Vadehra Art Gallery is pleased to present a curated body of works by path-breaking artists M.F. Husain, S.H. Raza, Krishen Khanna, Ram Kumar and J. Swaminathan titled Beyond the Beginning featuring works from the 1970s and 1980s, described as periods of high modernism in India. The exhibition will be on display at our contemporary gallery space from 28 November to 18 December 2022.
Artists like S.H. Raza, M.F. Husain, Ram Kumar and Krishen Khanna had embraced internationalism in their evocation of Indian authenticity – perhaps acknowledging, however conflictingly, centuries of colonial influence, or even so the existence of the changing global world. Motivated by the search for a modernist cohesion in aesthetic sensibility, they strove to develop distinct visual languages as aligned with their training, exposure, interests and above all, personal expression rooted in revolutionary impulse. J. Swaminathan, who was not a member of the Bombay Progressives but the Group 1890, was compelled by a shared urgency even though he defined “progress” differently and proposed an amorphous freedom over formulaic experiments instead.
The subdued tones of Ram Kumar’s early abstractions that express an ascetic’s recession from the world into silence share a spiritual kinship with Raza’s own vibrant motifs, reflecting the emergence of his iconic Bindus, which draw colours and forms and most importantly compositional balance from nature and the Earth itself. Husain’s flattened, staccato, often mythic figurations that comment on the uneven developments of the contemporary world share a psychological depth with Krishen Khanna’s loosened forms conjured through the spectral application and withdrawal of the medium. A motivated textuality similarly exists in Swaminathan’s minimal abstractions borne of mythic intent and indigenous thought, which could persuasively converse with popular rebellion, even if he had not so wanted. In spite of influential stints abroad in cultural centers like London and Paris for many stalwart names, the post-colonial Indian art movement developed in response to its own particular phenomena and concerns. Indian traditions were mined even as its modernism was under construction, unlike the Western impetus to completely overthrow the past.
We’re happy to welcome visitors to the gallery as well as make virtual engagement a possibility through a multi-dimensional mapping of the show, available on our website. A comprehensive e-catalogue is also available on request. For all inquiries, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
M.F. HUSAIN (1915-2007)
Born in 1915 in Pandharpur, Maharashtra, Maqbool Fida Husain developed a fascination for cinema and languages, wrote Urdu poetry and developed an interest in calligraphy while living in Indore, where he enrolled at the Indore School of Art. Husain was later admitted into the Sir J.J. School of Art, where he was also unable to complete his studies due to the death of his father. He subsequently moved to Bombay, got married, and got a job at a furniture shop designing nursery furniture and wooden toys. In 1948, Husain left his job to join the Progressive Artists’ Group, after which he fully embraced his yet-to-be prolific career as an artist. He went on to hold solo shows in Zurich, Prague, Tokyo, Baghdad, Kabul, Rome, New York, Bombay and New Delhi. He was awarded the Padma Shri in 1966, the National Award in 1968 and the Padma Vibhushan in 1989. The artist died in 2011.
RAM KUMAR (1924-2018)
Born in 1924 in Simla, Ram Kumar studied economics at St. Stephen’s College, New Delhi, in 1946. He went to Paris to study painting under Andre Lhote and Fernard Leger from 1949 to 1952, before which he worked briefly as a journalist. Ram Kumar’s work predominantly comprises abstract renditions of landscapes with jagged topographical contours, supplemented with a sense ambient despair. Much of his oeuvre is dictated by a preoccupation with nature and being-ness, and the relationships between space, objects and individuals. He remains a vital part of first generation post-colonial Indian artists, a member of the fabled Progressive Artist’s Group, alongside F.N. Souza, S.H. Raza and M.F. Husain. He received the Padma Shri in 1972 and the Prem Chand Puraskar for a collection of short stories. The artist died in 2018.
KRISHEN KHANNA (B. 1925)
Born in 1925 in what is now Faislabad in Pakistan, Krishen Khanna grew up in Lahore where he studied art after graduation at the Mayo School of Art. After the Partition of India, Khanna moved with his family to Simla, where he became deeply affected by the socio-political chaos that reigned around him. His oeuvre hinges itself on the human form and historical events, emphasizing the reality of social conditions. After his family's move to India, a job in banking brought him to Bombay, where he was invited to be a part of the now famous Progressive Artists’ Group. A largely self-taught artist, he later studied at the Imperial Service College, Windsor, England, from where he graduated in 1940. He received the Lalit Kala Ratna from the President of India in 2004 and the Padma Shri in 1990. The artist lives and works in New Delhi.
S.H. RAZA ( 1922 – 2016)
Born in Madhya Pradesh in 1922, Syed Haider Raza studied at the Nagpur School of Art before moving to Bombay in 1943 to study at the Sir J.J. School of Art. Following his graduation, as a member of the Bombay Progressive Artists’ Group, Raza discovered and nurtured the primary artistic inspiration that would reverberate throughout his career: the land and nature around him. He spent much of his time in the 1950s at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. His love for Paris blossomed and remained a life-long affair, though he still maintained a strong bond with India. Raza was awarded the Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan in 2007 and 2013 respectively. He was awarded the Lalit Kala Ratna Puraskar in 2004 by the Lalit Kala Academo, New Delhi. He was also awarded the Legion of Honour by the Republic of France in 2015. The artist died in 2016.
J. SWAMINATHAN (1948 – 1994)
Born in Simla in 1948, Jagdish Swaminathan studied art i at Delhi Polytechnic and afterwards, he won a scholarship to study graphics at the Academy of Fine Arts, in Warsaw, Poland. He was a member of the Communist Party of India in the mid 1950s and worked as a journalist and art critic for Left-aligned magazines. Swaminathan founded the Group 1890 in August 1962. Swaminathan believed that art belonged to the realms of freedom and the imagination—that true art is reality; it does not translate nor recreate reality and it does not aspire to represent or narrate life. By the late 1960s he had gained recognition as an important Indian painter, and was awarded the Jawaharlal Nehru Fellowship in 1968. The artist died in 1994.