Bikash Bhattacharjee’s Untitled pastel on paper from 1989, depicting a nude silhouette of a woman, has stolen the limelight at the art exhibition, Rasas of Indian Art. The textures, in gleaming hues of blue and purple in the painting, mesmerise. As if the entire show is anchored on this one painting and its myriad emotions. We spoke to Babita Gupta, Director of Art Spice Gallery, who has co-curated the show in Delhi with Saurabh Singhvi, Director, Art Magnum. Gupta is also a painter but doesn’t pursue art as much as she used to. No time, she says. Nevertheless, Gupta’s loss is the viewer’s gain because as an art aficionado, she has time to immerse herself more deeply into any exhibition she curates. Excerpts: What led you to launch Rasas of Indian Art? The exhibition has paintings and sculptures. The former are by masters of Indian and contemporary art, while the latter are by contemporary artists.
The idea is to give the viewer rasa or (juice) of the paintings and sculptures that display different emotions. When a master artist paints, it is not just one emotion, there is a stream of hidden narratives and a free-flowing of rasas. Major highlights of the show? There’s a rare Ganesha by Satish Gujral, which I have personally seen for the first time. The medium is wood leather and nail on board. Thota Vaikuntam’s acrylic-on-canvas showcases his lifelong subject of depicting rural woman from Telangana in their traditional style of living, for instance, with turmeric on the faces and vermillion on the forehead. But my favourite is Hemendranath Mazumdar’s oil painting dating to the 1930s, where the body is of a 13 or 14-year-old girl, while the face depicts the maturity of a woman.
The painting engages and surprises you to a great extent. It is noticed that artworks by modernists sell more. What can a gallery to do to consciously shift the gaze to newer artists? It’s true that collectors do not see beyond the masters, and MF Husain is the first one to go. That’s why we have merged modernists with the contemporary artists in the show. Among the newer artists I feel Poosapati Parameshwar Raju is promising. It is difficult to interpret themes with calligraphy, his forte. I have seen him at work and I have a lot of admiration for him. For the show, he has used calligraphy to depict, The Last Supper and a Christmas tree. I also believe Sridhar Iyer and NS Rana have proved their mettle. What according to you is the future of artists caught up in the #MeToo movement? A lot of the artists are caught up and they all deny. They say it’s just a false rumour but who knows.
One doesn’t know the whole truth. Who knows many of the artists now will also be named in the future. Let me tell you we are not moralistic in our own lives, how can we point at others. Some of the artists displayed here had multiple partners. Artists are known for having a muse, but how many muses will one have. It seems there is no end to that. A few of the artists have packed their bags but others are still selling. What are your hopes from the upcoming India Art Fair? It was very well organised but personally I found repetitions of artworks with respect to the previous editions. International galleries were selling Indian artworks which most art collectors here are not interested in buying from them. I think those galleries should represent their own artists. But I think that is not possible because those artworks do not sell in India. There’s very little scope of experimentation even in showing art. I don’t have big hopes from the fair but you do spot some really good art.