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Indian art – selected treasures

After a couple of weeks immersed in the art and architecture of India, returning home to my architectural practice has required a shift of gear and an aesthetic reset. Editing the experience into bitesize offerings has been a challenge, but what follows is a synopsis of artists whose work resonated with me.

In Delhi I had the great pleasure of meeting with Anita Dube in her studio, as well as seeing her work in the collection of Shalini Passi. Dube works with a diverse range of materials from industrial, craft and man-made elements, and particularly the uncanny ceramic eyes of devotional statuary. Underpinning her work are themes of societal loss, journeys, transformation and regeneration. She comments “The eyes are like people for me and this could speak of large migrations in history” so her parting gift to me of an etch of devotional eyes was a rather special one.

A brief meeting and conversation with artist Tan Sen drew me to look more at his art, both individually and collectively with the SenYenSen Collective. The group takes inspiration from the energy of its surroundings to produce vibrant murals and nature-inspired transformational wall art. Tan Sen, his twin sister Atia and colleague Yen have harnessed their individual styles in a collaborative and sometimes surreal way. Seeing Sen’s solo work was a great introduction to their collective portfolio.

I was lucky to pay a visit to the studio of Subodh Gupta – possibly one of the most well-known Indian artists working today. Represented by Hauser and Wirth, Gupta’s work is often a sculptural amalgam of highly recognisable mass-manufactured objects.

Prosaic materials of daily life in India, like tiffin lunch boxes, Thali dishes, bicycles and milk pails, become huge sculptural forms, imbuing these ubiquitous objects with a powerful presence that transcends their humble functions. The studio is a vast industrial space where some more western-inspired monumental pieces are under construction (all under wraps so no photos on here!)

I narrowly missed a studio visit to another collaborative partnership, Thukral and Tagra after enjoying their exhibit ‘Arboretum’ at Nature Morte gallery in Dehli. Jiten Thukral and Sumir Tagra’s work spans painting, sculpture, installation, interactive games and video, blurring the line between the online and offline worlds. In Arboretum paintings glitch and fold, repeat and dissolve in a world of flowers and pixels. The painterly skill and beauty in the work collides abstraction and realism to great effect.

Anyone who knows me knows how much I admire and appreciate the skill of drawing. Of the artist Karan Shrestha I was hugely impressed by his multi-media dexterity when visiting his show ‘Aparatus at Play’ at Shrine Empire Gallery in Delhi. Shrestha’s work incorporates extraordinary drawings, sculpture, photography, text, film, and video that speak to Nepal’s complex recent history, its terrain and political context.

Once again at Shrine Empire, I found the work of Arun Dev, whose fantastical architectural paintings were on show. Exploring what can only be described as parallel universes, Dev plays with perspective and motifs of architecture, time and space to disconcerting effect. Dev has travelled extensively within India, living in various parts of the country. Exposure to the architecture of the cities he lived in during his formative years had a huge impact on his work. I find this and his approach to space compelling, as Dev comments ‘Architecture also interests me as we can enclose a smaller interior space, within a space that is infinite and incomprehensible.’

Across what may seem an eclectic group of painters, designers and sculptors, I hope your interest has been piqued and you’ll seek out the art and artists of India. It feels like an exciting time – it is clear that contemporary artists in India are highly collectable and at the same time somewhat underexposed. I’m looking forward to the next chance to expand my knowledge on Indian art, and possibly my collection too.



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