While describing the present Indian art scene one should always keep a few things in mind; an unbroken civilizational history for the last three millennia, continuous assimilation of foreign cultural values into the larger Indian culture, and the contemporary contradiction, at both the individual and social level. When Modern Indian art began in Bengal under the Western model of academic training, Indian artists like Abindranath Tagore looked backward and derived inspiration from the past glories of ancient Indian civilization. Thus his Picture of Mother is more sublime than beautiful. Similarly, Raja Ravi Verma, the first modern Indian artist who applied Western classical techniques for depicting Indian mythological scenes, also looked at the core of Indian consciousness to its religious and mythological tales. From the very beginning Indian artists were reluctant to depict apparent reality; they were looking for underlying emotions and values. Even in their figurative work artists were extolling the glorious past of a bygone ancient civilization.
This does not mean that Indian artists during the initial modern period were totally immune from Western influence at the personal or mental level. The idea of an artist as an Individual and his work as an Individual achievement was a new development. This ensured a future break with the Bengal School of Painting when other groups emerged during the post-Independence period.
Thus artists from the J.J. School of Art in Mumbai and Baroda developed their own perspective about Indian painting. They derived their influence from a variety of sources like leftist constructivism, occult abstractionism, surrealist psychology and the depiction of inner mind; automatism, abstract expressionism, and the search for primitive or primal forms. Art and artists in India during this period showed a remarkable ability to deal with local, national, and international challenges regarding the nature of form; amidst the even larger challenge of finding the relevance of elitist art in a third-world country. To a large extent, higher or more specialized fine art like Indian painting or sculpture, failed to enter into the domain of mass aesthetics or mass culture. It largely remained restricted to University art departments and galleries in metro cities. But this does not mean that artists were also detached from Indian mass reality. With 80% of India’s population in rural areas, even until the 1980s; the majority of Indian artists continue to come from rural backgrounds or have direct exposure to rural Indian culture. This has helped to infuse elements of nature and religio-spiritual values into their work.
At Sutra Gallery we have tried to present a composite picture of the contemporary Indian art scene. We have included artists from diverse age groups and social backgrounds; from central, western, eastern, and southern India who specialize in both abstract and figurative work. The majority of artists represented, have been working in their field for more than two decades and have a strong presence in both the national and international art market. Their works can be found in both public and private institutions in the United States, India, and abroad.