “I can see that the collective efforts of Indian Printmakers Guild and Multiple Encounters have created a space for young printmakers. This is visible in major art exhibition where quite a few numbers of prints are exhibited.”
“More institutions are introducing printmaking as subjects in schools and universities. The work is not yet over as new challenges are coming. The advent of digital technology is one of them, it is competing with other techniques of expression and is visible in all the spheres of artistic expressions,” concludes Apte. The exhibition “Of Divergent Practices: The Trajectory of Printmaking” is on view at Dhoomimal Art Gallery, New Delhi from 19th March – 25th April 2023.