KNMA’s quaternary exhibits – celebrating masters and new-age artists

by Team ACF
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Kiran Nadar Museum of Art reopened its doors with four exhibitions displaying simultaneously across Delhi NCR. From the masters to contemporary artists, there are works of art on display traversing decades.

While the museum is celebrating the legacy of some of India’s most revered artists – Somnath Hore and Raza, it has given space to independent projects by 15 artists and an exhibition on photography’s French Connections in India.

ArtCultureFestival gives an insight from all the four KNMA exhibitions happening in the city

‘Somnath Hore: Birth of a White Rose’

somnath hore

The exhibition unfolds nuances of creative implementations of Somnath Hore (1921- 2006), celebrating 101 years of his birth, through a series of works rendered in the richness of diverse mediums. It explores novel routes and appreciates creative imprints germinating from a philosophy of humanism of the master in remembrance.

The title of the exhibition is drawn from one of Somanath’s iconic works ‘Birth of a White Rose’. 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 showcases a selection of more than hundred works.

Metal plates that he used for taking prints, diaries, lithographs, woodcuts and etchings are 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. 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 is highlighted in his works.

Somnath hore

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. 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.

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. He 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.

Somnath hore

The exhibition continues till June 30th at KNMA, Saket.

Sayed Haider Raza Traversing Space: Here and Beyond

The centennial exhibition curated by Roobina Karod in collaboration with Raza Foundation revisits the cosmopolitan modernism of Sayed Haider Raza (1922 – 2016), whose complex and itinerant body of works counteracts many of the prevailing assumptions of the present.

Roobina said, “The Bindu-Naad is one of Raza’s most iconic works along with ‘Germination’ and ‘La Terre’ in the exhibition. It is a work that brings together three important aspects of Raza’s symbolic or mystical abstractions – repetition, rhythm and reverberation.”

Providing cartography of a wandering soul, villages and cities had been recurring subject matters in the paintings of the early Raza before the artist started his famous metaphysical abstractions. These works from the KNMA collection exhibit the young artist’s journey from an academically trained painter with realistic inclinations to one of the founding figures of modernism in India.

SH Raza

With his deep knowledge of western Indian miniature traditions, he worked on nature’s five primordial principles and elements since the late-1970s, through the celebrated paintings like ‘La Terre’ and ‘Saurashtra’. This crucial period also coincided with Raza’s increasing interest in metaphysical abstraction, the esoteric notions of feminine and masculine energies, and the symbolism of square, triangle, circle, and most importantly, the bindu (point) which alone became a dominant and consistent feature in the artist’s body of later works. “Drawing upon Upanishadic abstract profound thought, Naad is the sound heard in the ear during deep meditation. It reiterates how Raza was drawn to the infinite power and presence of the Bindu as the point of origin and return, as the cosmos begins out of a dot/ seed/ bindu and dissolves into it. The immense scale of the tripartite work draws you inside the bindu/ into shunya,” told Roobina.

SH Raza

The exhibition continues till June 30th at Bikaner House, New Delhi.

Inner Life of Things: Around Anatomies and Armatures

inner life

Curated by Roobina Karode, the exhibition brings forth independent projects by 15 artists whose investigations are rooted in the ecologies of co-existence as well as the enigmatic life of objects and materials beyond and autonomous from human perception.

Debasish Mukherjee’s work is an ode to the years from his childhood and the artisanal past. The work is poetic in its nature of folding, stacking and meticulously arranging the fabric of the white sarees from his late grandmother’s collection which now bears the insignia in the form of digital print portraits on both sides of the stack.

The four-panel watercolour painting of Lahore-based artist Ali Kazim is executed in subdued shades and presented on a scale that overwhelms the viewer. It is inspired by the artist’s visit to the ancient Indus Valley Civilization excavation site near the river Ravi, and the ruins of culture it preserves.

In her installation and video work, Vibha Galhotra weaves a visual interpretation of changing landscapes through metallic ghungroos, and presents a calming ritual with her potted sapling by redeeming it of all the burdens of the city borne dust and grit.  

The idea of traversing lesser-travelled terrains and vast expanses is explored in Shalina S Vichitra’s landscape with a thousand white flags, inspired by Tibetan Buddhist dictums and the spiritual harmony that they seek with respect to the primordial laws and spirits of nature.

Astha Butail’s take on ancient methods of archiving and the tradition of carrying oral histories through Rg Vedic myths and metaphors marks a meticulous installation with minuscule prototypes of book-like objects.

inner life

Exploring another dimension of grid-like overlay is seen in Rahul Kumar & Chetnaa’s collaborative work which finds resonances within urban surroundings and structures as the textured discs made in stoneware are arranged in a compact manner, contrasting with the blue and gold angular lines. The works of art in the exhibition, even when they appear to be testifying to the artist’s craft and imagination, give primacy to the very inner workings of the art objects: the anatomies and armatures that give the world its shape and character.

The exhibition continues till July 30th at KNMA, Noida.

Convergence: A Panorama of Photography’s French Connections in India

Curated by Rahaab Allana, along with the Embassy of France, Institut Français and The Alkazi Foundation for the Arts, features works of notable French photographers. Produced by intrepid travellers, writers, journalists, photographers and artists, the show spans the colonial, modern and postcolonial periods of sub-continental history from the mid-nineteenth-century to the 1970s.

It features works of famous 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 original photographs are on display with Gelatin silver prints (modern) by Marc Riboud, Gelatin silver bromide prints by Paul Almasy and group portraits in front of painted studio settings. 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.

The exhibition will continue till June 30th at KNMA, Saket.

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