Modern Masters of Indian Art
An independent India, as expected, ushered in a new page of history and, amongst others,
the art movement gained momentum. Since the 50s the movement has changed and adapted with the
history and the growth of the country. A glance at the art movement of the last five to six decades
shows how certain artists have contributed significantly to it and gained a well-earned place.
Some of the artists went on to become educators while others held very strong views and
soon had their own followers. There were yet others who created their own significant space.
The last 60 years covers broadly three to four generations of artists.
This exhibition presents to the viewer a sampling of their work. It is by no means a definitive
study of the history but just a glimpse into the window of the work of the artists who contributed to
the history of the modern art movement in India.
This show will include the work of MF Hussain, Raza, Souza, Gulam Sheikh, Krishen Khanna,
Gaitonde, Arpita Singh, Nasreen Mohammedi, Panniker, Redappa Naidu, Bikash Bhattachrya, Laxma
Goud, Garesh Pyne, Jogen Chowdhury, Sabavala, Padamsee, Anjoli Ela Menon, Arpana Caur, Rekha
Rodwittiya and others.
Most of the works have been borrowed from private collections.
A ROOM WITH A VIEW
Paintings,drawings,etchings and sculptures, over the years
Laxma Goud is one of indias most well known printmakers and draughtsmen. Exceptionally skilled and versatile, he has
been a practicing artist since the sixties and a mentor to many artists and art students. Working with varied mediums, showing
great dedication, he mastered and controlled the line and this was first evident in his exceptional etchings from the seventies.
It is in these very etchings that one sees his facination with fantasy. He plays the role of the voyeur to the hilt allowing all
forms of fantasy to enter his work and mindspace. This feature is carried further into his later work as well appearing in different
forms even into his three-dimensional sculptures.
“A Room With A View “is a peep into the fascinating mindspace of Laxma Goud. It is a specially created installation of
overlapping ideas, mediums, forms and works. It is a mere view, and hence the title “A Room With A View”
This exhibition as part of Art Chennai at Apparao Infinity, is culled together from private collections in Chennai allowing
one a glimpse at this fascinating artists oeurve.
Dr. Ashrafi S. Bhagat
In the late 1950s, the ambience at the Madras School of Arts and Crafts in Chennai was tinged with high-spiritedness and
dynamic energy, with teachers and students confidently exploring and investigating various technique, media and visual language.
The enthusiasm and inherent vigour offered momentum for the full effulgence of the development of modernity in art namely the
Madras Art Movement. One artist who emerged from within this vitiating milieu in the late 50s was A. P. Santhanaraj. Described
as an artist genius, exemplary teacher, a pioneer and innovator he seemingly exerted tremendous influence on his students, which
describes him as one of the pillars of the Madras School of Arts
Born on 13th March, 1932 at Tiruvannamalai in Tamilnadu, his predilection in drawing manifested from an impressionable
age of four. In kindling interest in the world of visual perception his mother played a formative role. His life revolved around
her – a powerful, influential and a dominating personality in a household of eight. She kept him distracted, through drawings and
picture alphabets when he became irritable and tense. This was his baptism into the world of art.
The formative years at the Madras School of Arts and Crafts where he obtained his art pedagogy, shaped his vision
and simultaneously he was drawn into the creative vortex that was developing under the regime of K.C.S. Paniker namely the
question of ‘Indian identity’ within mainstream internationalism. Said Santhanaraj, “Paniker, induced his disciples to think on
national level rather than on purely modern styles. He wanted identity of Indian tradition as inspiration. He wanted them to be
very conscious of Indian culture.” His contribution towards this debate was considered decisive.
Santhanaraj played a seminal and an energetic role in the growth and development of the Madras Art Movement. His
regional sensibility manifested in the primeval quality of his line, the strong reductive simplicity of his forms, the iconic frontality
that was salient of folk and tribal arts and the brilliant juxtaposition of colours. He drew his sustenance in art from life around him.
He reinforced the concept of indigenism/nativism by his themes of pastoral life – women at leisure, playing with deer’s, adorning
herself, absorbed in her household chores – all realized exclusively through his numenous space, the decorative line and brilliant
juxtaposition of colours. His style approaches the cubists and expressionists particularly for their fractured fragmented angular
forms and expressive emotional distortions that carried regional and folk inspired imagery. Within the ‘Indian’ classical pictorial
art observed in the murals at Thanjavur and Sittanavasal, he constructed the figures sensuously with an earthy feel for the form
but within modernist trends he explored it purely as an object within two-dimensionality of the picture plane implicating the
male gaze. An interesting aspect of his landscape construction was the manner in which the foreground engages with narrative
elements while the background was like a wall. This challenge he responded, by fracturing the space as series of decorative shaped
patches. This patched treatment was intentional to go beyond opticality and create an ‘atmosphere’ of mystery and strangeness.
Santhanaraj’s originality and novel approach to picture making is identified in this area. It is this ambiguous definition between
the foreground and the background that imparts a mystical aura or ‘atmosphere’ that Santhanaraj equates to music. His paintings
and drawings convey the same feel. In the tradition of the Madras Art Movement his works mark a different signpost.
Santhanaraj till the end of his life continued to paint in the same mode. His medium however varied from oils to acrylics
to water colours to colored felt pens. His narrative themes remain pastoral as also his female forms. There is in his works a
sense of heightened attenuation bordering on stylization. Collectively these accretions lend his created expressions a sense of
decorative design and patterning providing a familial link with the Madras Group.
Ms. Ashrafi S. Bhagat M.A., M.Phil, P.hd. is an Art Historian. and an Art Critic She is an Associate Professor and Former Head, Department of Fine Arts
Stella Maris College, [Autonomous] Chennai. She writes on contemporary art and issues in various magazines and journals.