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Four Decades: A Painter’s Journey’ a retrospective exhibition of Arpana Caur’s works

November 3, 2016

National Gallery of Modern Art, Bengaluru in collaboration with Swaraj Archives, Noida presents Four Decades: A Painter’s Journey’ a retrospective exhibition of Arpana Caur’s works

The first retrospective of Arpana Caur’s works spanning from 1970s till 2015. The exhibition consists more than 40 large oil on canvas and over 50 drawings and etchings among which few displayed for public viewing for the first time. The exhibition offers a wide spectrum of Caur’s works, which are embedded in melancholic agony and cathartic temperament. Somewhere, a touch of philosophy provides a refreshing context to her works.

Since the beginning of her career, Arpana’s main concerns have been time, life and death, the environment, and the violence of man on man. The earliest work in the  exhibition is about the two worlds of art and common people, and the wall between these.

Arpana Caur, one of the pioneers of modern Indian art, has been a crucial presence in the historical context. Caur is one of the few women artists of India who started her career as an artist in post independent India.

The works of the 70s and 80s deal with social issues like socio-economic disparity or communal violence. The 1984 Sikh genocide for instance, or Widows of Vrindaban shown respectively in 1985 and 1988 in Art Heritage Gallery Delhi. But the particular becomes universal after the catharsis of the immediate. The widows become a metaphor of age versus youth. This becomes the philosophic ruminations of a Kabir who was above communal divides ‘Sunn Samaadh Mein Bunat Hamaari, Hamra Jhagra Rahe Na Ko, Pandit Mullah Chade Do’ (I weave in the great Eternity, away from the quarrels of Pandits and Mullahs). Her Nanak and Budha series stem from the same consciousness, so do her Yogis and Yoginis searching beyond the river of Time. The latter stand on one leg like the Yogi in the great Mahabalipuram mural.

Her art is greatly influenced by the unparalleled painting and sculpture traditions of India down the centuries particularly the miniature tradition with its bold colour and simplified forms and the living folk art tradition that survives even in abject poverty in India’s villages. But some symbols she found and made her own, like her famous scissor and thread in her Day and Night series where Day forever weaves on her loom (life) and night forever cuts the thread (death) in repeated cycles of Eternity Altogether different is her series on Environment, stemming from the vast changes in Delhi and its chaos in the last 20 years, now applicable to all cities. Her ‘Dharti’ yearns for a better tomorrow. So does her ‘Water Weaver’ where the woman weaves water out of her love and compassion to douse the flames of hatred in the world

This is only possible through love. Her Sohni Mahiwal series contemporizes the famous 500 year old Story of Sohni, a real woman born in Akhnoor near Jammu, a potter/artist who crossed the turbulent river Chanab everyday to meet her love and
drowned. 200 years ago the miniature painters of Punjab also painted this emblem of courage.

Her latest diptych with guns and flowers, or a brushstroke of colour conquering a gun is about the conquest of violence through love alone. She, together with her mother, has been running a free school for slum women for over 35 years. They also participate in several other projects related to widows and leprosy, all sustained entirely by the earnings from her paintings.

About the Artist
Born in 1954 in Delhi, Arpana Caur has been exhibiting her paintings across the globe since 1974.

Between 1975 and 1996, she had 18 solo shows of her paintings, and participated in nine national and international exhibitions and art festivals, including the First Baghdad Biennale (1986), Algiers Biennale (1987), group shows at Saitama Museum and Glenbarra Museum, Japan, the exhibition ‘Imagined City’, Museum of Modem Art, Brasilia, Sao Paolo and Rio de Janeiro (1994-95). In 1995, she attended the ‘Nature and Environment’ workshop jointly organized by the Lalit Kala Akademi, Max Mueller Bhavan and Japan Foundation. In the same year, Arpana executed the commission for doing a large painting for the Hiroshima Museum’s permanent collection, on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of the Nuclear Holocaust. She also got the prestigious Gold Medal in VI Triennial International.

Introduction
This particular exhibition offers a wide spectrum of Caur’s works, which are embedded inmelancholic agony and cathartic temperament. Somewhere, a touch of philosophy provides a refreshing context to her works.

Arpana Caur, one of the pioneers of modern Indian art, has been a crucial presence in thehistorical context. Caur is one of the few women artists of India who started her career as an artist in post independent India. Her art influences are derived from Panjabi folk literature, pahadi miniatures and writings of her mother- Padmashri Smt. Ajeet Cauramongst many others. Caur has marked a very significant trajectory amongst the modern Indian artists through her immensely emotive works that deal with loss, pain, death and violence. Human figures, mostly women, occupy a major space in Caur’s works. Her painterly language seems to have been manifested from her own personal history and experiences, including her family’s migration from Lahore to India during partition. While many of her works are responses to violence and wars, Caur has also frequently used icons like Kabir, Buddha, Guru Nanak as symbols of peace and spirituality in her painted canvases. Apart from her drawings and paintings, she has also designed aand installed public murals on a big scale in India, Japan and Germany.

Located at the brim of the visceral and the peripheral, the art of Arpana Caur confesses the dualities of life. It is a sincere rumination of her personal trials and experiences, incorporating local and worldly circumstances. Arpana Caur was born and raised in an environment drenched in art, culture, music, and history. At the time of the partition, her family moved to Delhi as refugees from Lahore and have called it home ever since. Once
described by her as the “redeeming element in the darkest of times”, Arpana’s mother, Padmashri Smt. Ajeet Caur, has been and continues to be a robust force in her artistic odyssey. She grew up listening to the recordings of the Gurbani, reading Punjabi folk literature and her mother’s writings, and flipping through pages of her grandfather’s books on miniatures. In the true tradition of Sikhism, she was taught to share from a very young age, a habitude that would gently define her in the years to come. Since the past 35 years, Arpana and her mother have been independently running a charitable school for slum women and actively participating in several other benevolent projects in the country. From sedentary activities, human tragedies, socio-economic disparities and realities; to religion, spiritualism, and the environment; this very characteristic concern and sensitivity seeps into her work and courses through it with a life of its own.

As previously observed by many critics and writers, the isolation of the individual and the struggle with identity is a recurring theme in her oeuvre. Although her life-size figures have changed many faces since the beginning of her career, they have been consistent in the suggestion of notions much larger than the self. In her series ‘Widows of Vrindaban’, ‘Love beyond measure’, ‘Labourers’, ‘World goes on…’ her works capacitate the neglected or the deprived by acting as organs of empowerment. They are the forces of resistance in changing times in ‘Dharti’ and ‘Day and Night’. Whatever the subject, the paintings are always contemporary statements of the artist’s perception of the world and the perennial need to fix it. She is as fearless and bold on canvas as she is timid in real life.
Director’s Note
National Gallery of Modern Art, Bengaluru, Ministry of Culture, Government of India, in collaboration with the Swaraj Archives, New Delhi is pleased to announce ‘Four Decades:

A Painter’s Journey’, a retrospective exhibition of Arpana Caur’s works. The exhibition consists of the artist’s works from 1970 to 2015, mostly oil paintings on canvas, drawings and etchings.

Arpana Caur, one of the pioneers of modern Indian art, has been a crucial presence in the historical context. Caur is one of the few women artists of India who started her career as an artist in post independent India. Her art influences are derived from Panjabi folk literature, pahadi miniatures and writings of her mother- Padmashri Smt. Ajeet Caur amongst many others. Caur has marked a very significant trajectory amongst the modern Indian artists through her immensely emotive works that deal with loss, pain, death and violence. Human figures, mostly women, occupy a major space in Caur’s works. Her painterly language seems to have been manifested from her own personal history and experiences, including her family’s migration from Lahore to India during partition. While many of her works are responses to violence and wars, Caur has also frequently used icons like Kabir, Buddha, Guru Nanak as symbols of peace and spirituality in her painted canvases. Apart from her drawings and paintings, she has also designed and installed public murals on a big scale in India, Japan and Germany.

This particular exhibition offers a wide spectrum of Caur’s works, which are embedded in melancholic agony and cathartic temperament. Somewhere, a touch of philosophy provides a refreshing context to her works and I am certain that the viewers will cherish this unique artistic experience.

I would like to thank Swaraj Art Archive, Noida for bringing this exhibition to NGMA Bengaluru. My sincere acknowledgement to Mr. Sudhakar Rao, Chairman, Advisory Committee, NGMA, Bengaluru and all the members of the NGMA Advisory committee for their support. I take this opportunity to thank my colleagues at NGMA, Bengaluru for their sincere efforts in arranging this exhibition.
Dr. Sathyabhama Badhareenath
Director, NGMA, Bengaluru.

Inauguration by Shri.Chiranjeev Singh, IAS (Ret.) On 4th November 2016 at 6.00 p.m.
The exhibition will be on till 4th December 2016 | 10 am – 5 pm.
Closed on Mondays and National Holidays

Venue:
National Gallery of Modern Art,
#NGMA
Manikyavelu Mansion
49, Palace Road,
Bangalore 560 052.

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