LONDON: Major works by three leading Indian artists came up for their debut showing at the famous Saatchi Gallery here this week, sharing the platform with world-renowned artists such as Damien Hirst and Banksy.
Their first-ever showing opened to the public here as a result of a unique collaboration between curator Griselda Bear and Kolkata-based Centre of International Modern Art (CIMA).
“In India, the hand still reigns. A lot of artists are still keeping the traditional forms alive, while re-inventing them at the same time. These works are a perfect reflection of the interface these artists, rooted in India, have with the West,” said Rakhi Sarkar, the curator and director of CIMA and driving force behind ‘Kolkata Cross-Currents’.
“The fact that all three artists started their journey at Tagore’s Visva Bharati University in Santiniketan provides a solid foundation. Tagore had a very universal approach and that is where their ability to unite rural with urban sensibilities comes from,” she added.
Throughout their careers these artists have been exhibited by CIMA and at exhibitions elsewhere in India.
Griselda Bear’s attention was drawn to CIMA several years ago when she first discovered its remarkable program which focuses on artists whose work relates to India but which is individual, distinctive and cosmopolitan.
“My own long-standing aim is to seek out artists elsewhere who demonstrate stature in their work of a kind that will stimulate and interest audiences here.
“When this is successful it has a powerful two-way effect of introducing exhibition visitors to new, international practice in the arts and also, importantly, of enabling the artists to develop further by seeing their work in a wider context,” said Bear, who hopes this display is just the beginning of a new trend in bringing lesser known works from Kolkata on to the world stage.
Basak, the youngest of the three artists, offers a vibrant 15-canvas epic painting chronicling his life experiences and reflecting the changing visual culture he finds around him as he travels through time and place.
He describes his own work as “a thin world created out of various shapes of varied colors and textures”. Chatterjee, who went on to study at Goldsmiths, University of London, is also an art historian with a special interest in Indian miniatures and these influences are clearly evident in the way she presents her subject matter.
She combines traditional fabrics and stitching with painting in modern-day acrylic on canvas.
“I often subvert the context of the material that I use for my work,” she explains.
Sarkar’s time at Kyoto University, where he trained in Japanese traditions and techniques of calligraphy and Sumi painting, result in ominous specters from his childhood when he lived in a tumultuous and terrorized Assam.
All three together demonstrate in highly individual ways the international cross-currents as well as the local traditions that are deeply embedded in the rich cultural life of the city of Kolkata, where they live and work.
The STRARTA Art Fair is open here till Sunday and the journey of the three paintings from India coincides with CIMA’s own 20th anniversary year.–PTI