India Art Fair, 2019

India Art Fair, 31 January – 3 February, 2019, New Delhi

Moving away from narrative, figurative and representational imagery, Abstraction – as seen in non-figurative, non-representational and minimalist art practice – marks important departures within Modern and Contemporary Indian art. The works on display here are drawn from various periods and oeuvres to highlight trends and movements within a constantly evolving sphere of abstraction within Indian art.

The founder members of the Progressive Artists Group (PAG) – it was set up in Mumbai in 1947 – including, S. H. Raza, K. H. Ara and F. N. Souza, averred that Indian artists should draw from international modernism to develop vocabularies representative of a new Indian identity. Consequently the ‘50s and ‘60s saw an upsurge in non-representational vocabularies. Satish Gujral and V. S. Gaitonde, among other prominent names, developed idioms that brought together Western modernism and Indian tradition. Jehangir Sabavala’s modernist vocabulary, Dasrath Patel and Ganesh Haloi’s individual idioms highlight approaches where form marries colour in a language reflective of the ‘Indian sun’ to state it in Dasrath Patel’s words.

A.K. Coomaraswamy’s extensive treatise on the symbolic and spiritual elements within Indian art practice – nature was seen as an important source of creativity –offered artists inroads to further vocabularies that are more rooted in Indian philosophy. Artists such as G.R.Santosh and S.H.Raza, created an abstraction based on symbolism that is rooted in Tantric ideas. Over time, R M Palaniappan Jeram Patel and Himmat Shah, among others, explored a range of materials and methods to further non- representational language. Collaging, wax casting, sculptural metal work, and other surface explorations added textural depth to form.

The ‘70s saw minimalist ways of working, visible here in Zarina Hashmi’s works. The inception of Bharat Bhavan in Bhopal in the ‘80s had artists abstracting from folk imagery and nature – represented by the work of Akhilesh. Bose Krishnamachari’s work cast light on trends from the ‘90s. Jogen Chowdhury, in a bid to experiment, presents a special suite.

Abstraction in Indian art continues on its quest for purity of line, form and color. The oeuvres of younger contemporary practitioners, such as Sharmistha Ray, Parul Thacker, Sachin Tekade and Surajit Biswas, indicate the diverse approaches at play in the present.