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July 7, 2009updated Feb 08, 2013

India’s New Artists featured in London Gallery

By Pardhasaradhi Gonuguntla

left: Alexis Kersey, Virgin, Right: Anju Dodiya, BlessingTake Three, showcases three leading contemporary Indian artists Anju Dodiya, who exhibited in the main hall at this year’s Venice Biennale, Alexis Kersey and Alwar Balasubramaniam at Kings Road Gallery & Tanya Baxter Contemporary from Thursday June 25th until Wednesday September 30th 2009. These three artists are the rising stars of the Indian Avant Garde. This show is also a preview for a major retrospective of the work of India’s leading living artist – S. H. Raza.

This global interest in Indian art is reflected in the artwork, with artists expressing both India’s heritage and pictorial traditions in a multicultural, dynamic tone. As influential, big names in Indian art since the 1950s such as Souza, Mehta, and Husain continue to draw high bids at Christies and Sotheby’s, the cutting-edge, contemporary works of India’s avant-garde artists have been creating a buzz in these auction houses since the early 1990s. Following the success and critical acclaim of the major retrospective of Indian Contemporary artists, there continues to be a huge amount of interest in Indian Contemporary art, culminating with the Christies auction in May of pivotal Indian works of art.

Collectors including Charles Saatchi, Frank Cohen and Francois Pinault are fast stocking up on this genre of Indian art, being art market-makers in their own right. Contemporary Indian art seems to be globally perceived to be more international than many other forms of contemporary art. Many of India ’s leading lights, including Subodh Gupta, T V Santhosh, and Alexis Kersey, are typical examples of artists whose works act as a social commentary on India’s globalization. The common denominator that exists between the three artists we are showcasing is their ability to unveil a new India that is both transfixed and held captive by a new consumerist works.

Anju Dodiya’s works weave stories which are fictional yet seemingly very real. Working largely in her favored medium of watercolor she creates her own narratives projecting her self-image as the protagonist. This personalized idiom is presented as an allegory to reality. These autobiographical fictions dwell in a contemplative melancholy. Both her idiom and her medium bring out a lyrical and highly expressive quality to the works. She treads this fine line distinguishing fantasy and reality and simultaneously builds her personal metaphors – The Pale Mourner clearly reflects this mood. Her work was chosen to be hung in the central hall at this year’s Venice Biennale.

Born and raised in Mysore by British parents, Alexis Kersey grew up immersed in both Indian and British culture. Inspired by his experiences, Kersey’s work often melds traditional Indian subjects with westernized aesthetics. In an effort to immerse himself in the culture surrounding Indian poster art, Kersey often chose to observe and work with commercial sign painters, squatting on the pavements of Chennai. To cater to a perceived superiority of Western goods and styles, much of the images commonly used in sign boards and advertising often promise a ‘Taste of the West’ through these consumer goods. “ The effect”, says Kersey, “is of the walls in cities, especially in South India , where posters have been plastered on, one over the other, and in places people have torn them off so you have a new narrative mythology created” In particular, the artist revisits and updates the traditional styles of the Nineteenth Century Company School Paintings. (The collective name given to the paintings created by Indian studios and commissioned by the British serving in the East India Company and later.) In 1990, Kersey, who had been living in Britain for some years, chose to return to Mysore to continue his work. The artist has been exhibiting since 1988 in galleries throughout India as well as London , and New York . In the last 18 months, Alexis Kersey’s work has seen a significant rise: there has been considerable interest from dealers and auction houses alike, with his pieces fetching between £15,000 – £70,000. With the current boom in Indian art expanding rapidly, this artist is one to watch out for.

Alwar Balasubramaniam seeks to find clarity in life through art. His works, be it painting, sculpture or installations break their conventional boundaries and often merge into one another in mixed media. He addresses a question vital to visual art- that regarding sight/perception itself. He plays with dualities of presence-absence, visible-invisible and real-unreal. This he addresses in reference to the Buddhist and Hindu religious philosophy regarding the self and its dissolution seen in Untitled, cast from his body. Beyond capturing his vision with beauty of an experience, his works are strongly influenced by the spiritual nature of expression.

A gifted artist, Balasubramanium’s early works display an unusual precision and control which won him a trip abroad. On his return to India he began creating ambitious works exploring texture, contour and the language of abstraction. Keenly involved in the power of materials, the artist started using ordinary materials such as sawdust to invest his art works with economy, simplicity and sophistication. He has started using his own finger print in his works which eventually led to his using his own body as an extension of the print medium, seen in Constructions. His ‘language’ is minimalist, with a simple visual motif carrying enormous conceptual and philosophical connotations in Dawn to Dawn. His works also address the question of infinitude and void, as opposed to the perceived reality of finite and form in Homage to a Saint. His material and medium is determined by the conceptual concern of his work as in the Golden Thorn. Playful and poetic his works are challenging and philosophical.

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