By artamour special correspondent
In this winter season that is raining art in Delhi, I’m glad I found time to visit Galleria VSB, situated in the quaint Square One Mall in Saket. To celebrate its twentieth anniversary, the gallery had recently (31 January to 9 February, 2024) mounted a group show titled “Timeless Strokes: The Masters” featuring works of 24 modern and contemporary Indian masters. The gallery has recently undergone a renovation and now boasts of an intriguing ceiling with a unique lighting system that deviates from the usual pattern.
Thoughtfully curated by Vandana Bhargava, the 55 works in the exhibition showcases a blend of modern and contemporary artists whose works have defined the Indian art movement and placed it on the international stage. Ms Bhargava is a veteran jewellery designer of international acclaim, whose lifelong passion has been the exploration and preservation of Indian art heritage. The exhibition provided art enthusiasts with a unique opportunity to immerse themselves into the cultural richness and artistic legacy of these revered and diverse group of artists, each with their own distinctive style and bold exploration of various themes. This exhibition serves as a testament to the cultural richness and legacy of the artists, a celebration of their contribution to Indian art, and a tribute to their enduring influence.
Left: Untiled by Akbar Padamsee; Right: Manjit Bawa's work
Visitors got an opportunity to witness the rare landscape works of SH Raza, which include his early style of paintings and his renowned Bindu series. His piece, La Force, communicates a potent message of unity, resilience, and optimism in the face of adversity. The crowd clustered in the left corner symbolizes collective strength and unity. A notable feature is the figure in the upper left holding a lit lamp, serving as a beacon of hope and a focal point in the artwork. The presence of light represents enlightenment, guidance, and positivity. Another remarkable work is his depiction of the Banaras Ghats, where the row of canopies along the Ganga riverbanks is distinctly visible, even as dusk approaches. As the sky’s colours deepen, the temple’s peak seems ready to merge into it. The boat shadows ripple on the Ganga’s surface, resembling sound waves.
Displayed on another wall are Jamini Roy’s frames, illustrating scenes from Indian mythology, be it Krishna interacting with his mother Yashoda or a scene from the Ramayana featuring Lord Rama, Sita, and Lakshman in a chariot or rath. Lord Rama is riding a horse, Sita is seated centrally, resembling a bride, and Lakshman stands at the end, acting as a protector.
What stands out are the works of modernist Hemen Mazumdar, renowned for his realistic and detailed portraiture. He adeptly captures a moment immersed in the rich tradition of an Indian wedding ceremony. The depiction of a woman, adorned with heavy earrings, a bun, a red bindi, and a saree elegantly draped from the neck, embodies the elegance of traditional bridal attire and adds to the visual narrative of a wedding ceremony. The painting attests to the artist’s expertise in capturing not just the physical appearance but also the emotional and cultural depth embedded in Indian wedding rituals.
Jagdish Swaminathan’s unique style and stylization blends folk and tribal art. His “Mountain and Bird” series explores nature’s visual language, particularly the simplified and geometric representations of mountains and birds using a unique and stylized approach. The work symbolically uses these elements to represent various aspects of human experience, spirituality, and the natural world.
Abstractionist artist Vasudeo S. Gaitonde emphasizes the emotive and contemplative qualities of colour and form. His depiction of an evening at a ghat suggests a tranquil and reflective setting. Gaitonde often used bold lines to divide the canvas with geometric and linear elements, contributing to the overall balance and structure of his compositions. Some of his works like the work on display include solitary elements, like a boat or a building, representing moments of silent solitude. While the empty ghat and the white boat lend to the serene stillness the work evokes, the red bindi in the composition may be having a cultural or personal significance – Gaitonde was known for incorporating subtle and symbolic elements into his art.
The narrative paintings by artist Badri Narayan serve as the starting point for unravelling their complexities, allowing viewers to interpret them in their own understanding. He uses symbolism as a recurring feature in his artworks, though sometimes, he also uses popular icons like Lord Ganesha. Narayan often incorporates Indian mythology and metaphors, acknowledging the influence of the Indian miniature tradition in his artworks.
The enthralling show featured many rare and unseen works by modern masters. While owing to limitations of space, this article does not feature the other works on display, given below is a complete list of the artists that were on view.
Asit Kumar Haldar | Akbar Padamsee | B Prabha | Bhupen Khakhar |B Vithal | Badri Narayan | Chameli Ramachandran | Francis Newton Souza | Hemen Mazumdar | Jagdish Swaminathan | Jamini Roy | Jogen Chowdhury |K.K. Hebbar | K. G. Subramanyan | K.H. Ara| Lalu Prasad Shaw | Maqbool Fida Husain | Manjit Bawa | N.S. Bendre | Nicholas Roerich | Ram Kumar | Somnath Hore | S.H. Raza | Vasudeo S. Gaitonde
Galleria VSB, Third Floor, Square One Mall Saket, New Delhi 110017