Back to basics: Masters show importance of lines and strokes (Rainbow Palette - Weekly Art Column, With Images)

April 10th, 2009 - 10:32 am ICT by IANS  

By Madhusree Chatterjee
New Delhi, April 10 (IANS) In this age of digitisation of art, lines, drawing, figures and manual artistic skill have taken a backseat. To highlight the importance of these basics, the capital’s oldest art display house, the Dhoomimal Gallery, is holding an exhibition of 100 works by 80 artists.

“Drawing: The Essence II” shows the importance of line, strokes and basic drawing in the journey of Indian art - from its pristine classical forms to modernism, abstraction and complex digital play.

Some of the works are timeless. A mother and child charcoal line drawing in black and white on paper by Jamini Roy dating back to the 1940s shows that an artist does not need anything more than a charcoal pencil and a few spartan strokes to convey the bond between a mother and child on paper.

A 1931 pen and ink sketch of a portly Oriental man, “Man Vi”, by Sailoz Mookherjee speaks of his mastery over strokes and figurative drawing, while a collection of seven pen and ink figure drawings by F.N. Souza spanning over two decades between 1950s and 1970s is just a few fluid strokes that capture the contours of the human body.

Some of the other artists featured in the show include Krishen Khanna, Anjolie Ela Menon, Jatin Das, M.F. Husain, Laxma Goud, Paritosh Sen, Sunil Das, Satish Gujral, Seema Kohli, V.S. Adurkar, Zainul Abedin, Aambadas, J. Swaminathan and Arpita Singh.

“We were losing sight of lines in the last few years and decided to highlight its importance. Lines and strokes were the bulwark of masters like Sailoz Mookherjee, F.N. Souza, M.F. Husain and Nandalal Bose,” said Uma Jain of the Dhoomimal Gallery.

The exhibition closes this weekend.


Ethnic bonding

Indigenous Australian artists Otto Jungarrayi Sims and Ormay Nangala Gallagher share something with the tribal artists of India. Both husband and wife love to paint their traditions, life and their legends of origin in bright colours.

“My paintings are all about water dreaming - my family insignia or the symbol which is the story of the emu in search of water in the desert. My father’s place of water dreaming - the origin - is west of Alice Springs at a place called Mikanji in the rugged northern territory of Australia,” Gallagher told IANS.

Her works are on display along with 87 other ethnic artists in the biggest ever exhibition of tribal Walpiri art from Australia at the Open Palm Court Gallery at the India Habitat Centre.

Gallagher took to painting at 15 as both her parents were artists. Her husband’s family symbol is “Milky Way Dreaming” - one that relates to the universe.

“We are the sons of the milky way,” Sims said. “Every family has a different dreaming - or jukurrpa, the stories of their origin. Some have snake vine dreaming, some men dreaming, others fire and star dreamings.”

Of the 800 tribals residing in the Yuendumu area near Alice Springs - Sims and Gallagher’s home - 400 are artists.

The duo’s art works - mostly complex and colourful shapes made of small dots - are vibrant and eye-catching. “Walpiri art is all about dots. It represents everything,” said Sims.

“The Australian trade commission is trying to market aboriginal art in India and this exhibition is an effort to familiarise Indian buyers with Walpiri art. Aboriginal Australian art is sold all over the world,” said Michael Carter, Australian trade commissioner to India.


Christie’s focus on art education

Global auction house Christie’s is planning a series of lectures in India this year in an effort to educate buyers in the country, who are more discerning now.

“We are trying to focus on more education-related activities like a series of lectures on antiquities, classical art and South Asian art this year. We have several specialists in Christie’s and we want them to come to India and talk about specialised subjects,” Maneka Kumari Shah, the auction house’s India representative, told IANS on phone from Mumbai.

The Indian art market is valued at over Rs. 1,500 crore (Rs.15 billion) and has been growing, though at a slower rate, despite the meltdown.

“The spring sales have put some kind of confidence back in the Indian contemporary art market. The art sold was of good quality and there is liquidity in the market. I don’t deny that the market has taken a beating because of the downturn, but reputed collectors are still buying. Indian contemporary art now has more international collectors like Frank Cohen and Saatchi & Saatchi,” Shah said.

The auction house will unveil its collection for the Asian modern art sale in New York with a preview in New Delhi in August.

(Madhushree Chatterjee can be contacted at

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