The celebration continues.... 'Images of India'

We were treated to more Indian culture the last few weeks. They were two very high profile events and both enjoyable. (I am running a little late as my computer failed and I also took a break from blogging.)

First was an event, showcasing Anuradha Pal and a group of women artists at the Thai cultural centre's larger auditorium. It was an important occasion, Bangkok’s 9th International Festival of Dance and Music, celebrating the 80th Birthday of His Majesty the King. The occasion was graced by the presence of HRH Princess of Thailand, Mahachakri Sirindon. Anuradha Pal is one of India’s leading and most innovative percussionists. Stree Shakti is an all-female Indian percussion ensemble. They performed using traditional percussion instruments like tabla, ghatam, mourching and mridangam.The percussionists and the accompanying sitar artist performed with enthusiasm and extremely well. It was enjoyable for its vigorous energy and its uniqueness as it was all women. Mourching was specially enjoyable and a surprise as some of the sounds created were really different and a first time for me.

This followed by Khatak dances presented by Pallabi De and her group , nice and innocent. One usually expects Khatak to be a little more sensuous. The dresses were modest and would have earned a praise from my grand mother. In addition the large auditorium made them look really small. Gudia, I think is the word that described the girls who performed.

It became nicer with a reception hosted by her H.E. Latha Reddy, the very gracious Indian Ambassador to Thailand, on behalf of the Indian Embassy, before the program started. Some excellant snacks and beverage set the right mood for the ensuing program.

The other was an exhibition of paintings, Images of India, Modern and contemporary art by Indian artists. The occasion, organised by the Embassy of India, was to celebrate the 60th anniversary of India's independence and the 60th Anniversary of Establishment of India-Thailand diplomatic relations. This was at the Amari Atrium hotel and was inaugurated by Hon. Pranab Kumar Mukherjee, External Affairs Minister of India. It felt nearer home as Viji (Mrs. Vijayalakshmi Hashim) organised the whole exhibition as its curator. A lot of thought had gone into the exhibition.

It was a sequel to the exhibition 'Art Beyond Words' held last year in May 2006. We can see it was a lot of work. The very well made brochure given to us says it all. She had paintings from as many as 47 painters on display.

Viewing a painting was very different from listening to music or watching a dance. It is a very personal experience for the viewer of a painting. For me painting is associated with the books I read and the movies I saw as an young man. Vincent Van Gogh, who cut off part of his left ear when a friendship broke, suffered recurrent bouts of mental illness, which led to his suicide. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and his provocative images of Paris life and Paul Gauguin, frustrated by lack of recognition at home and financially destitute, come to my mind. They all led very intense but decadent lives, did not make any money and died young.

We of course had our exposure to Ravi Verma and his handsome gods and comely godesses. I don't think we even thought of it as art! It was all part of our puja room. Then I remember straying into Jehangir art gallery in Mumbai to look at paintings whenever there was an hour or so before I caught the train back to Pune. The gallery was invariably deserted, especially if it was paintings by an unknown artist. I remember a lady artist sitting all alone waiting for a prospective buyer and not really a straggler like me. But, she was gracious enough to come and talk to me as I looked around. Her paintings were all about Ganapathi and were actually good. I am sure she would have a made name for herself and sold some of her paintings by now. Would have been a good investment if I had the money!

Coming back to the exhibition, as I walked in behind the VIP's, I noticed that there were the usual familiar and famous artists whose paintings one would automatically recognise. There were also many new (at least for me!) paintings which I enjoyed viewing. The best part was to meet an artist physically present there. It was nice talking to Aelay Laxman and getting to know him and his views. I liked his work and was glad to know that he is doing well. He looked a total opposite to the picture of artists who had engaged our mind and excited our imagination as kids. We all wanted to be painters and live in the left bank of the river in Paris!

Actually it is good to see that artists and their paintings doing well during their life time and not later. It is indeed nice that Viji had invited an artist to attend this high profile function. It is surely an honor for an artist to be introduced to a very senior minister of the Indian Cabinet, The Ambassador and other dignitaries who were present on the occasion.

I had a chat later with Viji about her work as a curator and 'Veda Arts'. She says sourcing is difficult for an exhibition of this type, to be able to display paintings from the various known schools, and lesser known schools of painting. While some were on consignment, many she had to buy them outright.

Most of the artists are young, younger than me except about a quarter of them and can be termed as post Independence. Many studied in art schools, the list of schools is impressive in that it covers so many cities across India. It is heartening to see students from art schools in Goa, Guruvayoor, Indore and Thiruvananthapuram adding to list from others in Bangalore, Baroda, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Mumbai and Pune. There was a sprinkling of self-taught painters and those with international education and exposure. (I hope she will come out with a Web-site about all these painters so that we can get to know more about them and their work.)

She has succeed in her effort to show us a mix of traditional cultural themes and of abstract paintings. She said, she likes to do more with southern painters at the moment and introduce them to the collectors and art lovers. She feels that people here are not aware of the growth and the interest Indian art has created recently. She started as a collector and now enjoys the role of a curator and organising exhibitions. She likes the challenge it affords in making a selection of painters, their work and putting them all together in an exhibition including how it is displayed.

I am sure she is having fun, as a lover of art, by promoting the known and the not so well known through her 'Veda Arts'.

She also acknowledges that there is money to be made by the buyer as well. Indian paintings are doing well and we could see it proven from the exhibition. Modern Indian painting is not only doing well but has really gained momentum and finding a place of its own in the world of art. Art has definitely flourished in our Independent India and it does make us feel happy and proud.


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