A Passage to (the Contemporary Art of) India

Intermission at Bass Concert Hall got a lot more interesting last month when Kala Fine Art filled the building with 80 large pieces of contemporary art from India

<i>Entwined</i>, by Shiladitya Sarker
Entwined, by Shiladitya Sarker

Intermission at Bass Concert Hall got a lot more interesting last month when Kala Fine Art filled the building with 80 large pieces of contemporary art from India. Director Justin Marx has an in-depth knowledge of the work being done there and has met with the artists personally. Even if you can't identify every embodiment of Krishna represented, you'll be able to see how much richness and variety there is in India's current art scene, and you might even discern some of the stylistic generalizations of the subcontinent's various regions, such as the flat, intricate lines, patterning, and distinct filigree style of Southern India.

One such painting by KG Narendra Babu has mythical angels filling the sky, hovering above archways, horses, and people, and flying alongside a rather modern helicopter. This enchanting work has no shading of forms. Within its thick orange border, the various characters and elements are silhouetted against the clear blue sky, each one filled in with an intricately dense drawing. The artist uses line quality to populate certain parts of the composition, and the evenness of the lines is so clearly obsessive that your initial response is simply a "wow, that took a really long time." (Sometimes it's nice to see the work hours right up front.) Then your eye settles in to unwind the details of the story, to discover a mixture of modern items and religious metaphors.

This show is primarily figurative paintings, but the styles are very diverse. The mingling of religious icons with the earthly is reminiscent of Latin American art – it feels Catholic to me – while other elements put me in mind of European masters: Flying figures and animals always make me think of Chagall, and the heavy loaded strokes of paint and angular composition of M. Suriyamoorthy's Temples recall the stained-glass style of Rouault. Murugan by Pon Raghunathan – his svelte color modulations are pure pleasure – appears to follow in the Cubist tradition. These works show a complete understanding of the tenets of European art but give them a local twist. Some of the artwork is so personal and abstract that you'd never guess the artist's nationality, like the luminescent and romantic figures in Entwined by Shiladitya Sarkar. It speaks of love and intimacy, which knows no borders.


"Modern Myth: Changing Images in Indian Art, Part 1" is on view through Nov. 30 at Bass Concert Hall. For more information, call Bass Patron Services at 471-8207 or visit www.kalafineart.com.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Kala Fine Art, Justin Marx, KG Narendra Babu, M. Suriyamoorthy, Temple, Marugan, Pon Raghunathan, Entwined, Shiladitya Sarkar

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