Bengal Bouquet at Christies
Rabindranath Tagore, Hemendranath Muzumdar, Meera Mukherjee and Jamini Roy – the first few lots of the Christie's South Asian Modern and Contemporary Art Sale on June 12 in London celebrated early Bengal and modernity in Indian contemporary art.
Tagore's woodcut 'Namaz' was a telling testimony of his love for the secular fabric, his deeper understanding of humanity's many paths. The looped lines the thick contours and the emotive essence all point to his naturality and his inner instincts of aesthetics.
To recreate a seated figure in prayer in the dimension of a triangle is indeed ingenious. The ability to translate the seated human form into neatly delineated contours without losing the basic edifice of the legs folded and the head bent in prayer is at once a study in dynamics.
His second work 'Untitled Water Carrier' – an ink and pastel on paper is another beautiful drawing that echoes darker timbres and moods through the longitudinal strokes that he uses. For this author and poet and novelist, expression was the ultimate goal.
The third work entitled 'Untitled Dragon' – a watercolour is yet another work that speaks to us about his pan Asian interests – the dragon a veritable Chinese symbol-the technique and the detailing seen in the perfection of form and the apricot colour at once hinges on oriental influences, a part of Shantiniketan in those early days.
The maestro Hemendranath Mazumdar used to create alluring images of women and often created them without unveiling their faces. Done in the style of Ravi Varma this work Abhiman is a gorgeous portrait that celebrates the female form-indeed while there is a subtle suggestion of eroticism there is also the sentiment of appreciation.
Abhiman or 'Wounded Vanity' is a subject often repeated by Mazumdar. Although the posture of the model is what entices-her face towards the wall. The woman's luminous flesh tones stand out in dramatic contrast to the darker background.
Her face turned away from the viewer, resting on her arm conveys a sense of sorrow and despair. She holds a flower in her left hand with another on the floor beside her. The image evokes both story and exotica laced with erotic hints.
Jamini Roy's Drummers and Musicians
Among a few Jamini Roy works in the sale is the brilliant work of 'Drummers and Musicians'. Roy used the Santhals as his models-their well-built torsos and their bronzed bodies became perfect subject material in the hands of this modern master who created images that were born from the influences of Kalighat Pat and folk idioms.
His understanding of form and proportion both come into play in this image when you see the way he divides the sheet of paper so perfectly in vertical planes to create a horizontal counterpoint in both poise and perfection – when you espie a Jamini Roy work that celebrates musicians and drummers it is as if the rural rhythms come alive and you can hear the drum beats and resonant voices of the musicians.
Meera Mukherjee's Bou-Bride
Among the most distinguished modern Indian sculptors, was Meera Mukherjee. An ASI fellowship took her to the Dokhra method.
She refined the technique, combining sculpting the works first in wax and then building up the surface with wax strips and rolls, to bestow a tactile, ornamental finish to the bronze they were eventually cast in.
Despite the solidity and severity of the bronze, her sculptures thus appear delicate, organic and malleable, as if instilled with a natural rhythm.
Bou Bride is a single piece in bronze, it has a doll-like visage as you look at its singular persona-the head, covered with the sari -it is an essence of feminity in the aura of humility and hope.