10 Indian artists who shaped the noughties

Tyeb Mehta

The man who celebrated Mahishasura and torched a new high at Christie’s with Times of India’s Celebration. Celebration, like the Shantiniketan triptych done a decade earlier, drew inspiration from the Charak festival, the spring festival of the Santhals. However, unlike the Santiniketan triptych that juxtaposes life and death, the work focused on the celebratory aspects of the festival and life itself.

The painting did not mark so much of a shift in emphasis, but a culmination of an experience. Images of torture and carnage, while not forgotten were instead transcended. They form the very stuff from which this Celebration derived meaning: as in alchemy, the dross had become gold. Celebration fetched a high of $317,500, in 2002—therein beginning Tyeb’s tryst with destiny, in the world of auctions.

M F Husain

The face of Indian contemporary art, living in exile since 2006, after his Bharat Mata bombed at an exhibition in Delhi. Yet, Husain’s best period was his early and middle ones. His Mahabharata, Ganesha and Mahabali series being the fountainhead of contemporary reality. Often using the presence of a group of women and elephants to heighten the importance of the central figure, the structure of the grouping accentuated the monumental character of the individual figures he chose to represent.

While surrealistic juxtaposition and displacement of associated symbols heightened the ambiguity of his pictorial world, Husain frequently invested the human form with an archaic and timeless feeling. He depicts them as if abstracted from time and renders them along with the signs and symbols. However, what arrests the eye is the nature of sensual reality he transformed with zeal. Sex, if seen as a final analysis, took an abstract form, viewed as an element within the equation — an instrumentation for seeking and establishing identity.

Bose Krishnamchari (Artist curator)

HE is India’s Vik Munz. His ideas are simple—as an artist curator-he goes wild, picking and choosing from the nation’s artist’s studios—and in every endeavour he tries to reflect his process of discovery and an eclectic elegance. Curating for Bose Krishnamachari is about a sense of play and a cohesive focus-in which one work reverberates into the next, to create “a residual effect.”

Guest curator at ARCO Madrid, with 20 years of work behind him, Bose handles crating in the context of a philatelic feel. Straightforward, forthright and now a face of BMB Gallery in Mumbai, his shows like Double Enders and National Highway have proved that curating is not merely gathering works to reflect a bazaar, but discovering and reflecting resonances beyond the obvious.

T V Santosh

Known as India’s Zen monk, Santhosh's untiring search for an understanding of the state of world politics, war and media is expressed most effectively in his paintings and installations. Reconstructing ideas from a science fiction film, the evocative Last Supper or even Hitler’s dogs, Santos uses his signature style of turning a positive photographic image into its negative and creating paintings and installations that have an eerily surreal quality.

In his paintings, he deliberately eliminates the details of anything specific or local in the image and the subject takes on a much grander scale and, like most of his recent works, addresses the universal concerns of war, terrorism and violence.

His art leaves a lasting impression on its viewer and implores the audience to re-evaluate the politics of war and terrorism — a plea to identify the real enemy.

S H Raza

The abstractionist who lives in Paris and has recently finished a show in London. “The English name they've given my show is The Five Rays of Raza, But for me, my work represents ‘panchtatva' or the five elements’.” It was in the 1970’s that Raza began his sojourn into the world of the Bindu.

In a strictly formal sense, Raza's style seems to bear some relation to the Abstract Expressionist work of Frank Stella and Jasper Johns. However, while these artists were part of a theoretical discussion on the Formalist movement, Raza's work addresses a more spiritual context.

The circle becomes less of a graphical component and more of a focal point representing concentrated energy. This concept has age-old precedents in meditative aids such as yantras and mandalas. And age has caught up with Raza, in a quaint departure from his usual. Raza confessed to Muzaffar Ali, at his birthday bash at Taj Mahal Hotel in Delhi, two years ago, that he wanted to marry a 19-year-old Bengali girl.

Jogen Chowdhury

The master of the contour. The most successful practitioner from the Bengal School. The satirist who creates folds out of skin. Jogen Chowdhury smiles as he creates and viewers can sense that his mood is lighthearted, even as he plays with the human figure. His lines are bold and free and his canvases in particular show a simplification of composition with a deceptive depth in textural terrain. The brilliant colours associated with the rural folk art traditions of Bengal appear in his work as two-dimensional linear forms set as bold planes of background colour replace his earlier sculpted human forms. Characterized by his elongated, caricature figures and preference for highly decorative surfaces, Jogen’s art draws equally from the natural and the psychological.

Sometimes a work can be a curious mix of still life and movement that contributes to an almost hypnotic effect. Jogen had once said: “There is also a tremendous power in the stillness of an object. A force that is no less than apparently an object in great speed. Stillness is a form of a speed while not in force. It has the possibility of the force in a different form.”

Sumedh Rajendran

Most intriguing was his show Chemical Smuggle at Vadehras in Delhi. He combines materials and compositions with an intricate élan. At the Christie’s Asian Contemporary and Chinese Art Auction, Hong Kong, 2008, his work went for a whopping HK$271,500 / ($34,955).Titled Promised and Them, the two wooden and steel sculptures had about them an elegant restraint as well as a gravitas of metaphoric moorings.

Deeply philosophic and equally at ease with literary contexts, it was his project for Khoj entitled Pseudo Homelands exhibited at Lahore, which made people sit up and take notice. His explanation ranked of wit and the insight of T.S. Eliot. “In landscapes marginalized by the hierarchy of power structure, negotiation is a mere theatre. In this maze of divisions and subjugations, that we tend to perceive as social harmony is only unexplained tragedies.” His titles too must be read in the context of what he wishes to state. But Sumedh becomes participant and observer. Betrayal Flush, More Dead Than Alive and Some Hard Hunger—each title is a personification of deep contemplative ideologies and thoughts.

Some Hard Hunger reflects a dog with an open jawline—the barrel shaped object that shapes the jawline is what entices the powerful relief sculpture, dealt with the phenomenon of a stifled and angst ridden urban existence—the paradoxes of patterns in the living and those who merely exist .

Subodh Gupta

He made Indian steel bartans fashionable. From his human skull called Very Hungry God to his Three Monkeys-Subbed Gupta invited viewers into his signature of vessels for Indian art. Almost like entering a vast Indian kitchen in perpetual, dizzying motion, his medium of towering tiffin bartans became the Subodh signature. His installations, typical of his deceptively simple works made of everyday objects, manages to refer to stereotypes of Indian life, rapidly changing routines in a global economy, and key historical cross-cultural exchanges.

International writers say Subodh Gupta's post-modernist ideas channel far-ranging influences from Marcel Duchamp, Josef Beuys, Claes Oldenburg and Andy Warhol. However, his artistic vocabulary is firmly rooted in the vernacular of everyday India. Gupta - appropriation artist — ironically states, “I am the idol thief. I steal from the drama of Hindu life. Hindu kitchens are as important as prayer rooms. These pots are like something sacred, part of important rituals, and I buy them in a market. They think I have a shop, and I let them think it. I get them wholesale.”


She is India’s most successful women artist for her ability to exploit the genre of her own portrait in her works. Her first solo (outside India) at Bose Pacia, New York was in 2004, before which she held her audiences with Phantom Lady or Kismet (1996-98). Shot mostly in night time Mumbai, the series has a rich, film-noir atmosphere and a surreal, Bollywood-style narrative structure that can be reshuffled for different showings. Pushpamala N. is chief actor as well as director, and she has a charismatic on-camera presence.

She played both the sisters in Phantom Lady with aplomb, and brought the same qualities to Golden Dreams (1998), a kind of woman-having-a-nervous-breakdown tale of romance and entrapment that concluded with the heroine holding an invisible opponent at gunpoint. She played with tints — the original black-and-white prints were hand coloured, giving them a slightly antique look, as was true of the 10 pictures in The Anguished Heart (2002), and a story of lost love that might have come straight from a Satyajit Ray film.

Jiten Thukral and Samir Tagra

The most happening duo on the auction scene-collaborating for the past 9 years. Jiten Thukral and Samir Tagra address issues in urban India through a variety of stylistic devices and media. Drawing from pop culture, history and street life, they present a graphic theatrical element in their works. Be it in the form of sculptures, paintings and installations, aesthetically speaking their works have a very 'un-Indian' and distinct leitmotif.

According to them their ‘un-Indian’ aesthetic has come naturally. When they look around everything is inspired, influenced and pursued with ‘un-Indian aesthetics’. They were trained as communication designers, their education being a mix of art and design principles. Observing and creating have become a part of their routine. The titles of their works have an edge of dramatis personae-Pscho Acoustics-01,Vector Classics,2005, Phone Now + 91 114174 0215- this is the reality of an urbanesque urge.

7 Jan 2010
Uma Nair
Economic Times

Aashu Maheshwari - One of the artists i would like to mention herein is "Jitesh Kallat" and his contribution to Indian Art.Also would mention Anju Dodiya and Atul Dodiya for their immence contribution to Indian Art.
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