Saffronart's September Sale of India's modern masters in New Delhi on September 21, is the stuff of distinctive works of rarity, provenance and the power of contemporary character.
First launched in September 2014, by Dinesh Vazirani, Saffronart's Evening Sale is not just the highlight of their annual auction calendar but it has carved its own niche in the auction world for its ability to attract the most coveted and distinguished collectors spread across India as well as abroad.
Commenting on the auction, CEO Hugo Weihe said, "The sale includes works of exceptional quality and rarity, which offer new possibilities for reflection and dialogue. Consider the juxtaposition of the magical blue Gaitonde with a hazy blue mountain landscape by Roerich, the sea by Padamsee, or of a peninsula by Khakhar. Many works are of unique historical significance, and are milestone achievements for the artists."
As one of the most anticipated auctions held in India's art capital the sale features exceptional works by modern masters and leading contemporary artists, and is headlined by modernists VS Gaitonde, Tyeb Mehta, Nicholas Roerich, FN Souza, SH Raza and Bhupen Khakhar. Saffronart is offering a painting by Roerich for the first time, diversifying the range and quality of artists featured in its leading annual auction.
Here are my favourites: The first is FN Souza's, Untitled, 1964 (Lot 6) a moody ochre toned landscape that reminds us of his New York Manhattan landscapes with contours and whispering trees all woven into the skyline.
Lot 7 is a haunting chocolate coloured Ram Kumar, an Untitled, work from 1963 done in just two colour tones that hold within its accents and accentuated lines Ram Kumar early incantations.
The Bengali Bouquet
Among a number of masters who qualify as Bengalis are a tidy bouquet of brilliant works. Infinitely charming is India's priestess of Indian art, the elegant and evocative story teller Arpita Singh's, Girl at the Window, created in 1989 which comes in as Lot 17.
As if that were not enough there is the blue blooded Bengali master Jogen Chowdhury, whose Untitled 1999 work is a stellar contoured creation at Lot 19. His interpretation of the function of the contour, both in the form as well as the sari of the woman here, lends his work an aura of drama and dynamism. In this painting, the artist portrays one figure using powerful, fluid lines typical of his style. The undulating contours of her body, as well as the folds of her sari, render a sense of rhythmic movement that is attractively articulate but not beautiful.
Kolkata's greatest realist painting mentor and genius Bikash Bhattacharjee's, Untitled, work from 1972 at Lot 34 is a stunning landscape that incorporates realistic details perfectly even as it gives us a surreal dwarfed image of a little boy. Tones of decadence and the Gothic darkness of the wired fence amidst the naturality of the wild plants and flowers make for a scenic setting.
Of equal import at Lot 67 is the unforgettable Meera Mukherjee, whose Untitled sculpture that shows a group of men reminiscent of her work Boatmen.Mukherjee stood apart for her technique that borrowed from tradition and modernity to create sculptural identities that welded immediacy so that it transcended into contemporary realms. Deeply influenced by the Dhokra technique of Bastar in Madhya Pradesh, Meera Mukherjee perfected a technique in bronze that was unique. Mukherjee's innovative process and approach to bronze constituted sculpting the works first in wax, so as to preserve the tactile nature of the material upon which she would then build up and add surface decoration in wax strips and rolls. The bronze finish consequently appears organic and malleable imbuing the work with lyricism and rhythm as it captures a dynamic moment in time.
India's Abstract Guru J Swaminathan
The pioneer of modern abstraction in India, J Swaminathan's 1984 work at Lot 20, Untitled (Bird Tree and Mountains Series), epitomises Jagdish Swaminathan's fascination with developing a pure and true form of representation through art. He argued that traditional Indian paintings were never meant to represent reality in the naturalistic sense. In the late 1960s, Swaminathan settled upon a visual aesthetic and philosophy which sought to renew tribal and folk art in a contemporary context. Swaminathan proposed a paradigm of purity, revealing an alternate reality that is primal, spiritual and mystical.
In this painting, Swaminathan uses colour as a means of representing an introspective universal reality. "To understand colour as harmony was to limit oneself to look at it as representation, be it in terms of nature association or representation. Geometric areas of colour in certain juxtapositions created infinity on a two-dimensional plane. [...] Here all the rules of tonalities, of harmonies, of warm and cool colour broke down. Thus primary colours could be used to achieve an inward growing, meditative space [...] The introduction of representational forms in the context of colour geometry gave birth to psycho-symbolic connotations. Thus a mountain, a tree, a flower, a bird, a stone were not just objects or parts of a landscape but were manifestations of the universal'' (Artist Statement, 'Modern Indian Art: the Visible and The Possible', Lalit Kala Contemporary 40, New Delhi, 1995, p 49). The Saffronart sale also has works of the Progressives as they celebrate 70 years of their formation.