M I D N I G H T ’S FA M I LY 70 YEARS OF INDIAN ARTIS TS IN BRITAIN
Ben Uri Research Unit is delighted to present Midnight’s Family: 70 Years of Indian Artists in Britain within its 2 years in the making, its new digital strategy, to create a distinctive, full scale, virtual museum. The exhibition presents some of the leading Indian immigrant artists working in Britain in the past 70 plus years, as part of the ongoing series of exhibitions within the focus of the ‘Ben Uri Research Unit for the Study of the Immigrant and Jewish Contribution to the Visual Arts in Britain Since 1900’. This survey is particularly significant as it is the Research Unit’s first exhibition to explore a non-European émigré artistic community, following previous investigations since 2016 into Austrian, Czech, German and Polish immigrants to Britain – narratives which were significantly impacted by the Second World War and the Nazi domination of Europe. In October 2018 we published our Public Benefit and Sustainability Strategic Plan which carved a new pioneering road map for Ben Uri to establish distinctive, relevant, and purposeful vehicles to best fulfil its charity objectives. Every facet of how this small to medium-sized museum operates was critically analysed, assessed and measured against public benefit and comparable return on financial investment of charitable monies. Qualitative, distinctive, cost-effective, impactful engagement was, and remains, the critical criteria for the investment of charitable funds and our people’s talents and energies. As a result, we now have three principal functions within the museum’s overall focus of Art, Identity and Migration: 1. Ben Uri Digital – Virtual Museum: Engaging locally, nationally, and internationally: benuri.org From September 2020 we will operate permanently as a, principally, digital institution, a full scale virtual museum, supported by our space in Boundary Road, St John’s Wood, London NW8, which houses the country’s most comprehensive research library on Jewish and, in time also, immigrant artists alongside the Ben Uri archive and a ground floor exhibition gallery. The virtual museum offers unlimited space and opportunity to engage meaningfully and purposefully within a national and international orbit. It substitutes the unaffordable capital costs of a large, centrally located building in central London and its high and ever-increasing annual running costs within an environment of shrinking philanthrophic charity support for smaller charities and institutions.
2. Ben Uri Research Unit: Charged with researching and producing the country’s first comprehensive study and digital record of the considerable and often seminal Jewish and immigrant contribution to British visual culture since 1900. This is an ongoing commitment and will be a resource which will be accessible for schools, undergraduates, post-graduate studies, teachers, lecturers, scholars, social historians, researchers, archivists, critics, journalists, local and national politicians, art collectors, dealers and auction houses amongst others. 3. Ben Uri Arts and Health Institute: Encompasses the following three interlinked programmes:
Art in Residence: researching best practice art interventions to enhance cognitive engagement using the Ben Uri collection Ways into Art: extensively online resources and training tutorials, empowering care staff to run Ben Uri curated art sessions
Starting with Art: placement and supervision of trainee art therapists, using the Ben Uri collection as their content resource The Ben Uri collection is at the core of each of these creative research and outreach programmes. Upscaling into highly cost-effective national programming and delivery is the ultimate objective. I take this opportunity to thank all the contributing artists: Anish Kapoor, Sutapa Biswas, Chila Burman, Balraj Khanna, Shivangi Ladha, Dhruva Mistry, Hormazd Narielwalla, Saleem Arif Quadri, Raqib Shaw and his studio, and The Singh Twins. Thanks are also due to the supporting galleries, institutions and initiatives: Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery; Bradford Museums and Galleries; Britten Pears Foundation; Charles Moore and Conor Macklin, Grosvenor Gallery, London; Jana Manuelpillai, The Noble Sage, London; Peter Osborne, Osborne Samuel, London; Robert Travers, Piano Nobile, London; Ruth Borchard Collection courtesy Piano Nobile; South Asian Heritage Month; Tate, London. I also pay particular thanks to our co-curators, Rachel Dickson (Ben Uri) and artist, Shanti Panchal; Dr Zehra Jumabhoy, Courtauld Institute, for her expertise, guidance and illuminating essay; Prof Sarah Wilson, Courtauld Institute; exhibition interns Nayanika Singh and Michela Young for research; digital officer Camilla Carlesi, digital interns Annabelle Davidovici and Kelsey MacGowan, and all at Ben Uri who together have brought this online endeavour to fruition. David Glasser
C U R ATO R I A L INTRODUCTION: RAC HEL DIC KSON
In this strange summer of 2020, Ben Uri is delighted to launch its first online exhibition devoted to the artists from a single immigrant community. Having previously focused in gallery shows on individual nationalities with roots in a persecuted Europe (particularly during the period of Nazi occupation from 1933-45), German, Austrian, Czechoslovak and Polish artists have each featured in snapshot exhibitions in Boundary Road, London, NW8. It was therefore decided that an investigation into the contribution made by the Indian community was timely (as the anniversary of Independence approaches), and particularly as Ben Uri Research Unit (BURU) extends its remit beyond Europe in Ben Uri’s second century. The subject of the Indian artistic community in Britain has been broadly addressed by museums only on a few occasions, notably in the seminal exhibition The Other Story: Afro-Asian Artists in Postwar Britain, (Hayward Gallery, 1989) curated by Pakistani artist and pedagogue, Rasheed Araeen, and in Tate Britain’s 2016 exhibition, Artist and Empire, while commercial galleries such as Osborne Samuel, Grosvenor Gallery and the Noble Sage in London, have an ongoing focus on the increasing interest in south Asian art, and continue to support exhibition and scholarship relating to this cohort. With the onset of COVID-19, Ben Uri, as with all galleries and museums in Britain, closed its doors – and began to rethink its approach to exhibitions. Very quickly, the Indian exhibition was remodelled for the virtual world, with the positive outcomes of a wider audience reach, along with the possibility of introducing works, such as Kapoor’s Marsyas, which could never even begin to fit through the gallery doors. This virtual iteration allows for an ambitious range of works to be shown and discussed together in a way which would have been beyond the physical limitations of Ben Uri’s space – as well as beyond temporal, geographical and basic practical considerations. Furthermore, at the same time, public attention has turned increasingly to British BAME communities, given the higher incidence of the virus and associated mortality therein, while issues surrounding British colonial history and its toxic legacy have suddenly been foregrounded as part of the global response to the killing of George Floyd in Minnesota, USA, in June.
Thus, a group of first and second generation Indian artists was drawn up, creating a snapshot of the community in Britain, which has evolved and established a significant presence over more than 70 years, from independence (declared at midnight on 15 August 1947) to the present day, across a range of media and stylistic investigations. Indeed, artists of Indian heritage, such as Anish Kapoor, Raqib Shaw and The Singh Twins have global reputations and increasingly occupy important positions within international discourse. The exhibition begins with the work of the great Indian Modernist – and master of figure painting – with the most significant reputation today, F. N. Souza, one of the founder members of the legendary Progressive Artists’ Group, established in Bombay (now Mumbai) after Independence in 1947, and one of the first Indian artists to work in Britain in the postwar period. Fellow immigrants from this pioneering generation who fused European styles with their own distinctive palettes and aesthetic responses, to create a unique vision of postwar Britain, include Lancelot Ribeiro (Souza’s half-brother), S. K. Bakre (1920-2007), and Avinash Chandra (1931-1991), whose painting, along with one by Souza, were the first Indian modernist works to enter the national collection at Tate in 1965. Prafulla Mohanti (b. 1936) and Saleem Quadri (b. 1949) represent a more mystical wing, exploring spiritual and philosophical issues, while Balraj Khanna (b. 1940), who also writes and curates, alongside his self-taught visual practice, presents an individual exploration of painterly and sculptural abstraction. Paul Gopal Chowdhury (b. 1949), Slade graduate, former Gregory Fellow at Leeds University, who has taught at the Royal Drawing School, hovers between two cultures within his art, presenting an intriguing mélange of imagery from two traditions and two lives. A slightly younger cohort of Indian artists born in the 1950s, includes Anish Kapoor (b. 1954), one of the most ‘famous’ artists in the UK today (we all recognize the iconic towering geometry of his helter skelter Orbit, designed for the 2012 Olympics in conjunction with Sri Lankan engineer, Cecil Balmond, and permanently sited in Stratford); sculptor Dhruva Mistry (b. 1957, now mainly resident in India) and Shanti Panchal (b. 1950s, exact date unknown), who all came as adults in the 1960s and 1970s. Sutapa Biswas (b. 1962), although born in India, grew up
in Britain. Along with her English-born contemporaries such as Chila Burman (b. 1957 whose work is often characterized by ornate and intricate decorative surfaces), these women interrogate issues of identity, gender and heritage through a broad range of media. Finally, the spotlight falls on the younger artists who have moved to Britain to seek the best art education, such as Hormazd Narielwalla (b. 1979), whose collage, Bands of Pride is the first work by an Indian immigrant to enter the Ben Uri Collection; Shivangi Ladha (b. 1991 a recent graduate of the Royal College of Art whose printmaking has already been acquired by the Victoria & Albert Museum, London); and Raqib Shaw (b.1974, already internationally renowned), who intertwines his fascination with the Renaissance and 19th century Arts and Crafts movements with Indian influences, such as Mughal architecture and the patterning of Kashmiri shawls, with his own highly individual investigation into ‘self ’. Across this diverse group, recurring themes and motifs are presented, inspired by autobiography, Indian culture, and an awareness of history, identity and heritage impacted by empire and colonization. Furthermore, for the younger generation, increasingly, there is, an often, playful awareness of their complex hybridity as British artists with an Indian background. Artworks featured include paintings in various media, printmaking, works on paper, photography, digital mixed media, sculpture and installation – and it is wholly appropriate that two featured images by The Singh Twins were first platformed on Instagram as recently as June 2020. Given Ben Uri’s own roots, exhibition, and collection history, it is also worthwhile noting the parallels between the experiences of the Indian and Jewish immigrant artists, in the immediate postwar period. (It is also noteworthy that Anish Kapoor was born to a Jewish mother and an Indian Punjabi Hindu father.) For both communities, the idea of simply ‘being’ an artist – beyond any label of national identity - was of first and foremost importance, yet the inaccessibility of the British art establishment often meant that the reality was the creation of exhibiting groups or societies or venues defined by this very identity – hence the establishment of the Indian Painters Collective, UK (IPC) in 1963, while Ben Uri was regularly (self-)labelled as the ‘Jewish’ art society. Furthermore, the establishment in India of a culture of museums, exhibitions, art history and
art criticism in the 1930s and 1940s onwards, owes much to a cohort of German speaking émigrés who fled Nazi persecution: Dr Herman Goetz (1898 -1976), Director of the Baroda Museum & Picture Gallery; Rudolf von Leyden (1908-1983), who became art critic of The Times of India, and the Austrian-born critic, Walter Langhammer (1905-1977). These Europeans had a significant influence as patrons and critics on Souza, Bakre, and the Progressive Artists Group in Bombay (which was fired with an innate prejudice against any artistic developments in Calcutta), which in turn impacted upon Indian Modernism as a whole, as it gradually spread beyond India in the late 1940s-early 1950s. Ben Uri, perhaps unexpectedly, has had points of intersection with Indian artists within its own exhibition history. Most recently, Homazd Nariewalla’s work, Bands of Pride, acquired in 2017, was exhibited in Highlights of the Ben Uri Collection: 2002 Onwards (Ben Uri, 2018) and in Migrations: Masterworks from the Ben Uri Collection, Gloucester Museum (2019-2020), while striking commonalities of subject and intention were evident in the works by Shanti Panchal and Julie Held in Regard and Ritual, their two person show at Ben Uri (2007), which toured to the Eldon Gallery, University of Portsmouth. Though of different immigrant backgrounds and generations, and working in different paint media, both expressed a powerful shared humanity. Historically, Avinash Chandra (who had moved to Golder’s Green in 1956, a neighbourhood synonymous with the Jewish community in the postwar period) had work exhibited in Ben Uri’s fundraising Art Fairs in 1961 and 1965, at the height of his success in the UK, while Usha Shah, a young Indian painter who accompanied emigré artist Fritz Feigl (see benuricollection.org) during his en plein air excursions to paint in the landscape, showed her work in Ben Uri’s opening exhibition at its new Berners Street premises in early 1961. From these first incidental moments of connection more than half a century ago, to Ben Uri’s proud participation in South Asian Heritage Month in summer 2020, BURU is honoured to present this exhibition, co-curated with Shanti Panchal, and framed by the insightful text by Dr Zehra Jumabhoy, which celebrates the contribution of a remarkable immigrant community in Britain over more than 70 years.
THE EMPIRE S TRIKES BAC K?: M A K I N G B R I TA I N BROWNER Dr Zehra Jumabhoy
‘The ‘alien’ cultures of the blacks are seen as either the cause or else the most visible symptom of the destruction of the ‘British Way of Life’. The common-sense images of the ‘family’ play a crucial role here, since the ‘family’ is seen as the fundamental unit of society.’ Errol Lawrence, The Empire Strikes Back: Race & Racism in ’70s Britain (The Book)
‘ You Don’t Know the Power of the Dark Side…I am altering the deal […]’ Darth Vader, The Empire Strikes Back (The Movie)
Rule Britannia: Colonial Conundrums In 2017, a ghostly tracery of light took up residence outside a Delhi police station. It hovered in the air, coalesced to form the words ‘Let’s repeat the definition of an empire’ in iridescent yellow-green script. The lights seemed to twinkle, spreading an eerie radiance over the dark streets. The projection was one of artist Ayesha Singh’s Capital Formation series – a suite of 16 photos that the artist says are supposed to ‘capture the action of projecting text in public spaces’ in India’s capital city as a ‘subversive’ act; a gesture to undermine ‘symbols that connote power, methods of Empire-formation’. (1) As the anniversary of the death of the British Empire rolls around we wonder: which Empire was Singh referring to? The one that was – i.e. Britain’s Imperial ‘adventure’? Or one that is – a.k.a. the neo-colonialism that is globalisation? Or the Raj’s impact (often overlooked) on Indian Hindutva-led politics today; with its conservative Victorian values and regressive Orientalist idea of the ‘timeless’ Hindu nation?
AY E S H A S I N G H Capital Formation, Projections, #5 M Block Market, 2017-19 Digital prints of projected text in public spaces, text conceived in collaboration with Cat Bluemke
In fact, Singh’s evanescent projection is just one example that the spectre of Imperialism continues to haunt contemporary India. Think of the derisive riffs staged by contemporary artists in Mumbai’s ornate, gilt-edged Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum (built during the high noon of Empire – in the 1850s – it was known as ‘the Victoria & Albert Museum’). Here, the alabaster statue of Prince Albert, which graces the forecourt, is often the subject of fun and games for cultural practitioners. Think Sudarshan Shetty’s hilarious 2010 golden sculptural mock-up of the snow-white Albert, This Too Shall Pass, which was tilted side-ways as if about to collapse. It would only stand upright – a text panel informed visitors – if it was ‘fed’ with a sufficient number of coins. Needless to say, Prince Albert’s
FRANCIS N E W TO N S O U Z A 1924-2002 Negro in Mourning, 1957 Oil on hardboard Birmingham Museums Trust. Photograph by Birmingham Museums Trust
double was never satisfied with the bounty poured into his coffers: he threatened to topple throughout the duration of Shetty’s show. If, in India, ruminations on the Raj are regular, in Britain the story of its one-time Empire has faded to a distant, awkward recollection. And, the British public, like a naughty schoolboy, often needs prodding into remembering it every now and again – usually in time for the yearly anniversary of the Subcontinent’s liberation. As we are approaching 73 years of Indian independence from British rule, Ben Uri’s show is the perfect opportunity to re-consider the Raj – and its repercussions for British art today. Midnight’s Legacy: Drawing Lines, Sketching Territory At the Midnight hour of the 15th of August 1947, the sun finally set on the British Empire. Two new nations rose from its demise: India and Pakistan. They were bifurcated by a Partition – the Radcliffe Line. It was named after Sir Cyril Radcliffe, the British lawyer who was charged with equitably dividing 175,000 square miles of territory with 88 million people within five weeks – having never been to the Subcontinent before (2) It was the site of violent upheavals, and horrendous bloodshed. As millions migrated for religious reasons across new borderlines to join a ‘Muslim’ Pakistan or a ‘Secular’ India, millions died. Unsurprisingly, Radcliffe’s demarcations continue to be enduring sites of trauma. Britain’s legacy to the Subcontinent was the sowing of perpetual strife: every time communal conflict raises its head (often, these days, with the rise of the Hindu Right in India, and Islamic fundamentalism in Pakistan), the old wounds of Partition bleed afresh. (3) And, if in Britain, the wounds of Empire have been mostly expunged from public consciousness, the efforts of South Asian artists in the UK has nonetheless ensured that they can never quite be forgotten. In the 1940s, India’s newlyfree artists were full of hope – and many of them arrived in the lands of their former coloniser to build new lives. Ben Uri’s exhibition tells their story and that of those who followed them. Tracing the journeys of these early hopefuls – such as Modernists F.N. Souza, Balraj Khanna
and Avinash Chandra – it documents the angry aspirations of the second wave: think British Indian feminist Sutapa Biswas’ furious female forms which reference the dark Goddess of Destruction, Kali. It captures the seeming change in fortunes of the third wave of Indian immigrant artists in the 1980s and 1990s. (4) For instance, the spectacularly successful, miniature-inspired work of The Singh Twins (who have been feted at Buckingham Palace); the showcasing accorded to the glittering, Swarovski-studded offerings of Kashmiri Raqib Shaw; the celebrating of Mumbai-born Anish Kapoor – who was the first ‘Indian’ to win the Turner Prize in 1991. Kapoor’s gigantic sculptural installation, Marsyas (2003), stretched like a silent scream of red PVC membrane across the Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall, its 150-meter-long, ten storey body a reference to the flayed flesh of the mythical Greek hero, Marsyas, who was skinned alive for his hubris at challenging the God Apollo to a musical contest. No such fate awaited Kapoor: he was knighted by the Queen in 2013 for his services to visual arts. Has Britain welcomed these post-colonials into the British establishment on their own terms? Has the Imperial ghost finally been laid to rest? Yet, such an assessment would be too simplistic. Each of the artists in this show have complicated relationships with their postcolonial inheritance. For some, it becomes fodder for tongue-in-cheek fun. In the gorgeously glittery, candy-coloured simulacrum of an ice-cream cone, Eat Me Now (2013), Chila Kumari Singh Burman’s riffs on her Punjabi-Liverpudlian childhood, where her father owned an ice-cream van. Meanwhile, the Mumbai-born Parsi Hormazd Narielwalla indulges his predilection to play the English Gentleman with his re-purposing of Savile Row motifs for his Dead Man’s Patterns (2008). But, jokes aside, we must acknowledge that for these artists’ precursors, the legacy of colonialism was a source of continual – if repressed – anguish. Shanti Panchal’s figurative canvases are populated by sad-eyed souls; pinched and still, they struggle for dignity. In his 2017 offering, Greenfell Pyre and the Rescued Family, Panchal reminds us that the stigma of Otherness continues to contaminate social life. Here, we see a family standing in isolation: lumpy figures, they appear shamefaced, eyes staring side-ways as if they fear to meet our gaze. Panchal’s painted protagonists recall Souza’s Negro in Mourning (1957), whose bearded, blue-black form seems to shrink into his suit; his emaciated, hollow-eyed visage assessing us warily – unsure of his reception. The painting was made during the late 1950s, which was (ironically) a high point in Souza’s own ‘British’ career, but which saw the country wracked with racial tensions. Souza admitted: ‘Negro in Mourning is close to the bone of man because it
is about the colour of skin.’ (5) In fact, Souza’s journey as a Black (or Brown) artist in Britain was a tough – if typical – one. Curator, pedagogue and artist Rasheed Araeen, in the catalogue for his ground-breaking 1989 show, The Other Story: Afro-Asian Artists in Post-War Britain, records that Goan Souza (who came to London in 1949) was the darling of the British artworld in the 1950s and early 1960s. (6) His first solo in 1955, with Victor Musgrave’s Gallery One, earned him high praise from critics and collectors alike. Yet, after another couple of high-flying solos, his show of black-on-black paintings at Grosvenor Gallery, in 1966, flopped. Rejected by the establishment, Souza fled to New York in 1967. Souza’s early success and subsequent failure was echoed in the experiences of other Indian Modernists in London: such as S.K. Bakre, Avinash Chandra and Balraj Khanna. Their swirly, semi-abstract forms – in line with the ‘international styles’ of Klee and Miro – were first feted for their hot ‘Indian sensibility’ or (in the case of Chandra and Khanna) for their ‘Indian’ affection for sexually-suggestive Tantric forms, only to be ignored by the mid-1960s. (7) Post-War Britain, explains Araeen, was turning hostile to Immigrant Others. (8) Left out in the cold, Chandra, like Souza, left for the US by the end of the 1960s. And if there has been a recent attempt at rehabilitating their reputations, it has invariably been at a price. Migrations: Journeys in British Art at Tate Britain (held during the London Olympics, 2012) tried to carry ‘inclusiveness’ onto aesthetic terrain. Here, Pakistani Araeen’s Rang Baranga (1969) was juxtaposed with Souza’s Crucifixion (1959) under the heading ‘Artists in Pursuit of an International Language’. The corresponding walltext stated apologetically that, ‘unfortunately’, artists like ‘Araeen have been defined by others’. No more, it implied. And, yet, the handling of Souza’s British legacy within Tate’s triumphant inclusivity begs the question of whether South Asian artists continue to be ‘defined’. Instead of ignoring them, though, there is an attempt to engulf them into a British art history, at the expense of other affiliations. Tellingly, at Tate Britain’s All Too Human: Bacon, Freud and a Century of Painting Life (2018), Souza’s paintings from the 1950s and 1960s (i.e. his ‘British’ period) were given pride of place in a room of their own. No mention was made of the fact that Souza – as a founding-member of Bombay’s Progressive Artists’ Group – is also considered the Father of Indian Modernism. It is as if in becoming British, Souza’s ‘Indian-ness’ was to be forfeit. And the pendulum swings the other way too: as Brown artists are given entry into ‘Britishness’, their Indian-ness starts to evade them. It is a strange truth than none of the artists in Ben Uri’s show were included in the blockbuster ‘surveys’ of Indian art that journeyed across the UK:
Passage to India (2008) in Manchester; the Serpentine Gallery’s Indian Highway (2009), Saatchi Gallery’s The Empire Strikes Back: Indian Art Today (2010) left out our Midnight’s Family. As India’s contemporary talent made their way into London’s blue-chip galleries via these surveys (Hauser & Wirth for Subodh Gupta and Bharti Kher; Haunch of Venison for Jitish Kallat), one begins to wonder: are the artists in Midnight’s Family too British to be considered Indian? Does the right to belong to one category mean summary expulsion from the other? The curious case of Bharti Kher – born in Britain, but married to Superstar Indian artist, Subodh Gupta – appears to suggest so. Her sperm-shaped, bindi-covered sculptures conjure strange beasties in more ways than one. The life-sized fibreglass white elephant, The Skin Speaks a Language Not Its Own, debuted in Manchester
at Passage to India. Its ‘skin’ was a comment on race and powerlessness – the white elephant lay prostrate on the floor – but its presence in Frank Cohen’s collection of colossal contemporary artworks from the Subcontinent underscored that Kher’s inclusion was as an Indian artist, not a British one. Ben Uri’s line-up does not paper over the contradictions in this terminology: if Souza is in, Kher is out. (9) But, what makes an artist Indian versus British? Is it a choice one makes, one that is thrust upon one? As contemporary Indian art enters Britain’s prestigious public collections, this is an identity crisis worth pondering. Black or White?: Twin Troubles The Singh Twins and Shaw’s mockery of the Mighty might point the way. Their offerings are in keeping with the identity theories of Stuart Hall and Homi Bhabha,
R AQ I B S H AW Narcissus, 2009-11 Painted bronze, silicone oil and Portland stone composite. Courtesy of Raqib Shaw and White Cube.
THE SINGH T WINS Rule Britannia: Legacies of Exchange, 2018 Copyright and courtesy the artists. The work was installed at Splendours of the Subcontinent: A Prince’s Tour of India, 1875-6, at the Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, London, curated by Emily Hannam of the Royal Collection Trust, Queen’s Gallery.
which were formulated in Britain in the 1990s. Eschewing the ‘essentialism’ of the 1970s and 1980s, where Black artists and activists fought about being side-lined, the theorists proposed that Selfhood is ‘fluid’, shifting, incomplete – able to reverse the unequal relationship between the Coloniser and the Colonised. Bhabha suggests the Self is always and already inhabited by the Other, Whiteness implies Blackness. Contemporary artists who gesture to this via mimicry and mirroring are able to subvert Colonial prejudices. (10) Shaw’s crystal-encrusted installation, Narcissus (2010), could be read in this vein. Here, two sculptures face off against each other. Each has been fitted with a giant swan engulfing a prone creature (a fibreglass man with Shaw’s body and the visage of a vampire bat). The swans could be attacking or mating. Eros and Thanatos are intertwined. They evoke mirror images: but with a difference. One sculpture contains a Black swan; the other a White. Shaw’s re-use of the Greek myth of Narcissus, the man who fell in love with his own reflection, is a doubling, troubling shattering of identity. The time has come to prise open British colonialism’s can
of worms. Ben Uri’s show is being launched in the midst of current cries to de-colonise Britain’s Imperial past. Instead of a Shetty-esque mock-up, it is the ‘real’ bronze statue of Robert Clive which stands tall in London’s Whitehall that is in danger of being toppled. Clive – also known as ‘Clive of India’ – was responsible for kickstarting the East India Company’s violent entry into India in 1757, as the victor of the Battle of Plassey. (11) In this climate, The Singh Twins’ Rule Britannia: Legacies of Empire (2018) – was a timely insertion into a citadel of Britain’s majesty: Buckingham Palace. The Twins’ light-infused artwork turns the Mighty Clive into a miniature man – he dangles below a resplendent Queen Elizabeth I, with his straining girth conducting a (losing?) battle with his smart red Company Official’s coat. Far from erasing the past, the Twins’ mocking facsimile reminds us that Clive’s conquest continues to impact Britain’s postcolonial present: the Double’s spawn are all around us. As Shaw and Singh’s art riffs on ideas of ‘British-ness’ – quotes ranging from pop culture to ‘hot’ news and art history – they reveal the Other in the Self of Colonialism. After all, the Singh Twins, like Shaw’s coupling swans (trouble comes in twos?) remind us that they are relics of this past – and they are here to stay.
1. Email interview by the author with Ayesha Singh for the purposes of this text. 2. Ramachandra Guha, India After Gandhi: History of the World’s Largest Democracy, Picador: London, 2007, pp.1216 3. Radcliffe arrived on June 8 and his Commissions began work on July 1. The final demarcations were not made public till August 17. My point is the release of the information after Independence may have been responsible for the panic and chaos the Lines caused via the mass migrations they necessitated.
worrying instead about the type of attention they were receiving.” ( Julian Stallabrass Art Incorporated: The Story of Contemporary Art, Oxford University Press: Oxford and New York, 2004, pp. 8) 7. If Indian artists in the West were Orientalised for their ‘Indian-ness’ on the one hand, they were also castigated for being derivative of the Euro-American Greats on the other: hence, Souza was known as the ‘Indian Picasso’, Balraj Khanna was compared to Paul Klee, Tyeb Mehta, who showed in London in the early 1960s, was dubbed the ‘Indian Francis Bacon’ and VS Gaitonde referred to as ‘the Indian Mark Rothko’.
4. These three main phases largely echo cultural theorist Stuart Hall’s division of “Black art” in Britain into three waves in his lecture, “Black Diaspora Artists in Britain”. Here, Hall defines “Black” as including “all the minority migrant communities without the careful discrimination of ethnic, racial, regional, national and religious distinctions which has since emerged”. (Stuart Hall, “Black Diaspora Artists in Britain: Three ‘Moments’ in Post-war History”, History Workshop Journal 2006, Oxford University Press: Oxford, 2006.) All three phases are included in this exhibition, although their relationship with each other – less neat than Hall implies – as well as within a wider “British Blackness” versus “Brown-ness” is precisely what this show (and this essay) seek to probe.
8. Rasheed Araeen, The Other Story: Afro-Asian Artists in Post-War Britain, Exhi. Cat., Hayward gallery: London, 1989, pp. 25-28; pp. 43
5. Zehra Jumabhoy, F.N. Souza: Black on Black, Exhi. Cat, Grosvenor Gallery: London, 2013.
10. As Bhabha styles it: “This ambivalent identification of the racist world…turns on the idea of Man as his alienated image, not Self and Other but the ‘Other-ness’ of the Self inscribed in the perverse palimpsest of colonial identity.” (Homi Bhabha, “Interrogating Identity”, The Location of Culture, Routledge: London & New York, 2009, pp. 76)
6. Araeen’s The Other Story at the Hayward Gallery has been credited with enabling the entry of Afro-Asian artists into the mainstream British artworld. Since the 1980s and 1990s, it has been assumed that the barrier was crossed with this show – and that ‘Black artists’ no longer need to struggle to be visible – rather it is the nature of their visibility (or “hyper-visibility”) which has to be addressed. As art historian Julian Stallabrass puts it: “Despite the fears of Araeen, non-white artists would no longer need complain about invisibility, and had to start
9. London-based, Mumbai-born Anish Kapoor’s shift in attitude proves the rule that money talks and definitions matter. To be included in the events of the Indian artworld Kapoor has to prove his Indian credentials. For years Kapoor wanted to be labelled a ‘British’ artist. However, upon being acquired by India’s billionaire collectors – and during his first solo in Mumbai (at the cavernous Mehboob Film Studios) in 2011, Kapoor gave interviews to the Indian press (this author included) professing his excitement at his longed-for “homecoming”.
11. Popular historian William Dalrymple throws his (considerable) weight behind the campaign to remove this “totem” of “white supremacy”. (William Dalrymple, “Robert Clive was a vicious asset-stripper. His statue has no place at Whitehall”, The Guardian, 11 June 2020.)
Dr Zehra Jumabhoy is a UK-based art historian specializing in modern and contemporary South Asian art. She is a writer, curator and was, from 2016 to 2020, an Associate Lecturer at the Courtauld Institute of Art, London, where she completed her PhD on Indian art and nationalism in 2017, as a Steven and Elena Heinz Doctoral Scholar. Prior to her doctorate, Jumabhoy lived and worked in Bombay, where she was editor of the Visual Art section for Time Out Mumbai and subsequently Assistant Editor at ART India, the country’s premier art journal. In 2018, she co-curated the landmark exhibition, The Progressive Revolution: A Modern Art for a New India, at New York’s Asia Society Museum. Her book, The Empire Strikes Back: Indian Art Today was published by Random House, London, in 2010.
C ATA LO G U E OF WORKS
Peter Pears, together with his personal and professional partner Benjamin Britten, assembled a vast collection of artworks, as they believed that 20th-century art was particularly representative of the zeitgeist. Pears supported numerous artists from diverse cultural backgrounds (including Souza, whose work first caught his eye in 1958) – liberating them from a restricted segregated society, and helping to shape a rich multi-cultural arts scene in Britain. Pears modelled for many renowned artists including Souza. In this larger-than-life portrait, Souza has captured Pears in action – as a tenor – passionate and intensely musical –
clasping one hand with the other, as his forehead creases, brows knit, and the corners of his eyes crinkle. Set against a background divided between hues symbolic of day and night, Pears stands tall, dressed formally in a tailcoat – implying his unwavering dedication to music. Nevertheless, by painting Pears as a person of colour, Souza intrigues the viewer – however humbly – to rethink what they are actually looking at – is it Pears, or is it Souza narrating his own understanding and vision of the British cultural establishment?
FRANCIS N E W TO N S O U Z A 1924, Goa, India – 2002, Mumbai, India Portrait of Peter Pears, 1958 Oil on board 244 x 122 cm / 96 x 48 inches Britten Pears Archive © Estate of F N Souza. All rights reserved, DACS 2020
“Renaissance painters painted men and women making them look like angels. I paint for angels, to show them what men and women really look like.” – F.N. Souza Though the depiction of faces has been an important motif in Souza’s art, he did not paint many self-portraits. Here, in a rare example, Souza has explored the idea beyond merely depicting physical attributes. He has embraced self-revelation through paint; rich layers of vibrant colour and barbed brushstrokes address not only the oppositions that exist between semblance and character, but transform
his identity. Despite a humorously exaggerated handlebar moustache, a beard protruding below, a bony, chiselled face and bristly hair, the overall image, nevertheless, immediately invites an allusion to Christ wearing the Crown of Thorns – reminding us of the significance of Christian iconography in Souza’s work. With spiky and raw detailing, the Souza we see here has succeeded in veiling a comical, humane, and melancholic version of himself. It marks Souza’s early years of using distortion in figures which later proved potent in his unique visual language.
FRANCIS N E W TO N S O U Z A 1924, Goa, India – 2002, Mumbai, India Self Portrait, 1961 Oil on Board 76 x 61 cm / 30 x 24 inches Ruth Borchard Collection courtesy PIANO NOBILE, Robert Travers (Works of Art) Ltd © Estate of F N Souza. All rights reserved, DACS 2020
L E F T:
A B OV E :
S A DA N A N D K . BA K R E
S A DA N A N D K . BA K R E
1920, Vadodara, India – 2007, Murud, Ratnagiri, India
1920, Vadodara, India – 2007, Murud, Ratnagiri, India
Untitled (Landscape with Cathedral Spire), 1965
Untitled (Townscape with Moon), 1965
Oil on board 121.4 x 60.5 cm 47 ¾ x 23 ₇⁄₈ inches Image courtesy Grosvenor Gallery © The Artist’s Estate
Oil On Board 45 X 120 cm 17 ¹¹⁄₁₆ x 47 ¼ Inches Image courtesy Grosvenor Gallery © The Artist’s Estate
The 1960s marked a period of artistic growth and refinement for Bakre, both as a sculptor and a painter. This work from 1965 heralds the introduction of architectural forms in Bakre’s paintings and the simplification of forms – vivid geometry without the ‘spiky-ness’ which was evident in much of his work from the early 1960s. In this landscape of cathedral spires – ecclesiastical architecture defines so many English towns and cities – Bakre has achieved subtlety in the thick, black outlines, unlike in his previous artworks, in which one can see an affinity between his heavy, bold lines and those of Picasso. Bakre has chosen to reveal his brushwork with visible strokes of paint in varying size and direction – exemplifying the early phase of his transition from academic realism toward what he described as ‘the concept of independent imagery in Indian art’.
Bakre has painted a lively impression of a townscape under moonlight, mellow radiance diffusing into the inky darkness of the night, letting the buildings gleam and bringing the colours of the town to life. The scene, a coup d’ œil, stands contrary to common thinking that one can see nothing but a greyish world under a midnight blue sky on a wakeful moonlit night. The visible movements of the brushstrokes, layers of oil paint, and the resulting texture separating each shape and form, bring an overarching dynamic to the whole painting – symbolising city life undergoing constant change and flux, even as stillness and slumber approach. One cannot help but think about the parallel experienced recently, when cities came to a complete halt – as the COVID-19 lockdown was imposed in so many locations across the globe. The invisible chaos and turmoil that it has brought to everyone’s lives compare to the energy that Bakre’s brushstrokes and range of hues bring to his personal vision of an urban landscape.
AV I N A S H CHANDRA 1931, Shimla, India –1991, London, UK Church on University Road, Belfast, 1960 Oil on board 81 x 61 cm / 31 ¾ x 24 inches Image courtesy Osborne Samuel Gallery © Valerie Murray-Chandra and Osborne Samuel Gallery London
In 1959, Chandra’s debut London exhibition toured to Belfast, Northern Ireland, where he lived for a time and responded creatively to his surroundings. In this work, the architecture of the city is presented through a personal iconography, full of churches, tall steeples, and rhythmical arcades. With exuberant reds and strong black lines, this painting exemplifies the colourfulness of his Belfast art, unlike his previous works. Layered with over-painting and opaqueness – there is more to it than meets the eye. The sun-like spiral and pointed steeples
hide ridges of previous versions, surrounded by a certain thickness – conveying the artist’s struggle in search of the subject within paint. This approach of remaking an image situates Chandra’s art practice in line with his British mid-century contemporaries, such as Alan Davie and Graham Sutherland. Through the act of trial, intuition and spontaneity, Chandra developed a web of colour and line, as seen here. This practice, in later years, dovetailed his subjects with his philosophical inquiries, through the increasing ambiguity of his images.
AV I N A S H CHANDRA 1931, Shimla, India –1991, London, UK Music, 1962 Watercolour and ink on paper 34 x 62 cm / 13.36 x 24.37 in Image courtesy Osborne Samuel Gallery © Valerie Murray-Chandra and Osborne Samuel Gallery London
Chandra was a jazz-lover, and he allowed music to stimulate his senses before letting himself immerse for hours into the canvas. In a musical piece, the tempo, melodic and harmonic elements combine to create the texture. Music suggests a similar texturization of shapes, colour and movement; an overall cacophony is vivid. In this lively painting, Chandra’s forms and colours seem to come together, overlap and distance themselves. Music is one of Chandra’s early works, marking the onset of a new significant artistic phase. By 1962, he was attaining masterly command over his signature colours – here, red, blue and ochre – enhancing the intensity of the painting.
The paint medium itself creates a translucent pseudodepth on a flat surface, complementing the subjectivities of physical and philosophical depths, which the artist further explores by replacing subjects in the foreground with ambiguous circular shapes, which he called ‘heads’. Even with the presence of defining black lines, the development of ambiguity and symbolism is evident in this work. These ‘subjects’ can be both objects and figures, be at rest or gain momentum, be anthropomorphic and human, all at the same time.
L A N C E LOT R I B E I RO 1933, Mumbai, India – 2010, London, UK Untitled (Townscape), 1962 Oil on board 122 x 92 cm / 48 x 36 ¼ inches New Walk Gallery, Leicester © The Estate of Lancelot Ribeiro. All rights reserved. DACS © 2020
After arriving in Britain in the early 1960s, Souza’s halfbrother began to follow his artistic pursuits mainly as a boldly coloured expressionist, primarily painting semiabstract townscapes or still-lives, in contrast to much of Souza’s oeuvre, which concentrated on the figure. Set against a deep, rich maroon background with hints of black and white, the surface reveals quick movements of paint forming thickly slicked ridges. The sun, created in marigold yellow with spiralling brushstrokes, forms a tiny 20
vortex, a focal point, on the surface plane. As evident from his brushwork, Ribeirodesired to pace up his work, and thus traditional oil became an obstacle to his progress, as it took time to dry and lacked colour intensity. Later during this decade, Ribeirometiculously experimented with Polyvinyl Acetates (PVAs) with varying proportions and on numerous supports, which became the forerunner of commercial acrylic paints as an artist’s medium.
In Angular Landscape with Sun, the artist has shifted to a higher degree of abstraction in his work – gestures of architecture as seen through the prism of geometry. Its small scale, comparable with numerous other paintings from the time, demonstrates Ribeiro’s inventiveness and experimentation. With neutral earthy tones, the artist has expressed a certain gloominess. Unlike Untitled
(Townscape), he has separated and distanced the forms using thick, flat black lines. Together, these techniques – however perceptive, given the nature of abstract expressionism – manifest ideas of isolation and dullness, feelings which almost everyone has experienced during the time of COVID-19, lockdown and restriction.
L A N C E LOT R I B E I RO 1933, Mumbai, India – 2010, London, UK Angular Landscape with Sun, 1963 Oil on Board 33 x 32 cm / 13 x 12 ₅⁄₈ inches Image courtesy Grosvenor Gallery, London © The Estate of Lancelot Ribeiro. All rights reserved. DACS © 2020
PRAFULL A MOHANTI 1936, Orissa, India – presently based in London, UK Ratri, c.1965 Oil on canvas 101 x 76.5 cm 39 ¾ x 30 ¹⁄₈ inches Image courtesy Grosvenor Gallery, London © The Artist
Mohanti represents the earlier generation of Indian immigrant artists who, as exponents of a neo-tantric art, created works with a particular spiritual resonance. In Ratri, an early work made in the UK, Mohanti also makes reference to the physical world, chalking out a map of tribal activities in the background of the painting. Spirals, stick figures, clusters of circles, dots and grid-like lines immortalise his love for his village in India, while also
recalling the tradition of making mud walls and shapes on the ground with mud chalk and rice paste. The inspiring beauty of the vermillion bindi (circular sticker) on his mother’s forehead forms the focal point in the foreground of the work and influences its overall hue. The sketchiness of the spiralling brushstrokes surrounding the epicentre suggests the visceral power of meditation, reminding us of the spiritual power of Mohanti’s abstract, iconic tantric art.
PRAFULL A MOHANTI 1936, Orissa, India – presently based in London, UK Shiva, 1985 Watercolour on paper 30.5 x 22 cm / 12 x 8 ²⁄₃ inches Image courtesy of The Noble Sage, London © The Artist
Named after ‘the Destroyer’ amongst the Trimurti (three idols) of creation, upkeep and destruction in Hindu mythology, this later, more simplified abstract rendition depicts a bindu (dot), signifying both nothingness and totality. Mohanti is a pioneer of the neo-tantric art movement, unifying space-time manifolds through the symbol of the circle. Here, childhood nostalgia for blue oceans and white clouds seems to surround the vibrant crimson flame at the core. The lobed oval spectrum of red
and orange hues with a white epicentre is a reminder of the hibiscus flowers which Mohanti’s mother offered during religious ceremonies. It also symbolises Hiranyagarbha – the source of the creation of the universe. With the fluidity of watercolours, washing across and seeping into the paper, Mohanti has achieved gleaming dimensions and a radiating halation – immersing the audience within a visceral meditative process.
BA L R A J K H A N N A 1940, Punjab, India – presently based in London, UK Forest Walk, 1969 Oil on unbleached calico 172 x 213 cm / 67 ¾ x 84 inches Bradford Museums and Galleries © The Artist
Lacking formal art training, Khanna’s repeated experimentations in medium and support during the 1960s nevertheless enabled him to secure a position within the international abstract movement. Forest Walk exemplifies his early abstract work and is a visual account of a life-changing incident, reinterpreted on a canvas populated by amorphous shapes. In 1969, following a motorbike accident, Khanna moved to France with his French wife to recuperate with his brother-in-law, who owned an area of forestry. Marking his artistic awakening and his rehabilitation, Forest Walk, with the fluidity of its organic masses, weaves together childhood and adolescent
memories from India with those from his time in healing; beliefs in fantasy and myth, and their resonance with the lush, green, French countryside. Khanna’s complex state of mind, struggling between conscious, subconscious and unconscious thoughts, is further suggested through flickering patches of alternating black and white. Through buoyant shapes and joyful monochromatic shades of green, Forest Walk sets up a visual dialogue encompassing aesthetics, abstraction, authenticity, the idea of life and nature, and the importance of memories. Forest Walk featured in Artist and Empire, Tate Britain, 2017-18.
Mini Tondo II is part of the artist’s recent experimentation with three-dimensional, wall-based work in varying scales. Hand cut from hardboard, the abstract shapes are pictographic alphabets derived from forms within earlier paintings. Ambiguous in nature, they suggest diverse sources of inspiration: flora, fauna, microscopic organisms, human forms, or swirling silhouettes drawn from the cosmos. The tondo, itself, as a single form, communicates the concept of creation – the Big Bang – when a solid entity exploded and disintegrated into multiple identities. Unlike his signature painting style, which is colourful
and joyous, the tondo is a work of tranquillity – however crowded – with all its forms neatly fitting together and painted in white. Khanna has further strategies to energise his series of tondos: when strongly lit, they acquire the added dynamic of the interplay between light and shadow, while in some examples, painting the underside of the individual pieces in brilliant hues causes the whole work to emit a gentle blush. Furthermore, the use of sand in some of the tondos recalls the arid landscape of his Indian homeland.
BA L R A J K H A N N A 1940, Punjab, India – presently based in London, UK Mini Tondo II, 2005 Acrylic & mixed media on a plywood base with hardboard cutouts 50 x 50 cm / 19 ¾ x 19 ¾ inches Bradford Museums and Galleries © The Artist
SALEEM ARIF Q UA D R I 1949, Hyderabad, India – presently works in London, UK Caressing with the Constellations, Image from a Manuscript Book of over 100 pages, 2002-2007 Watercolour, gouache on paper with ingrained dry flowers, pen and ink 30.5 x 61 cm / 12 x 24 inches (open-view format) Image courtesy the artist © Saleem Quadri
This large-scale artist’s book, part of an ongoing series, comprises around 50 double-page compositions whose bold imagery derives from calligraphy interwoven with figurative and abstract forms. Harnessing the power of what he describes as ‘pregnant’ space, Quadri lets these forms interact, navigate, and metamorphose into other forms which address the ‘nothingness’ around them, as much as with the space that they themselves occupy. In Caressing with the Constellations, Quadri is particularly
inspired by the literature of Dante - who sees souls in the form of ‘star-like lights’ - here, the constellations of the title. The intertwining of Indian and Islamic art is striking in this work - combining male and female figures (exclusively Indian), and amorphous shapes, resembling flora and fauna (symbolic of Islamic art, though also prominent in Indian art) - pluralistic imagery both explored by Dante and recalling Quadri’s personal experiences of India.
SALEEM ARIF Q UA D R I 1949, Hyderabad, India – presently works in London, UK Geometry Without Gravity, Image from a Manuscript Book of over 100 pages, 2008-12 Watercolour, gouache on paper with ingrained dry flowers on each page, pen, and ink 30.5 x 61 cm / 12 x 24 inches (open-view format) Image courtesy the artist © Saleem Quadri
In Geometry without Gravity, Quadri has sought to capture the experience of a 360-degree vantage point enjoyed by astronauts and cosmonauts floating freely in space. Inspired by visions of galactic exploration, such as those taken by the Hubble telescope, the soft background blues – twilight and midnight – symbolise the infinite depths of the universe. Spherical forms, akin to celestial bodies, are starkly juxtaposed with intersecting, often
craggy, geometric planes, while white bands of jagged, sawtooth shapes, with crisply defined contours, stand in sharp focus against the background. Delicate dried flowers, with their russet tones, remind us of smaller, earthly pleasures.
PAU L G O PA L C H OW D H U RY 1949, India – presently based in London, UK Emanations from a Coffee Cup, 1998-2013 Oil on canvas 101.6 x 71.12 cm / 40 x 28 inches Image courtesy the artist © The Artist
From the streets of Spitalfields where the artist lived in London (as depicted in the bottom left corner) to his childhood recollections of hunting in the lush green land near his home in Delhi (which he recalls in a note to the curator), this painting is both personal and perceptive – encompassing life, the passage of time, and the incessant pursuit of truth amid everyday flux. Enclosed within his profile silhouette, top right, are self-portraits as a watchful dog and a sleeping man – emblematic of childhood memories, as his silhouette gazes at two regal figures. Gopal-Chowdhury has reused the images of two kings 28
travelling through the mountains, and that of a princely woman with an attendant, innumerable times over the years. Inspired by a Indian painting in reproduction, their presence marks the importance in his practice of reusing, reiterating, and changing artworks. Within the distinctive grid-like compartmentalisation of the various narratives, there is a cacophony of cultures. Sombre English hues vie with vibrant, exotic colours, while the inclusion of black spray paint over the Indian artwork, symbolises the street graffiti that Gopal-Chowdhury must have encountered during his time in Britain.
Like steam rising from a hot cup of coffee, multiple realities emanate from Gopal-Chowdhury’s painting, as he tries to assimilate his past and present onto a single canvas. Within the isolated top and bottom sections, the artist depicts London in both the light of day and at different times of the night, respectively, while creating a synthesis in the mid-section of the work. Here, he amalgamates the ritualistic morning of Indian culture – a female offering holy water or milk to a religious figure (probably a rising
sun), with that of his quotidian life in London, where the urban day might begin with a cup of coffee. The boundary between the present and memories/imagination is blurred – challenging the materialisation of the intangible in a physical space. In light of Marshall McLuhan’s theory of the ‘global village’ in which we all live today, GopalChowdhury’s work posits universality over self-conscious multiculturalism.
PAU L G O PA L C H OW D H U RY 1949, India – presently based in London, UK) A Visitation, 1998-2014 Oil on canvas 91.5 x 75.2 cm / 36 x 30 inches Image courtesy the artist © The Artist
In the 1980s and early 1990s, Kapoor exploited his visual language as a sculptor to create a body of two-dimensional work, keeping the intensely saturated colour quality intact – a signature in his work. Even with the absence of a third dimension, Kapoor manages to confuse the viewer – which is inner space and which is outer space? Is it darkness rushing towards light, or is it the vivid yellow that seems to disintegrate into the depths of the oval mass? These words by Kapoor shed light on his thought process while creating
ANISH KAPOOR 1954, Mumbai, India – presently based in London, UK Untitled, 1990 acrylic, ink and pigment on paper 76.5 x 55 cm / 30 x 21 ¾ inches Bradford Museums and Galleries © Anish Kapoor. All Rights Reserved, DACS 2020
such raw, visceral works of art: ‘It’s always from colour to light. I’m interested in the other way round. From colour to darkness.’ The powerful duality in Kapoor’s work explores light and darkness; negative and positive; space, presence and absence; static and impetus – leading to metaphysical experiences and philosophical inquiries.
ANISH KAPOOR 1954, Mumbai, India – presently based in London, UK The Unilever Series: Marsyas – 9th October 2002 - 6th April 2003 Turbine Hall, Tate Modern, 2002 steel and pvc 150 m / 5905 inches in length © Anish Kapoor. All Rights Reserved, DACS 2020 © Photo ©Tate
Third in the series of Unilever Commission for the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern and named after the Greek mythological satyr, ‘Marsyas’, in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Kapoor created a vast trumpet-like structure that appreciated the staggering, cathedral-like space of the architecture and the uninterrupted length between the Boiler House and the Switch House. With three massive steel rings, and a fleshy red plastic membrane stretched taut across 150 metres, Kapoor visualises the flayed skin of Marsyas as described in ancient literature, while he explores the idea of vision and perception from the standpoint of the viewer. Any visual cannot do justice to
one’s experience of the installation, because it cannot be viewed in its entirety from one vantage point. When on display, Marsyas offered a multi-point access – it invited every viewer to perceive their own image of its shape, form, purpose and meaning based on their viewing point(s), thus adding to its mystery. The interplay of horizontal and vertical planes draws the viewer inside the space even when one realises that the outer space is unobtainable, challenging ideas of spaces and boundaries. These intellectual inquiries and historical precedents resonate with life itself – a complete situation cannot be understood without taking into account each and every viewpoint. 31
S H A N T I PA N C H A L b. mid-1950s, exact date unknown, Gujarat, India – presently based in London, UK Laxmi-Narayan and Son, 1987 Watercolour on paper 180 x 147 cm / 71 x 58 inches Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery © The Artist
Panchal arrived from India in autumn 1978 on a British Council scholarship to study art. Initially working on large-scale oils, he experimented with watercolours due to lack of space and his work became increasingly autobiographical. In this early, triple portrait (highly ambitious and unusual for the watercolour medium), Panchal has captured something of both the spirituality and humbleness of the elderly couple and their strong personalities – as well as suggesting that the two generations represent two very different worlds. The anonymous ‘son’ – a friend he has known for a long time – stands behind his parents, his gaze obscured by stylish dark glasses. The timelessness of the couple, with quiet 32
limbs and burning eyes, set against a simple architectural background, is underlined by their (real) names referenced in the title: that of a Hindu deity and his consort. Much more than a simple ‘portrait’, layers of emotional, spiritual and psychological meaning are conveyed through layers of pigment. As with much of Panchal’s early work, the colours are dusty and muted, recalling the natural, earthy pigments found in his home village in rural Gujarat. This painting was shortlisted for the John Player Portrait Award at the National Portrait Gallery, London in 1987 and is now in the twentieth century collection of Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.
Meeting a family who survived the tragic June 2017 fire at Grenfell Tower, one of west London’s high-rise council blocks, has powerfully inspired Panchal, both in terms of the tragedy of the human experience and the influence of architecture on our lives. Standing together, the rescued couple look towards each other with a pale gaze, implying sorrow, fear and uncertainties about the future, while the child glances anxiously around, as the reality of losing her entire world dawns upon her. With thick smoke emerging from the tower burning in the background,
Panchal has composed a compelling image that represents a betrayal by the state. The artist’s signature orange in the background recalls how the sky itself turned livid as the fire raged throughout that night. Furthermore, in light of COVID-19, when the whole world is isolating behind its domestic walls, this painting raises questions about safety within the home, now more than ever, while the ongoing enquiry continues to highlight issues surrounding racial inequalities in social housing.
S H A N T I PA N C H A L b. mid-1950s, exact date unknown, Gujarat, India – presently based in London, UK Grenfell Pyre and the Rescued Family, 2017 Watercolour on Paper 102 x 82 cm/ 40 x 32 inches Collection Shanti Panchal © The Artist
In brilliant blues and oranges, Untitled is a work of spontaneity – an insight into the mind of the sculptor, here expressed through the two dimensions of the drawn line. Mistry has made many significant sculptures, in bronze and steel, portraying women as reclining nudes, such as The River and Youth, The Object – Variations, Woman 3 (Study for River), Woman (Study for River), Spatial Diagram 1 and Spatial Diagram 6. This work on paper, with its relaxed graphic language, conveys aspects of the artist’s creative thought process. Drawing an image like this,
D H RU VA M I S T RY 1957, Gujarat, India – presently based in India Untitled (Reclining Figure), 1983 Pastel on paper 55 x 75 cm / 21 ₅⁄₈ x 29 ½ inches Courtesy The Artist and Grosvenor Gallery © The Artist
even when it is not an exact blueprint for the sculpting process, nevertheless, helps the artist in elaborating the theme, design and ‘making’ process. This dynamic sketch has layers of line drawing, relaying a sense of energy and reflecting the impulsiveness of thought. It is an exemplary work in progress, as evident through the different stages of detailing of the figure – relatively more defined, moving from right to left, with particular clarity in the facial features in comparison to the looser treatment of the body.
D H RU VA M I S T RY 1957, Gujarat, India – presently based in India Shishir, 2014-15 Cobalt Deep epoxy paint on 2mm stainless steel Signed and dated ‘Shishir, SisrV2ls Dhruva Mistry, 2014-15’ 29.5 x 28.7 x 22.1 cm 11 ₅⁄₈ x 11 ¼ x 8 ¾ inches Courtesy The Artist and Grosvenor Gallery © The Artist
A more recent example of Mistry’s digitally controlled laser-cutting, Shishir addresses Mistry’s dialectical explorations between Indian classical forms (the posture) and the contemporary language of European Modernism (employing a Cubist-influenced style). They say a picture is worth a thousand words. However, to understand Mistry’s work, one needs to experience the space consumed by the sculpture from every possible angle – through, around, and across the work, while immersing oneself in the ‘nothingness’ of the empty, negative space around it. The striking cobalt blue colouration emphasises the progressiveness that steel, as a sculptural material,
represents. Shishir is also part of a group of small steel sculptures that marked a transition in the sculptor’s oeuvre where, after a debilitating stroke, he found new materials and techniques through which to display his artistic virtuosity in sculpting. His illness unexpectedly liberated him, as he harnessed the novelty of AutoCAD in breaking the 3D form into a set of flat steel planes. In light of current hardships around COVID 19, this sculpture reminds us of how we can repurpose our failures as new opportunities and can see things anew with a different perspective.
Born in Liverpool, Chila Burman represents the generation of Indian and other diasporic artists for whom art-making has been a way of confronting their everyday lives – their status and identity in Britain, whether socially, politically, racially, economically, or by gender. A giant, glittery gastronomic delight – a vast ice-cream cone sculpture – is a reminder of Burman’s childhood in Liverpool where her father, who emigrated from India in the 1950s, owned an ice cream van and was a popular figure locally as he drove around touting his wares for over thirty years. Burman’s ice-cream works have a particular potency and poignancy for her, as they also evoke specific memories of the time she spent working with her father in his van, immersed in a world of colour, flavour, texture and aroma. Eat Me Now is a bricolage of her ‘Punjabi Liverpudlian’ nostalgia and her understanding of the different strata which make up British society. Burman has been inspired by multi-media artists, such as German émigré Kurt Schwitters (18871948) co-founder of Dada, who sought refuge in Britain in 1940, and others, who are in turn inspired by surrealism, constructivism and collage, and are known to utilise everyday and ‘found’ objects in their work. In Eat Me Now, Burman has followed suit with her pick-and-mix creative process. She has gilded the rim of her outsize ice-cream cone with elements which refer to her ‘Indian-ness’, such as bindis (Indian decorative stickers), sequins, cut-outs of emblems and Hindu deities, and henna art. Eat Me Now appreciates an object of shared interest, encouraging the viewer to walk in Burman’s shoes while contemplating their own childhood memories. In present times of isolation and, self-introspection, the work makes a social comment on the role of personal and collective memory, as much as it critiques the consumerist age in which we live, where money measures our relationship with commodities.
CHIL A KUMARI SINGH BURMAN 1957, Bootle, UK – presently based in London, UK Eat Me Now, 2013 Mixed Media 152.4 cm / 60 inches © Chila Kumari Singh Burman
2 + 2 Equals Whatever They Say is a synthesis of Burman’s eclectic and spontaneous approach. In this image, collaged elements jostle for attention in what appears to be a woman’s portrait, with scintillating facial features, almost hidden in the top centre of the work. In her kitschinspired pop art, Burman seeks order amid the chaos of raw materials and layers of techniques, challenging notions of identity. Collage, distortion, layering of the ordinary,
complicates the depiction of each object - a clever retort to address the multi-faceted dynamics of one’s own complex identity. Burman constructs identities through non-essential objects of possession. In this hybrid of layering and collage which cannot be easily unravelled, she creates a space where the pluralistic nature of identity, and postmodernism, co-exist.
CHIL A KUMARI SINGH BURMAN 1957, Bootle, UK – presently based in London, UK 2 + 2 Equals Whatever They Say, 2018-20 Mixed Media 176.8 x 121.6 cm / 69 ¾ x 48 inches © Chila Kumari Singh Burman
S U TA PA B I S WA S 1962, Shantiniketan, India – presently based in London, UK Housewives with Steak-Knives, 1985 Oil, acrylic, pastel, pencil, white tape, collage on paper mounted onto canvas 245 x 222 cm / 96 ½ x 87 ½ inches Bradford Museums and Galleries © Sutapa Biswas. All rights reserved, DACS 2020
Indian-born Biswas created Housewives with Steakknives in order to explore issues around feminism, Asian heritage, and imperialism. Once controversial, this striking contrast of bloody reds and umbers set against a white backdrop, depicts Kali, the Indian goddess of destruction and time. Set in a post-modern world, Kali stretches out her arms, hands painted in bloody red, in hostility and aggression. With visual metaphors ranging from a string of decapitated ‘political’ heads worn around the neck, to a flower, a severed head, and a flag in her hands (referencing Judith Beheading Holofernes c.1620 by Artemisia Gentileschi), Kali is also seen brandishing the weapon
of the title. In this work, Biswas poses the question, can creative resistance voice femininity and self-empowerment? How are ‘other’ cultures perceived in western hegemonic systems? How does diasporic identity fit and misfit? In an attempt to answer this, Biswas deconstructs her cultural lineage, only to appreciate its significance in the present. The portrait challenges and liberates the viewer to restructure the way we think about deeper historical, religious, political, gendered, and personal discourses in the post-modern society, particularly apt in this time of identity politics and Black Lives Matter.
This ‘act’, taken from a series of tableaux, stems from the desire expressed by Biswas’ son, Enzo, to live with a horse. Precisely captured to appear larger than life from Enzo’s low vantage point, this cinematically rich scene materialises a horse into a domestic – even bourgeois – space, as daydreamed by Enzo, seated on the sofa, as he gazes upon the magnificent creature who seems to yearn for the outside. Biswas’ desire to fulfil her son’s fantasy, and
her apprehension of real and emotional distancing – as he grows imaginatively and physically – are vividly captured in this still. The image confounds the opposition of interior and exterior space, temporality and reality, love and loss, desire, and imagination.
S U TA PA B I S WA S 1962, Shantiniketan, India – presently based in London, UK Birdsong, 2004 Colour photograph (Production Still) © Sutapa Biswas. All rights reserved, DACS 2020.
R AQ I B S H AW 1974, Kolkata, India – presently based in London, UK Self Portrait In The Studio At Peckham (A Reverie After Antonello Da Messina’s Saint Jerome) I, 2014 Acrylic liner, enamel, glitter, and rhinestones on birchwood, 2014 121.8 × 98.5 cm / 48 x 38 ¾ inches Image courtesy the artist © Raqib Shaw, Image courtesy of the Artist and White Cube
Shaw’s paintings are a wunderkammer of multi-cultural influences, technical virtuosities, art history and fantasies. Reiterating Antonello Da Messina’s Saint Jerome, this opulent self-portrait of the artist reimagines human, divine and natural worlds. From medieval Christianity to a fantastical – however unsettling – world of Shaw’s workplace in Peckham, the two Self-Portraits stand as both similar and distinct to each other. Within the challenging conditions of COVID-19, where one seeks moments of calm, discipline and regularity amid shifting workplace
environments, this artwork goes beyond being a richly detailed interplay of western Renaissance traditions, eastern artistic techniques and design elements. Shaw’s version of St. Jerome is at the cusp of the time-space continuum, where it challenges the viewer to reconsider their relationship between the physical world and their own state of mind, via the artist’s world of fantastical imagery. The reference to his south London locale by name in the title draws us back to our own reality.
Inspired by Steenwyck’s collaborative work Croesus and Solon, this self-portrait follows the original in terms of detail and architectural grandeur. Restrained with medieval iron cuffs fastened on both his legs, Shaw is seen metamorphosing and decomposing simultaneously. However, unlike the original, the artist does not dwarf the ostentatious display of elements (from various cultures) by emphasising the architecture; instead, he confounds the viewer’s perceptions of time and space, reality and fantasy, by marrying them together into a complex and
cohesive whole. Apart from strong Japanese and Persian influences, the portrait cites London’s landmark skyscraper, the Shard, in the distant landscape, an Indian mythological statue (middle right) and the artist’s pet seated on the stack of trunks (bottom left). The dispute on the subject of happiness in the moment depicted by Steenwyck and Brueghel does not concern Shaw - he propels the viewer into his world of intricate and labour-intensive art practice that beautifully fuses sexuality, cultural influences, violence, fantasy and realism.
R AQ I B S H AW (1974, Kolkata, India – presently based in London, UK) Self Portrait In The Studio At Peckham (After Steenwyck The Younger) II, 2014-15 Acrylic liner, glitter, rhinestones, and enamel on birchwood 155.5 × 114.5 cm / 61 ¼ x 45 inches Image courtesy the artist © Raqib Shaw, Image courtesy of the Artist and White Cube
HORMAZD N A R I E LWA L L A 1979, Mumbai, India – presently based in London, UK Dead Man’s Patterns, 2008 Artist’s book Edition: 100, printed and hand-bound 90 leaves with original Savile Row patternpiece insert 30 x 42 cm / 11 ¾ x 16 ½ inches Image courtesy the artist © Hormazd Narielwalla
Built upon Narielwalla’s continuing enquiries in the field of fashion and his artistic curiosity, Dead Man’s Patterns is an ‘archive’ which presents an afterlife for the bespoke tailoring patterns of Savile Row – repurposing them, following the demise of the customer to whom they once ‘belonged’. In this limited edition artist’s book, Narielwalla has created a visual narrative beyond the usual function of the pattern-piece inserts. These blueprints re-engage with the body through his illustrations. Visualisations, such as 42
placing sleeve patterns onto the image of a finished shirt, and overlaying pattern markings and measurements onto fabric surfaces, are all ways in which these flat drawings communicate with the body once again. A fleeting sense of belonging inspired the artist to rekindle something very personal, and to create a narrative that reinterprets, analyses and re-visualises the relationship between 2-D and 3-D forms, exploring the abstraction of the human body through the art of pattern making.
HORMAZD N A R I E LWA L L A 1979, Mumbai, India – presently based in London, UK Bands of Pride, 2017 Mixed media collages on paper Six panels: 66 x 47 cm / 26 x 18 ½ inches each Ben Uri Collection © Hormazd Narielwalla
Bands of Pride is the first artwork by an Indian immigrant artist to enter Ben Uri’s collection. The subject addresses one of the many pivotal moments which define the relationship of immigrants within Britain’s long history - The Edict of Expulsion in 1290 - a royal decree which expelled the Jews from England. These collages, which include paper fragments of striking blues, and photographic cut-outs of the artist’s Jewish acquaintances, reference the Blue City of Chefchaouen, Morocco –
where buildings were washed blue by Jewish settlers. Incorporating sewing patterns of deceased clients, acquired from a Savile Row tailor, Bands of Pride functions as a memento mori, embodying the temporality and transient nature of life and what remains at the end. Today, the work goes beyond social and personal connotations by acting as a point of departure for discussions over migration and separation, in the light of Brexit, Black Lives Matter and a global pandemic. 43
S H I VA N G I L A D H A 1991, Gwalior, India – presently based in Noida, India Just Be, 2015-2016 (Set of 4/ 52 Unique prints) Etching, drawing on Somerset Paper 20.3 x 25.4 cm / 8 x 10 inches each Image courtesy the artist © Shivangi Ladha
Ladha is the youngest artist in the show, having only recently graduated from the Royal College of Art in London, where she specialised in printmaking. She is emblematic of a younger generation of artists who have come to Britain to seek art education and professional opportunity. Inspired by the artist’s belief in repetition as a constant state of meditation, Just Be is a set of 52 unique prints. In politically divisive times, these prints, which present a holistic approach towards a social or collective identity, stem from the multiple, tiny unique impressions and marks in neutral tones - symbolising the individual. These lyrical etchings swirl across the picture plane – both beautiful and fearsome, like a hurricane when viewed from a satellite, and banal, like a dash of cream stirred into coffee, before blending into one homogenous whole. Through the act of creation by repetitive processes, Ladha transcends human perception and challenges the viewers’ cognition and concept of identity. The words: Just Be also exhort us to break down the outward differences of religion, creed, colour, caste, gender, sexuality and disability, and instead to raise and celebrate the similarities that lie within.
ART TIMELINE: B R I TA I N A N D I N D I A This timeline primarily focuses on the artists who are featured in this exhibition, and is therefore inevitably partial and selective. It situates their artistic journeys within broader key events and cultural happenings in Britain and India since Indian Independence:
1947 On the midnight hour of 15 August India declares independence from British rule. The Indian Independence Act partitions British India to create two new independent dominion states, the Union of India and the Dominion of Pakistan. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, leader of the Indian National Congress Party, becomes India’s first Prime Minister. Shortly following Independence, the Bombay Progressive Artists’ Group, also known as Progressive Artists’ Group (PAG) is formed. Its founding members include F. N. Souza, S. K. Bakre, S. H. Raza, M. F. Husain, K. H. Ara, H. A. Gade.
1947-1948 The Royal Academy, London organises Exhibition of Art from India and Pakistan 2400B.C. to 1947A.D., displaying art and selected artefacts from various museums in India, with the cooperation of the Governments of India and Britain. In 1948, the London exhibition tours to New Delhi, India, where the selected artists are different from those in the previous version, excluding many living artists and colonial art history – mapping out the artistic, historic and cultural entanglements of the times. The comparative study of the two exhibitions also highlights discourses on Modern Art in India.
1948 On 30 January, Mahatma Gandhi, The Father of the Nation, who led the freedom struggle against British colonialism, is assassinated in the compound of Birla House, New Delhi, by Nathuram Vinayak Godse, a member of the Hindu Mahasabha political party, and past member of the Hindu nationalist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
1949 F. N. Souza leaves Bombay after being raided by the police in search of pornographic material, following the display of his nude 46
self-portrait (he had to cover the genitals). He arrives in London with his first wife, Maria Souza. His autobiographical essay, ‘Nirvana of a Maggot’, in Stephen Spender’s Encounter magazine introduces him to a wider public and to influential contacts, including gallerist Victor Musgrave.
1950 Lancelot Ribeiro leaves Bombay and arrives in London, a year after his half brother, F. N. Souza, with whom he stays.
1951 S. K. Bakre has a solo exhibition at the Commonwealth Institute, London, following his move to Britain.
1955 F. N. Souza’s first UK solo show – a sell out – at Victor Musgrave’s Gallery One, London. He also exhibits three paintings at the recently opened Institute of Contemporary Art, London, alongside works by Francis Bacon and Henry Moore.
1958 F. N. Souza represents Great Britain in the Guggenheim International Award in New York (which he also wins in 1967). Avinash Chandra’s work is introduced alongside six other artists (including F. N. Souza) in Seven Indian Painters, Gallery One, London; it is a critical success.
1959 S. K. Bakre’s sculptures are critically appreciated in The Times, following his solo exhibition at Gallery One, London.
1960 Prafulla Mohanti moves to London after graduating in architecture from Bombay University.
1961 The Republic of India annexes the former Portuguese Indian territories of Goa, Daman and Diu via an armed action by the Indian Armed Forces in December. The annexation
of Goa is also referred to as the ‘Liberation of Goa’. F. N. Souza has roots in Goa – he comes from a Roman Catholic family with a Portuguese name. Lancelot Ribeiro (F. N. Souza’s half-brother) organises his first solo exhibition in India, at the Bombay Art Society Salon, which launches his artistic career.
1962 Ribeiro and his wife decide to settle in London, where he hopes his artistic career will thrive. A monograph, F. N. Souza – an introduction by Edward Mullins is published by Anthony Blond, London.
1963 Formation of Indian Painters Collective (IPC), in London: the first artistic body of its kind outside India – representing young Indian painters and the idea of contemporary painting in Indian art, within the UK – also, the first to achieve a group showing of Indian artists in Britain. Co-founded by Gajanan Baghwat, Yashwant Mali, Lancelot Ribeiro and Ibrahim Wagh, formerly of the Bombay Art Society, they are later joined by Balraj Khanna and S. V. Rama Rao. The IPC is created by artists who have not yet forged their own successes in Britain. By this time Souza, Tyeb Mehta and Krishen Khanna have already shown successfully in London: they have no need to form another exhibiting group.
1964 IPC issues a formal circular stating its mission to ‘represent a wide field of young Indian painters [...] that would give a positive idea of contemporary painting in India today’. It is based at 21 Corrington Road, Golders Green, where Bhagwat and Mali are living – also an area of north London home to the Jewish community. The group show Six Indian Painters, an initiative of the IPC, sponsored by the Tagore India Centre, is held at India House, Aldwych, London, and includes Ribeiro and Khanna. India House becomes an informal focal point for the Indian artists.
Mohanti has a solo exhibition at Wakefield City Art Gallery, Wakefield, UK. The British painter, Howard Hodgkin, first visits India; he has had an interest in Indian painting since teenagehood. India has a lifelong influence on his own art and he acquires an important collection of Indian miniatures over many years which are later displayed at the Victoria & Albert Museum and the British Museum.
1965 Avinash Chandra and F. N. Souza become the first Indian artists to be represented in the national collection at Tate. Avinash Chandra’s solo exhibition is held at Hamilton Galleries, London. ‘The Commonwealth Arts Festival’ is held in Britain. Capturing post-imperial re-engagement, it hosts visual artists, musicians, dancers, poets, and writers from various cultural backgrounds and ethnicities (including but not limited to Indians) to shape an egalitarian multiculturalism. The IPC seeks inclusion with a proposed exhibition Contemporary Art from India, curated by George Butcher, The Guardian’s art critic, which features artists from across the former British Empire. The exhibition Art Now in India, curated by George Butcher, is shown at the Royal Festival Hall, London, and Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle.
1966 Indira Gandhi (daughter of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru) is elected as India’s first female Prime Minister. She will become the second-longest serving Prime Minister, after her father, Jawaharlal Nehru. The Grosvenor Gallery holds F. N. Souza’s last solo exhibition in London, Black Art and Other Paintings, featuring a series of monochromatic, black-on-black, thick impasto oils. This unexpected, unconventional series perplexes the art world at a time when F. N. Souza has reached the zenith of his career. The show is not a commercial success and he leaves for New York the following year.
1968 ‘Avinash Chandra: Some personal notes’ is
published in Studio International (October).
Prafulla Mohanti’s solo exhibition is held at the Institute of Contemporary Art, London.
The artists associated with the various Indian exhibiting groups have a particularly fertile period, with numerous exhibitions and other activities, both within and beyond the auspices of the collectives, including (but not limited to): An Exhibition of Paintings by Four Contemporary Indian Artists, The Grange, Rottingdean Art Gallery and Museum (part of Brighton Festival, 1973) which includes S. K. Bakre, Balraj Khanna, Lancelot Ribeiro, Viren Sahai; Indian Painters (UNESCO International Art Week, 1974); Arts of India, Towner Art Gallery, Eastbourne (which features Balraj Khanna and Lancelot Ribeiro among others, 1974); Four Leading Indian Artists at India House, London (1978); and Arts 38, India Tea Centre, London (1976; includes F.N Souza, Lancelot Ribeiro, Jatin Das, Fatima Ahmed, Mohan Sharma).
1972 Lancelot Ribeiro gives a series of lectures at the Commonwealth Institute, London.
1974 Yashwant Mali and Suresh Vedak open the Mandeer Gallery at the Mandeer Restaurant on Hanway Place, London, with a similar goal to the IPC: to promote contemporary Indian artists in the UK. The inaugural Exhibition of Paintings features Khanna, Mali, Ribeiro, Vedak, Wagh and Zakir.
1975-1977 Paul Gopal-Chowdhury is awarded the Gregory Fellowship in painting at Leeds University.
1977 IPC UK manifesto announces it is: ‘non-profit making and apolitical … [and] democratic’. Meetings are held with cultural bodies to investigate gallery leads.
1978 IPC UK is reformed and is renamed Indian Artists United Kingdom (IAUK) with the desire to establish an Indian Academy of Visual Arts in Britain, and embracing all forms of fine art. The IAUK expands to nine members: Avinash Chandra, Prafull Davé, Prafulla Mohanti, Suresh Vedak and Mohammed Zakir. Funding from the Indian High Commission and others enables the IAUK to establish premises at 8 South Audley Street in London’s Mayfair, where exhibitions, talks and other events can be held. Minorities’ Arts Advisory Service holds its second London conference for those involved in the arts. Rainbow Art Group is then formed – a multi-cultural initiative bringing together an ethnically diverse group of artists from London. Ribeiro is one of the founding members.
1979 Paul Gopal-Chowdhury is selected for the Hayward Annual 1979: Current British Art, Hayward Gallery, South Bank, London.
1980 The first IAUK exhibition, Exhibition of Paintings by IAUK Indian Artists Living in U.K., is held at the Burgh House & Hampstead Museum, as part of an ‘Indian Month’, with accompanying talks on Indian art and poetry readings among other events. Lancelot Ribeiro gives a series of lectures.
1981 Chila Kumari Singh Burman organizes Four Indian Women Artists, an exhibition at the IAUK Gallery, which Rozsika Parker and Griselda Pollock identify as the first exhibition of black women artists in their book, Framing Feminism: Art and the Women’s Movement 1970–85.
1982 India: Myth and Reality, Aspects of Modern Indian Art, is organised at the Museum of Modern Art, Oxford, where recent works by young artists such as Anish Kapoor are juxtaposed with those by established postwar figures, including F. N. Souza, who meets with 47
visitors while creating new paintings in the galleries during the exhibition.
1982-1983 The Festival of India, a unique state-sponsored venture by British and Indian scholars and museums, is organised to showcase Indian culture through 19 exhibitions and accompanying performances, lectures, seminars and innumerable fringe events throughout the UK. Indira Gandhi and Margaret Thatcher are the Prime Ministers of India and UK respectively; both are alumnas of Oxford University and the Festival is a result of their collaboration. Chila Kumari Singh Burman, Prafulla Mohanti, Shanti Panchal and Saleem Arif Quadri are among 17 exhibitors featured in Between Two Cultures, curated by Ibrahim Wagh of IAUK at the Barbican’s Concourse Gallery as part of The Festival of India. Two of Shanti Panchal’s paintings are stolen from the exhibition and despite police enquiries, are not recovered. Paul Gopal-Chowdhury is awarded second prize in the Imperial Tobacco Portrait Award, National Portrait Gallery, London.
1983 IAUK is renamed Indian Arts Council (IAC) in honour of Tambimuttu’s original principles to facilitate the presentation of Indian creatives through various modes. (Tambimuttu – a Tamil poet, editor, critic and publisher, remains a significant figure in the literary scenes of London and New York until his sudden demise in 1983.) Tate acquires its first work by Anish Kapoor. Paul Gopal-Chowdhury is appointed Artist in Residence at Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge, with a one-year fellowship at Gonville and Caius College, University of Cambridge.
1984 Dhruva Mistry is appointed Artist in Residence at Kettle’s Yard, with a fellowship at Churchill College, University of Cambridge.
1985 Sutapa Biswas and Chila Kumari Singh Burman feature amongst young AfroCaribbean and South Asian women artists in The Thin Black Line(s) – a series of three major exhibitions curated by artist Lubaina Himid at the Institute of Contemporary Art, London.
but neglects south Asian women. It tours to Wolverhampton Art Gallery and Manchester’s City Art Gallery and Cornerhouse. The Imperial War Museum, London commissions Shanti Panchal’s painting, The Scissors, The Cotton and the Uniform for its permanent collection.
From Two Worlds, an exhibition exploring diaspora artists in Britain, curated by Nicholas Serota and Gavin Jantjes, is organised by the Whitechapel Art Gallery, touring to the Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh. South Asian artists include: Saleem Arif Quadri and Zarina Bhimji.
Cultural Studies are rethought and the term ‘Black’ is reinterpreted during this decade, a seminal moment being Stuart Hall and Homi Bhabha coming together for the pivotal conference: held during the season Mirage: Enigmas of Race, Difference and Desire (ICA, 1995). The permeation of postcolonial discourses into the visual arts is slow and fragmented.
A major Lancelot Ribeiro retrospective is held at the New Walk Museum & Art Gallery, Leicester, which tours to London’s Swiss Cottage Art Gallery.
1987 In January, The Horizon Gallery opens as the visual arts wing of the Indian Arts Council (IAC) with headquarters in Marchmont Street, London. A solo exhibition Henry Moore: Sculptures, Drawings & Graphics, is held at the National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi.
1988 Tate purchases work by Dhruva Mistry.
1988-1989 Earthen Shades: Paintings by Shanti Panchal is organised by Cartwright Hall, Bradford and Castlefield Gallery, Manchester; it tours to ten public galleries.
1989 The Other Story: Afro-Asian Artists in Post-war Britain curated by London-based, Karachi born artist, Rasheed Araeen, is organised by the Hayward Gallery and South Bank Centre, London. It brings together 24 artists of Asian, African, or Caribbean cultural heritage who have lived and worked for a significant part of their professional lives in post-war Britain, including Saleem Arif Quadri, Avinash Chandra, Balraj Khanna and F. N. Souza,
1990 Anish Kapoor represents Britain at the 44th Venice Biennale with Void Field (1989); he is awarded the Premio Duemila for Best Young Artist. Balraj Khanna is interviewed for Artists’ Lives – an audio-based archival project by the British Library in association with Tate Archives, documenting creatives and scholars in the field of visual arts. Chila Kumari Singh Burman features in a solo exhibition at the Horizon Gallery, London. Dhruva Mistry represents Britain at the Third Rodin Grand Prize Exhibition, Japan.
1991 Anish Kapoor wins the Turner Prize. Dhruva Mistry is elected a Royal Academician. The Paintings of Saleem Arif, Newport Museum and Art Gallery, with catalogue by Tony Godfrey. Paul Gopal Chowdhury’s solo show Angels and Streetwalkers at Benjamin Rhodes Gallery, London, represents a turning point in his oeuvre.
1992 Solo exhibition Synapse: Sutapa Biswas, is held at The Photographers’ Gallery, London. Dhruva Mistry is commissioned by
Birmingham City Council to design sculptures for Victoria Square, Birmingham. The massive water feature receives several awards.
1993 Mead Gallery, University of Warwick presents Cadences of the Heart: Works from South Asia in British Collections, in collaboration with Bradford Art Gallery and Museum, in which eighteenth century calligraphy and nineteenth century textiles and ceramics are juxtaposed with works by contemporary artists, such as Bhupen Khakhar, Dhruva Mistry and Shanti Panchal. Shanti Panchal: New Paintings, Museum of Modern Art, Oxford.
2000-2002 Shanti Panchal: Private Myths, Pitshanger Manor Gallery, London and touring to Cartwright Hall, Bradford; Blackburn Museum and Art Galleries; and Herbert Art Gallery and Museum, Coventry.
2001 Balraj Khanna is commissioned to design one of the largest public artworks in the UK, the Safety Curtain for Birmingham Hippodrome Theatre. Dhruva Mistry is awarded a CBE. Work by Saleem Arif Quadri is purchased by Tate.
Aicon Gallery (formerly Gallery ArtsIndia in the USA) opens a short-lived London space.
2008 Saleem Arif Quadri is awarded an MBE. N.S. Harsha is awarded the Artes Mundi Prize. Private collector, Frank Cohen, presents A Passage to India Part I at his space, Initial Access, in Wolverhampton, introducing his extensive collection of works by Indian painters and sculptors.
Sutapa Biswas is a Deutsche Bank European Photography Award nominee.
Shanti Panchal is first prize winner in The Sunday Times watercolour competition
The group exhibition Indian Highway at the Serpentine Gallery introduces young Indian contemporary artists.
British-born Indian artist, Bharti Kher (b. 1969) moves to New Delhi in India.
1996 The display Picturing Blackness in British Art at Tate Britain, selected and curated by Paul Gilroy, exemplifies Tate’s redefinement of meaning and identity. Artists featured from across three centuries include: Benjamin Robert Haydon, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Powell Frith, Sir Joshua Reynolds, Sonia Boyce and Lubaina Himid.
1997 Saleem Arif: Gardens of Grace, Arks Gallery, London; catalogue by Mary Rose Beaumont. F. N. Souza solo show at Julian Hartnoll, London.
1998-1999 Shanti Panchal: The Windows of the Soul at Angel Row Gallery, Nottingham and Midlands Art Centre, Birmingham, and touring.
1999 Anish Kapoor is elected a Royal Academician. The Singh Twins’ first solo exhibition, enTWINed is held at Birmingham City Art Gallery.
The Singh Twins become two of the only British artists - aside from Sir Henry Moore – to have a solo exhibition at the National Gallery of Modern Art, Delhi.
2003 Anish Kapoor is awarded a CBE.
2006 Avinash Chandra; A Retrospective is held at Berkeley Square Gallery, London. Raqib Shaw exhibits as part of Tate’s Art Now, a series of exhibitions at Tate Britain focusing on new work by emerging artists. Subodh Gupta becomes the first Indian artist to be shortlisted for the Artes Mundi 2. The Artes Mundi Exhibition and Award is held every two years at the National Museum Cardiff, Wales.
Anish Kapoor becomes the first living artist to have a solo exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts, London. Raqib Shaw’s solo exhibition Absence of God is held at White Cube, London. Dhruva Mistry’s exhibition, Progressive to Altermodern: 62 Years of Indian Modern Art is held at the Grosvenor Gallery, London.
2010 Some two decades after The Other Story, Aicon Gallery, London presents a re-appraisal of the exhibition. Conceived by writer/curator Niru Ratnam and titled A Missing History: The Other Story Re-visited, it features a number of artists included in the original exhibition, plus two women (Chila Kumari Singh Burman and Sutapa Biswas) who were not featured in the 1989 exhibition.
Howard Hodgkin: Room 3 in his retrospective at Tate Britain highlights Indian influences.
The Singh Twins feature in a solo exhibition Contemporary Connections:The Singh Twins at the National Portrait Gallery, London.
The Empire Strikes Back: Indian Art Today is held at the Saatchi Gallery, London.
Raqib Shaw’s first work acquired by Tate. Regard and Ritual: Julie Held and Shanti Panchal exhibition at Ben Uri Gallery and Museum, touring to Eldon Gallery, University of Portsmouth. Zarina Bhimji is nominated for the Turner Prize.
A Passage to India Part II is held at Initial Access, Wolverhampton. A work by Chila Burman addressing Indian issues is acquired by the Wellcome Trust – the first by a Black-South Asian woman.
2011 Tate Britain’s Focus Display Thin Black Line(s) presents selected works from Lubaina Himid’s series of three exhibitions from 1985, revisiting the arrival (and journey over time) of black and South Asian female artists in the British art scene. Dhruva Mistry: Bronzes 1987- 1990 exhibition is held at Grosvenor Gallery, London, reexamining his bronze sculptures and his understanding of the female figure at a time when steel has come to the fore as a material in his work. The Singh Twins both receive their MBE.
2012 Migrations: Journeys into British Art, Tate Britain, features works by F. N. Souza and Avinash Chandra. ArcelorMittal Orbit – UK’s largest sculpture, designed by Anish Kapoor and Sri Lankan, Cecil Balmond, is unveiled in the year of the London Olympics, next to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Stratford, London. it becomes a tourist attraction as much as a public art installation, giving rise to controversy and divided critical opinion over its design sensibilities and huge cost. The Imperial War Museum, London acquires Shanti Panchal’s painting The Boys Returned from Helmand for its collection, celebrating his two sons who both served in the British Army. Zarina Bhimji, a retrospective, is held at the Whitechapel Gallery – this first major survey exhibition traces 25 years of Bhimji’s work. Tate launches the South Asia Acquisitions Committee (SAAC) to help build a diverse collection from India and South Asian countries, and to deepen knowledge through international research and exchange.
2013 Anish Kapoor receives his knighthood. Sutapa Biswas’ work enters Tate collection, presented by Tate Members. Grosvenor Gallery presents F.N Souza: Black on Black Paintings, revisiting the thick black impasto oils that had originally baffled critics and viewers alike. (Souza’s black on black
paintings were first exhibited by Grosvenor’s in Black Art and Other Paintings in 1966). Zehra Jumabhoy writes ‘Black British Souza’, detailing techniques, influences, inspirations, and interpretations of Souza’s monochromatic works. The catalogue pivots around a panel discussion ‘Black on Black’ with Gilane Tawadros and Conor Macklin. The British Council presents the exhibition Homelands, curated from its collection by Indian curator, Latika Gupta. Formation of the ‘Contemporaneity in South Asian Art’ Seminar Series by Professor Deborah Swallow and Zehra Jumabhoy at the Courtauld Institute of Art, London, to promote South Asian Artists and conversations with the Subcontinent in Britain.
2014 Chila Kumari Singh Burman’s work enters Tate collection, presented by Tate members. Publication of Lancelot Ribeiro: An Artist in India and Europe by David Buckman (Francis Boutle Publishers).
2015 Anish Kapoor and Ai Wei Wei lead an artists’ walk of compassion for refugees from the Royal Academy to the Orbit. Shanti Panchal wins the Ruth Borchard SelfPortrait Prize; the accompanying exhibition is held at Piano Nobile, Kings Place, London and Pallant House Gallery, Chichester.
2016 Anish Kapoor obtains exclusive rights to ‘blackest black’ pigment, Vantablack, which is so dark that it absorbs 99.96 percent of light. Tate Modern presents Bhupen Khakhar: You Can’t Please All – the first international retrospective of the Indian artist (1934-2003) since his death. It is curated by Chris Dercon, Director, and Nada Raza, Assistant Curator, Tate Modern. Raqib Shaw’s solo exhibition Self-Portraits is held at White Cube, London.
2016 -2017 Artist and Empire, an exhibition organised by Tate Britain, examines how the histories of the British Empire have shaped British art in the past and the present, and features Indian artists such as Balraj Khanna, Avinash Chandra and The Singh Twins. Retracing Ribeiro, a National Lottery funded project explores the legacy of Lancelot Ribeiro, in collaboration with the British Museum, Burgh House and Hampstead Museum, Camden Local Studies and Archives Centre, Central Saint Martins, and the V&A. It is also part of Asian Art UK (an annual initiative) and 2017 UK India Year of Culture.
2017 ‘UK India Year of Culture’ is launched by the British Council, Indian High Commission and the UK government to celebrate the relationship between the two nations through cultural events, exhibitions and activities organised in both countries throughout the year. Marking 70 years of Indian independence, a series of exhibitions titled Illuminating India – an account of India’s contribution to science, technology and mathematics – are organised at the Science Museum, London as part of ‘UK India Year of Culture’. Chila Kumari Singh Burman is a major exhibitor. The British Museum, in collaboration with museums in India, presents India and the World: A History in Nine Stories (Part of UKIndia Year of Culture), an exhibition hosted at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (formerly the Prince of Wales Museum of Western India), the main museum in Mumbai, and later at the National Museum, New Delhi, India. Part of UK-India Year of Culture, Splendours of the Subcontinent: A Prince’s Tour of India 1875– 76 is a new Royal Collection Trust touring exhibition, in collaboration with Cartwright Hall, Bradford, and New Walk Museum & Art Gallery, Leicester. It features exquisite works of art presented to the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) throughout the tour. Part of the series is 5000 Years of Science and Innovation – an initiative by the British
Council to further strengthen ties between the two nations and deepen our understanding of the past in light of present times. Raqib Shaw solo exhibition takes place at The Whitworth, Manchester. Thinking Tantra at Peninsula Arts, Plymouth University, features work by Prafulla Mohanti. Howard Hodgkin: Painting India is held at the Hepworth Wakefield. Shivangi Ladha is awarded the Anthony Dawson Young Printmakers Prize by the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers, London.
2017-2018 Memories of Partition exhibition is held at the Manchester Museum, highlighting the experiences and legacies of the creation of India and Pakistan in 1947, through the memories from Manchester’s South Asian communities of the largest migration in human history. Hormazd Narielwalla is a featured artist in Turning Back: Seven migration moments that changed Britain, an exhibition held by the Migration Museum, Lambeth, London.
2018 Lancelot Ribeiro: A Voyage of Discovery retrospective is held at the New Walk Museum & Art Gallery, Leicester. Chila Burman’s survey show, Tales of Valiant Queens, is displayed at Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art (MIMA). Chila Burman receives an honorary doctorate and Honorary Fellowship from the University of the Arts, London for her outstanding contribution to the field of art. Significant solo exhibitions are held including Raqib Shaw: Reinventing the Old Masters, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art; Slaves of Fashion: New Works by The Singh
Twins, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool and touring; and The Singh Twins: Splendours of the Subcontinent, The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, Britain.
All Too Human: Bacon, Freud and a Century of Painting Life is held at Tate Britain, London, featuring the works of F. N. Souza alongside major figurative artists who have explored the process of art-making and aspects of human life through their experiences in Britain.
Eastern Encounters: Four Centuries of Paintings and Manuscripts from the Indian Sub-Continent is held at the Queen’s Gallery, London.
2019 The centenary of the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre, India, 1919, extends discussions in the arts sector on subjects such as decolonisation. The Singh Twins add ‘Jallianwala: Repression and Retribution’ which is unveiled by the artists themselves, as the part of the exhibition Jallianwala Bagh 1919: Punjab under Siege – a collaboration between Manchester Museum (at The University of Manchester) and the Partition Museum (set up by The Arts and Cultural Heritage Trust), Amritsar, India. The Roots of the Indian Artists’ Collectives is organised by the Grosvenor Gallery, London, tracing the history of the Indian Painters Collective, UK (IPC), featuring artwork by Avinash Chandra, Prafulla Mohanti, Balraj Khanna and Lancelot Ribeiro, amongst others. Work by Hormazd Narielwalla is exhibited in Migrations: Masterworks from the Ben Uri Collection, at the Museum of Gloucester. The Noble Sage holds: The Spiritual – the art of Prafulla Mohanti, Priyantha Weerasuriya and Eccentric-O.
Sutapa Biswas is a British Art Visiting Scholar at the Yale Center, USA.
On 24 January, Paul Mellon Centre, London, presents Performance Art: Rasheed Araeen, Prafulla Mohanti and Sutapa Biswas. Curator and writer, Niru Ratnam, opens his eponymous gallery in London to show minority artists ‘with a light touch’. South Asian Heritage Month is celebrated from 18 July – 17 August. During the summer, 24 large-scale sculptures by Anish Kapoor are exhibited throughout the grounds and interiors of Houghton Hall, Norfolk, making it the largest UK exhibition of Kapoor sculptures to date. Grosvenor Gallery, London presents South Asian Modern Art 2020 featuring works by Dhruva Mistry, F. N. Souza and Lancelot Ribeiro, among others. Chila Burman is awarded the Tate Britain Winter Commission for the gallery’s facade. Ben Uri Gallery and Museum launches its online exhibition Midnight’s Family: 70 Years of Indian Artists in Britain on 7 August, featuring: S. K. Bakre, Sutapa Biswas, Chila Kumari Singh Burman, Avinash Chandra, Paul Gopal-Chowdhury, Anish Kapoor, Balraj Khanna, Shivangi Ladha, Dhruva Mistry, Prafulla Mohanti, Hormazd Narielwalla, Shanti Panchal, Saleem Arif Quadri, Lancelot Ribeiro, Raqib Shaw, F. N. Souza, The Singh Twins. It is the Ben Uri Research Unit’s first exhibition to explore artists in Britain from a non-European immigrant community.
Ribeiro’s miniature Untitled (Townscape), 1964 is awarded Art Fund support and is acquired by Burgh House & Hampstead Museum.
ARTISTS’ BIOGRAPHIES Sadanand (S.K.) Bakre (1920, Baroda, India – 2007, Murud, India) A talented and hardworking sculptor turned painter, Bakre – together with F.N. Souza, S.H. Raza, M.F. Husain, K.H. Ara and H.A. Gade – founded the highly influential Progressive Artists’ Group (PAG) in Bombay (Mumbai) after India’s independence in 1947. Trained as an artist from early childhood, Bakre was only 16 at his first solo exhibition. In 1944, he completed his Diploma in Sculpture from Sir J J School of Arts, Bombay, and received the Lord Harding Scholarship. In 1951, he moved to Britain, where sculpture from his 1959 Gallery One exhibition was critically reviewed in The Times. He shifted to painting from sculpture, and to abstraction from academic realism, particularly influenced by the work of Picasso, Moore and Epstein. The 1960s marked the peak of his artistic virtuosity as he experimented with medium, technique and form. A strong sense of colour offered depth to his forms, which gradually simplified and evolved from a dynamic spikiness towards a more solid structural presence. In 1965, he wrote an essay titled ‘All Art Is Either Good or Bad’ describing his personal art philosophy. After exhibiting in galleries in London, Paris, Switzerland and USA, he returned to India in the early 1980s, where he remained.
utapa Biswas (b. 1962, S Shantiniketan, India) A British-Indian multimedia and conceptual artist, Biswas was brought up in London following her family’s move to the UK in 1966. After an undergraduate degree in Fine Art with History of Art at the University of Leeds (1981-1985), she studied at the Slade School of Art, London from 1988-1990, and was a research student at the RCA from 1995-98. Biswas was a key figure within the ‘Black British Arts Movement’ of the 1980s. Her work came to prominence in 1985, when it was featured in The Thin Black Line, an exhibition by young Afro-Caribbean and South Asian women artists at the Institute of Contemporary Art, London, curated by artist Lubaina Himid. Subsequently, Biswas’ works were exhibited widely both nationally and internationally, including solo exhibitions at The Photographer’s Gallery (London), Iniva (UK), Plugin Contemporary Art Gallery with Locus+ (UK), Horizon Gallery (London), Cooley Gallery (USA). In 2021, Biswas will have UK solo shows at Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge and the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead. During the 1980s, Biswas was predominantly known as a painter, but she has from the outset of her career
explored a wide range of media, including drawing, film, photography, performance and installation. In her work, she frequently draws on iconography from the ancient Hindu mythologies of her cultural heritage, and her artwork engages – often with humour – with issues of gender, race and cultural identity, specifically in relation to time and history. Biswas is a Deutsche Bank European Photography Award nominee (1993), a Yale Center for British Art Visiting Scholar (2019-20), and is currently a Reader in Fine Art at Manchester Metropolitan University. Her work is held by collections including Tate; Cartwright Hall, Bradford; Arts Council England; Bristol Museum in collaboration with Film and Video Umbrella (London, UK); Graves Art Gallery, Museums Sheffield and Leicester City Museums; The Stanley and Audrey Burton Gallery, Leeds University; Reed College (USA).
hila Kumari Singh Burman C (b. 1957, Bootle, Liverpool, England) A British multimedia artist, Burman was born into a Punjabi family in the north of England. In 1980, she graduated in printmaking from Leeds Polytechnic, progressing to a Master’s degree in printmaking at the Slade School of Fine Art, London, exhibiting in 1982 as a young artist in Between Two Cultures curated by Indian Arts UK at the Barbican’s Concourse Gallery, as part of the Festival of India. She became a significant figure in the 1980s Black British Art movement, investigating the role of women, especially South Asian, through self-identity, cultural identity, diaspora, gender and representation, often taking a political stance. Burman is one of the first British Asian female artists to have a monograph published: Lynda Nead’s Chila Kumari Burman: Beyond Two Cultures (1995). In 2018, Burman received an honorary doctorate and fellowship from the University of Arts, London. Her experimental work embraces printmaking, painting, sculpture, photography and film, and is held in museum collections including Tate, Victoria and Albert Museum, Scottish National Portrait Gallery and the Wellcome Trust. A recent solo exhibition and commission include Chila Burman: Beyond Pop, Wolverhampton Art Gallery (2017), and India Illuminated! for Illuminating India: 5000 Years of Science and Innovation, Science Museum (2017-18) respectively. She currently works from her studio in London.
Avinash Chandra (1931, Shimla, India – 1991, London, UK) Known for his synthesising of Indian subject matter with the visual vocabulary of European Modernism, Chandra studied at Delhi Polytechnic Art School from 1947-51, where he was introduced to European and American art, and where he later taught fine art. In 1956, two years after winning first prize at the First National Art Exhibition of Art in New Delhi, he moved to London on a scholarship to St. Martin’s School of Art. His early works can be characterised as abstract, colourful watercolour and tempera landscapes, often depicting the hills and vegetation of his hometown. In the late 1950s, he abandoned the more formal aspects of his training to search for a more individual aesthetic and idiom. His later works largely reflect his humanist values and take the female body as their main subject, exploring both a more figurative style and geometric abstraction. His transition from a painter of landscapes to an observer of human form and relationships soon gained him international recognition. In 1962, he won the gold medal Prix Europeen and featured in a BBC television documentary, Art of Avinash Chandra. In 1965, Chandra and Souza became the first Indian artists to be represented in the national collection at Tate. Chandra exhibited in The Other Story, Hayward Gallery, London (1989) and featured posthumously in the BBC documentary: Whoever Heard of a Black Artist? (2018). Chandra is represented in collections worldwide, including Arts Council of Great Britain, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford; Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge; Punjab Museum, Chandigarh; Tate; and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Humanscapes: Avinash Chandra: A Retrospective, edited by Kishore Singh, was published by Delhi Art Gallery (2015).
Paul Gopal-Chowdhury (b. 1949, Calcutta, India) Gopal-Chowdhury moved to London in 1959 at the age of ten. He studied at Camberwell School of Art, London (1967-68), and subsequently at the Slade School of Fine Art, from 1968-1973. From 1973-74, he taught at Chelsea School of Art and Byam Shaw School of Art, after which he won a Boise travel scholarship and a scholarship from the French Government to paint landscapes in France. From 1975-77 he held several lecturerships and was awarded the Gregory Fellowship at Leeds University. In 1982 he won second prize in the Imperial Tobacco Portrait Award, National Portrait Gallery, London.The following year, GopalChowdhury was Artist in Residence at Kettle’s
Yard, with a one-year fellowship at Gonville and Caius College, University of Cambridge. His career has developed in distinct phases: early works depicted large-scale nudes, which were exhibited at the Hayward and Serpentine Galleries in 1979. In the 1980s, Gopal-Chowdhury began to produce still-life paintings that referenced works by French masters such as Manet and Chardin and, in the late 1980s, he began to paint large figure studies, often depicting card players, influenced by Cézanne and Caravaggio. His 1991 exhibition Angels and Streetwomen at Benjamin Rhodes Gallery, London, marked a turning point, as he began to develop new subjects, combining Indian mythological images with scenes of contemporary London life, through which he sought to depict everyday reality as mythic, and mythology as real. Following a period of hiatus when he continued to paint but not to exhibit in London (he showed briefly in New York), Gopal-Chowdhury began to show his work again in 2002 with Art Space Gallery. He continues to live and work in London, and has taught at the Royal Drawing School.
Anish Kapoor (b. 1954, Mumbai, India) Indian-born, British sculptor, Kapoor is a pioneer in installation and conceptual art, working across an unprecedented range of scale, material and engineering complexity, often in the public domain. Based in London since the early 1970s, he migrated to study at Hornsey College of Art (1973-77), followed by a postgraduate degree at Chelsea School of Art and Design (1977-78). Representing Britain at the 44th Venice Biennale in 1990 with Void Field (1989), he was awarded the Premio Duemila for Best Young Artist. Kapoor won the Turner Prize in 1991, was elected RA in 1999, and was the first living artist to have a major solo exhibition at the Royal Academy, London in 2009. He has received national recognitions from the UK and India. In 2003, he was awarded a CBE, and in 2013, both a Knighthood for his contribution to British visual arts, and the Padma Bhushan – India’s third-highest civilian award. His notable large-scale public installations include Cloud Gate (2004), Millennium Park, Chicago, USA; Sky Mirror (2006) – exhibited at the Rockefeller Center, New York; ArcelorMittal Orbit (2012) – London’s highest sculpture and observation desk in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, and Ark Nova (2013) – the world’s first inflatable concert hall in Japan. In 2015 Kapoor was included among British Cultural Icons featured in the new British passport design. His work is held in museum collections worldwide. During summer 2020 the largest UK exhibition of his outdoor sculptures to date, takes place at Houghton Hall, Norfolk.
Balraj Khanna (b. 1940, Lahore, India) Writer, critic, curator and self-taught painter, Khanna studied English Literature at the University of Punjab, Chandigarh, intending to pursue further education at Oxford University. However, following the China-India conflict of 1962 which disrupted his studies, and with introductions from writer, Mulk Raj Anand, to prominent figures within the British art world, such as the painter, F.N. Souza, curator, W. G. Archer, and art critic George Butcher, he arrived in London aspiring to become an artist. Forming a close friendship with Souza (Khanna acquired his mews flat when Souza moved to the US, where his studio remains today), the two did not share a common aesthetic. Khanna painted joyous, colourful semi-abstract works, often inspired by memories of kites flying in the skies above Lahore, and suggestive of elements floating freely through space or glimpsed under a microscope. Most recently his work has moved into three dimensions: pale, sculptural tondos built from hand-cut abstract forms whose shapes derive directly from the vocabulary of earlier paintings. To promote artists from the Indian subcontinent, Khanna formed the Indian Painters Collective (IPC) in 1963, with five other Indian artists, subsequently co-founding the Horizon Gallery, London in January 1987, as the visual arts wing of the Indian Arts Council, a successor to the IPC. Khanna has also advised the Arts Council and the South Bank on visual arts. In 1990, he was interviewed for Artists’ Lives, part of National Life Stories at the British Library, London. In the 1990s and 2000s, he curated exhibitions across the UK, exploring aspects of Indian art. In 2001 he was commissioned to design one of the largest public artworks in the UK, the Safety Curtain for Birmingham Hippodrome Theatre. His early, semi-autobiographical painting Forest Walk (1969) featured in Artist & Empire, at Tate Britain, London (2016-17).
Shivangi Ladha (b. 1991, Gwalior, India) A contemporary printmaker, Ladha graduated in Fine Arts from the College of Art, Delhi University in 2012 before moving to London for her postgraduate studies. In 2016, she received her MA in Printmaking from the Royal College of Art (RCA), London after completing her MFA in Fine Arts from Wimbledon College of Arts, University of the Arts, London, in 2014. Addressing the ambivalences of identity and seeking truth in identity, she investigates gender, sexuality, race, caste, creed, disability and class differentiation, often raising awareness in series such as Acid Attack Survivor, acquired by the British Museum, London. In 2017, she received the Anthony Dawson Young Printmaker Award from The Royal
Society of Painter – Printmakers, London. Ladha has completed several residencies in London, New York and Canada, has taught in universities in India and the UK, and is the founder of India Print Maker House – an organisation which funds art residencies for young students. Her work is held in permanent collections of the British Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, and the Mead Museum, Massachusetts, USA amongst others. She has recently returned to India.
Dhruva Mistry (b. 1957, Kanjari, Gujarat, India) An award-winning sculptor, known for his technical flair and material innovation, Mistry studied at the Faculty of Fine Arts, M S University, Vadodara, India, from 1974-81, and progressed to the Royal College of Art, London, on a British Council Scholarship. His first solo exhibition in 1982 toured from Art Heritage, New Delhi to the Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai. In 1984, he became Artist in Residence at Kettle’s Yard, with a Fellowship at Churchill College, University of Cambridge, and was Sculptor in Residence at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London in 1988. In 1991, he was elected a Royal Academician. In 1992 he was commissioned to design public sculptures for Victoria Square, Birmingham, and was invited to become a Fellow of the Royal Society of British Sculptors the following year. He has represented Britain at various international art exhibitions. Returning to India in 1997, he was Professor, Head of Sculpture and Dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts at M S University, Vadodara until 2002. After a period of ill health, Mistry found new materials and techniques to continue to display his sculptural virtuosity, particularly using AutoCAD technology to create brilliantly-coloured small works, breaking the 3D forms into a set of flat steel planes. Mistry was awarded a CBE in 2001 for his contribution to British art.
Prafulla Mohanti (b. 1936, Odisha, India) Artist, writer and architect, Mohanti moved to London in 1960 after graduating in architecture from Bombay University. He subsequently received a Diploma in Town Planning from Leeds University and worked as an architecttown planner for the Greater London Council. Particularly inspired by memories of his birthplace, Odisha, he embraced the neo-tantric art movement and gradually developed a visual language of spiritual abstraction, leading to a specific Indianinfluenced art idiom. Exhibited in the UK since the 1960s, in 1982 Mohanti was selected as one of seventeen exhibitors in Between Two Cultures curated by Ibrahim Wagh of Indian Arts UK at 53
the Barbican’s Concourse Gallery, as part of the wide-ranging Festival of India, co-sponsored by the British and Indian governments. Recently, Mohanti’s work was presented in a group show by The Noble Sage, London in 2019. Through Brown Eyes (Oxford University Press, 1985) is one of his most recognised works as a writer. His paintings are held in private and public collections including the National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi and the British Museum, London. Mohanti now mostly lives in London.
ormazd Narielwalla (b. 1979, H Mumbai, India) Migrating to the UK to study, Nariellwalla received his BA in Fashion Design, University of Wales (2003-2006); MA in Fashion Design & Enterprise, University of Westminster (20062009) and PhD in FIne Art, University of the Arts, London, in 2014. His practice-based thesis focussed on tailoring patterns and their abstraction of the human form, as a modality that predates abstraction as a modernist artistic practice, and one which developed autonomously from art history. Narielwalla primarily uses tailoring patterns and found objects to create collaged works that explore the body and reflect upon the human condition. These investigations began in the cutting room of Dege & Skinner, a Savile Row gentleman’s tailor, where he was first inspired by the bespoke brown paper tailoring patterns of deceased customers which were being discarded. This led to his first artist’s book, Dead Man’s Patterns (2008) and his first solo show under the patronage of Sir Paul Smith in 2009. His subsequent publications include, The Savile Row Cutter (2011) and Paper Dolls (2018). Narielwalla was a featured artist in the Migration Museum’s exhibition: Turning Back: Seven migration moments that changed Britain (2017-18). Other recent exhibitions include: Block Party, Crafts Council (UK touring, 2011); Lost Gardens, Southbank Centre, London (2016); Migrations: Masterworks from the Ben Uri Collection, Gloucester Museum (2019). His work is held in private and public collections including the Victoria & Albert Museum, British Library, Courtauld Institute, INIVA, National Art Library (all London); Fashion Institute of Technology, New York; and Parsons School of Art & Design, New York.
Shanti Panchal (b. 1950s, Gujarat, India – exact date unknown) After Studying at Sir J J School of Arts, Bombay, Panchal taught in the city before moving to London on a British Council scholarship (197880); he has now lived and worked in Britain for over 40 years. His approach to painting watercolour is unique – saturated colours that belie the traditional medium, often presented in large-scale formats. While his subjectmatter can address urgent issues in the post-modern world – refugees and migrants, race and identity, disability, terrorism, the role of women, family, contemporary slavery, and Britain’s place in a new European order – they also stem from close personal experiences and relationships. In 1982, Panchal featured as one of seventeen artists in Between Two Cultures, curated by Ibrahim Wagh of Indian Arts UK at the Barbican’s Concourse Gallery, as part of the wide-ranging Festival of India. In 1987 Panchal was a prizewinner in the John Player Portrait Award at the National Portrait Gallery, London. He has also won the John Moores Painting Prize, Liverpool in 1989 and 2018; the BP Portrait Award, National Portrait Gallery, 1991; The Sunday Times Watercolour Competition, 2001, and the Ruth Borchard Self-Portrait Prize, 2015. Panchal’s work is in many private and public collections, including the Arts Council of England, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, The British Museum, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, and the Ruth Borchard Self-Portrait Collection. Panchal has featured in the UK touring show At the Edge: British Art 1950-2000 during 2009-10; the Tate Britain-initiated UK touring exhibition Watercolour in Britain: Tradition and Beyond, 2010-11; and The Past is Now: Birmingham and the British Empire, 2017-18. He was shortlisted for ‘Portrait Artist of the Year 2018’ by Sky Arts Television.
Saleem Arif Quadri (b. 1949, Hyderabad, India) A prolific artist, Quadri is perhaps best known for his poetic portrayal of the natural world. After emigrating with his family to Britain in March 1966, he studied at Birmingham School of Art from 1969-1972, and at the Royal College of Art, London from 1972-75. Following graduation, he returned to India to ‘discover’ his country of origin, and then travelled extensively across Europe, North Africa, and the Asian sub-continent, enabling him to engage with the dual perspectives of Eastern and Western cultures, as well as with his own Indian and Islamic heritage, assimilating these
multiple concepts into his work. During his time at the Royal College Quadri became fascinated with Dante’s The Divine Comedy and its connection with Christianity and early Islamic literature. His interest was further deepened when he discovered Islam and the Divine Comedy (1926) written by Miguel Asin Palacios, Professor of Islamic literature and Arabic language, at the University of Madrid. In 1971 Quadri won the ‘Young Sculptor of the Year Award’ for Space Lattice (1970), and by 1982, when he participated in the exhibition Between Two Cultures curated by Indian Arts UK at the Barbican’s Concourse Gallery, as part of the Festival of India, he had produced more than five hundred small-scale works on paper. In 1986 he participated in From Two Worlds curated by Sir Nicholas Serota & Gavin Jantes at the Whitechapel Art Gallery then touring to the Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh. Subsequently, his works began to increase in size, as he explored the third dimension and experimented with new concepts and shapes. Since 1999, Quadri has worked extensively with paper and large-scale artists’ books. In 2008, he was awarded an MBE, becoming one of the increasing number of artists of Asian, African or Carribean background to be honoured for their contribution to the visual arts in Britain. His work is represented in many UK collections including the Government Art Collection, London; Arts Council of England; Manchester City Art Gallery; Birmingham City Art Gallery and Museum; Cartwright Hall, Bradford Museum and Art Gallery, Bradford and Tate.
Lancelot Ribeiro (1933, Bombay, India – 2010, London, England) Born to a Catholic family from Goa, in August 1950, Ribeiro left Bombay for London, where he initially lived with his half-brother, the renowned Indian painter, F. N. Souza, and began studying accountancy. In 1951, he abandoned his studies to take up life drawing at St. Martin’s School of Art. As a British Empire National, he was conscripted into the RAF for his National Service in 1954. Following his discharge in 1955, he returned to Bombay, working in insurance, and beginning his professional artistic career in 1958. In 1961 he held his first solo exhibition at Bombay’s Artist Art Salon, which officially launched his career, and showed with Ten Indian Painters, an exhibition which toured in Europe and North America. In 1962, Ribeiro was nominated for the All India Gold Medal and returned to London. In 1972,
he began to lecture on Indian Art and Culture at the Commonwealth Institute, and jointly founded the Rainbow Art Group, which in 1978 evolved into the Indian Artists UK group, including Balraj Khanna, Yashwant Mali and Ibrahim Wagh. Throughout his career, Ribeiro produced a large body of both abstract and figurative works in oil and watercolours, his early works largely inspired by his Goan roots and the Christian tradition. He is best known for his later experiments with polyvinyl acetate (PVA), a precursor of acrylic paint. This medium had a reduced drying time and allowed him to experiment with a wide-range of more brilliant and durable colours. After a significant hiatus, he exhibited at the British Art Fair in 2010, his last public exhibition before his death three months later. Ribeiro is represented in UK collections including New Walk Museum & Art Gallery, Leicester; Burgh House and Hampstead Museum, Victoria & Albert Museum, London, and University of Sussex.
Raqib Shaw (b. 1974, Calcutta, India) A highly meticulous artist who sources his fantastical, personal imagery from a wide range of iconography, Shaw moved to London in 1998 to study, after time in Delhi and Kashmir, graduating in 2002 with an MA in Fine Art from Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design. His creative techniques include a unique process of enamelling on canvas, inspired by the time-consuming and intricate processes inherent in many Asian handicrafts – such as Uchikake ( Japanese wedding kimonos), Byobu ( Japanese screens) – and by Hokusai’s prints, Kashmiri shawls, Persian miniatures, carpets, jewellery and northern renaissance art. As a 2018 interview in The Guardian noted, a single painting can take three years to make, with up to eight pairs of hands at work. Shaw is representative of the younger generation of Indian artists who work outside of India and who are establishing global reputations, with shows at major institutions. Recent solo exhibitions include Raqib Shaw: Landscapes of Kashmir, Pace Gallery, London, 2019; Reinventing the Old Masters, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, and Bearing Points, Dhaka Art Summit, 2018, Raqib Shaw, The Whitworth, Manchester, 2017 and Self-Portraits, White Cube, London, 2016. He currently works from his studio in Peckham, South London.
F. N. Souza (1924, Saliagao, Goa, India – 2002, Mumbai, India) Founder of the pioneering Progressive Artists’ Group (PAG) in Bombay in 1947, after Independence, with S.H. Raza, M.F. Husain, K.H. Ara, H.A. Gade and S.K. Bakre, Souza became the most highly-acclaimed Indian artist with an international reputation. In 1929, he moved to Bombay (Mumbai), to study at the Sir J.J School of Art, until he was expelled in 1945 for supporting the Quit India Movement. In 1949, he moved to London where he initially worked as a journalist. The publication of his autobiographical essay, ‘Nirvana of a Maggot’, in Encounter magazine in 1955 launched his creative career, as did a very successful solo exhibition at Victor Musgrave’s Gallery One. This was followed in 1959 by the publication of Words and Lines, a collection of line drawings and prose. Souza’s style was largely figurative and linear, exploring and making repetitive use of themes and motifs relating to the female nude, Catholicism, good and evil, as well as often depicting the poor conditions of Bombay’s working class, which revealed his communist sympathies. In 1966, Souza showed for the final time in London, with a series of blackon-black paintings at the Grosvenor Gallery. This did not receive the critical acclaim of his previous exhibitions, and was considered a commercial failure. In 1967, Souza left London to settle in New York where he won the Guggenheim International Award, before returning to India shortly before his death in 2002. His works are held in major collections including Tate Modern, London and the National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi.
56 Designed by Rachel Hooper
This book includes works by modernists and global figures Bakra, Chandra, Kapoor, Mistry, Panchal, Quadri, Ribeiro, Souza, This timely exhi...
Published on Aug 13, 2020
This book includes works by modernists and global figures Bakra, Chandra, Kapoor, Mistry, Panchal, Quadri, Ribeiro, Souza, This timely exhi...