Art News & Views

Winds of Change

Delhi Dias

by Ravisha Mall

Sudhir Patwardhan : Family Fiction

Turning grandfather has changed the artist Dr Sudhir Patwardhan's point of view as well as his subject of paintings. What remains constant is his mastery with depiction of human anatomy and his fascination with it. This was apparent in the set of 48 paintings up on show at the Lalit Kala Akademi from March 5 to 11, 2011. The show had originally opened at Sakshi Gallery, Mumbai, in January.

The 61 year old radiologist takes a break from his role of a stoic observer of the society, and turns an eye inwards into his own home. Made over the period of four years, the paintings are a reflection of how the artist perceives things in his everyday life, sometimes from the inside doors and other times from outside the windows. The narration is almost an intimate dialogue with the viewer, who almost steps into Dr Patwardhan's shoes and vicariously lives his life.

The paintings touch upon many situations and issues that affect the artist directly or otherwise. Vaguely, the paintings could be divided into three segments. While one set of images has a window in each of them, reminding one of Patwardhan's earlier works like Irani Restaurant, 1977 or Studio Ghosts 2005, where one could see similar visual elements.

Another set of images recreates situations that the family faces, depicting a disconcerted group of familiar figures. The treatment can be somewhat traced back to paintings such as Ceremony, 1984. These are homage to an urban family's life, with its sets of celebrations and problems, highlighting the emotions that surface during these situations. Sudhir examines extensively the melancholic nature of complex relationships that exist between a man and a woman and how they evolve over time. Both of these visual elements, namely the view from the window and the chaotic human figures, were earlier overshadowed by his works capturing urban scenes. These now a take a front seat in his family portraits as he examines their every nuance.

The final set of images carry an underlying hint of humour. Some of these too look at couples, seemingly unconnected yet blissful in this state. A subset of this is a series of four images of a man masturbating, attempting “to look below surface to explore impulses that we would like to keep hidden”. There, however, exists a dichotomy of emotions in these as one can occasionally experience a cringing sensation while absorbing these in.

The topic of death is dealt with very sensitively and the fear of death and its effect on people is depicted. The primacy of life or death, a philosophical question also discussed in Freudian and post-Freud treatises on psychology, is central here, Patwardhan explains.

Rameshwar Broota: This End to the Other

What sets Rameshwar Broota apart from photographers of his time and even those of the succeeding generations is his all-embracing attitude towards change. The 69 year artist is exploring his metamorphosis into a photographer and hence is willing to try his hand at variety of visual treatments in his images.

An observation of the dynamic relationship that human beings share with nature, the show titled This End to the Other is up on view till the 31st of March at Vadehra Art Gallery, Okhla Phase 1. A set of 19 compositions, the exhibition sees Broota working with large format images, playing with the size aspect with the textures and details that he captures. “The scale of the photographs is much different. The exhibition is far more earthy this time. There are far more open spaces and fewer objects. The emphasis is on details, just the way I have in my paintings,” he explains. Blowing up a small element in an environment blurs its context and helps create striking images. What Lies Beneath is a set of three tight close-ups of the human hand and feet, deeply detailed, turning them into a visual landscape. “This could be earth, an animal skin or even a rock,” he says of these. Conversely, Where Does the Ganga Flow is a top shot of Haridwar which is so fine in detailing that it appears almost like a miniature painting. The image hopes to capture the phenomenon in which a river is lost in a sea of people. The images are also, in some cases, conspicuously devoid of human presence, though that seems in sync with his desire to concentrate on the details, blurring the lines between what is human and what isn't. The irony of the fast deteriorating condition of nature too is portrayed as in a 7 feet long image of a dried up river-bed being overlooked by a barren landscape.

The titles of the works are interesting and cryptic, giving the viewer a peek into the artist's thoughts behind the frames.

International Flavours

Three major exhibition spaces hosted international shows this March. While Religare Artsi showcased American Psyche: A Generation on Contemporary Photography, Alliance Française exhibited Encorpdages by photographer Nicole Dufour. The third and perhaps the most interesting of the three was titled Something That I'll Never Really See: Contemporary Photography from V&A (Victoria and Albert Museum) which opened at the NGMA on March 10th, 2011.

American Psyche, a group show which opened on 9th March at Religare Artsi, showcased the current trends in contemporary American photography. The exhibition creates a comprehensive document to present the cultural landscape of America and offer a glimpse into the prevalent course of photography there, but also aimed to draw parallels in the human landscapes across the oceans.

Attracted by Hindu spirituality and the Orient, Nocile produced these works in Madras and Pondicherry. The show consisted of colour photographs arranged in a diptych, where the left panel showed a space with the presence of a human being, while the right panel was the closeup of a person. The common visual element between the two is a braided rope that was either black, a single bright colour or was multicoloured. The exhibition towed the boundaries of performance photography but perhaps lacked somewhere in the depth of thought and had a fragile concept.

Inaugurated by Culture Minister Kumari Selja, the exhibition at NGMA features works by internationally-acclaimed photographers like Nan Goldin, Cindy Sherman. Curated by Martin Barnes, it is a collection of 40 works from crucial moments in photographic history. Addressing the inauguration, Selja said that the exhibition includes some of the most innovative works and explored a broad array of styles both by internationally well-known names as well as emerging talents.


The Indian art scene also grieved the loss of two pioneers in 'tantrik art', Sohan Quadri and Biren De. Sohan Quadri, who passed away on the 5th of March, 2011 in Canada, leaves behind one of the largest and the most profound body of 'tantrik art' since independence. Biren De, who was extremely reclusive and had always been very quiet about the role Tantra played in his process of art-making, breathed his last on the 12th of March, 2011.


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