Celebrating the unique artistic traditions developed by diverse indigenous and regional communities across India, Transforming Worlds: Change and Tradition in Contemporary India explores the ways artists and creatives are using these visual languages to respond to India’s rapidly changing social and physical environments.
Drawn entirely from the NGV Collection, the exhibition showcases an important new collecting focus resulting in more than sixty recent acquisitions that have never-before been displayed. The presentation features dynamic and thought-provoking works by established and emerging artists from distinct communities across India, including the Gond and Warli painters of central India; the Suthar, Jogi, Santal and Madhubani artists of northern India; and the Kalighat and Chitrakar painters of eastern India. Many featured artists share long intergenerational lineages with artist families and communities central to the development of Indian vernacular movements and styles that have gained international recognition in recent years.
Exploring a range of current experiences from local perspectives – including urbanisation, environmental degradation, shifting gender dynamics and public health issues including the recent COVID-19 pandemic – the exhibition reveals the emergence of increasingly socially and politically engaged art practices within regional communities. The exhibition also highlights the ways in which artistic traditions have been strengthened and retained by engaging with contemporary themes.
Highlights include large-scale contemporary examples of patachitra, storytelling scrolls traditionally used by travelling performers in Odisha and West Bengal who sang accompanying stories as they were unrolled. Customarily depicting narratives of mythological epics and local folklore, artists are increasingly using the vibrantly coloured scrolls to depict contemporary events. Emerging patachitra artist Sonia Chitrakar uses the scroll format to document the introduction and spread of COVID-19 throughout India in COVID scroll 2020. In another response to the pandemic, artist Apindra Swain’s paintings Wash hands 2020 and Stay home 2020 use traditional iconography and visual messaging to create community education tools promoting COVID-safe practices.
Image:Kalyan Joshi, Migration in the time of COVID-19 2020, Bhilwara, Rajasthan natural colour on burnished cotton 76.2 x 121.92 cm . Proposed acquisition supported by NGV, Supporters of Asian Art, 2021 © the artist. Image credit: Nishant Rodey.