Art without limits: The contemporary South Indian artists you should know
Modern art in India, after the British restructured the country’s art education system, really began with Abanindranath Tagore’s ‘Bengal School’ centred in Shantiniketan and Kolkata. The movement was nationalist in its ideology and original in its style. Artists such as Gaganendranath Tagore, Nandalal Bose, Benodebehari Mookherjee, and Mukul Dey were at its fore.
Though it was Amrita Sher-Gil who next entered India and infused a new force in Indian painting with her ‘everyday’ themes characterised by colour, stroke and texture, the next movement in contemporary Indian art was that of the Calcutta Group, featuring artists such as Paritosh Sen, Rathin Maitra, and Sunil Madhav Sen. The movement was set against the social and political backdrop of the India of 1943.
This was followed by the more internationally-oriented ‘Progressive Artist’s Group’ beginning from 1948. Its artists were more ‘international’ and sought to be modern, free from the shackles of both Western and nationalistic ideology. Though the movement was not ideologically oriented, it resulted in the emergence of some of India’s most iconic artists such as F.N.Souza, M.F.Husain, S.H.Raza, K.K.Hebbar and Akbar Padamsee.
Then the Baroda School of Art emerged, from the foundation of the powerful art institution— the Faculty of Fine Arts in Baroda University established around 1950, featuring eminent artists including N.S Bendre, Bhupen Khakkar, Gulam M. Sheikh, Ratan Parimoo, Rekha Rodwittiya, Jyotsna Bhatt and Vivan Sunderam.
Meanwhile in South India, the Cholamandal school of art was founded by Dr.K.C.S.Panikar, leading others such as N. Viswanadhan, A.P Santharaj, Redeppa Naidu and Ramanujam. By that time, there were also artists emerging from the other states of South India.
Today’s young crop of artists include Krishnaraj Chonat, Abhishek Hazra, Prabhavathi Meppayil, Srinivasa Prasad, Anup Mathew Thomas, Navin Thomas and Avinash Veeraraghavan
Many of these artists originate from South India. Here is a list of some of the most widely acclaimed prominent contemporary artists originating from South India that every South Indian must know:
Born in Mangaluru to a Yakshagana artiste and brought up in Mumbai, Sudarshan Shetty graduated from the Sir J.J.School of Art in Mumbai in 1985.
He made a global breakthrough only 18 years later when his works were purchased by the Bose Pacia Gallery, New York. He is known for his versatility across media, having begun with paintings, then moving on to multi-media explorations including sculpture, video, performance and installation.
His works have been exhibited around the world including the Gwangju Biennale (2000), Tate Modern, London (2001), Fukuoka Asian Art Museum (2001), Centre Pompidou, Paris (2011), Guggenheim Museum, New York (2010), and Kochi-Muziris Biennale (2012).
Sheela graduated from the Ken School of Art, Bengaluru, in 1979, moving on to a short stint at the M.S.University, Baroda before completing a post-diploma in painting at Vishwa Bharati, Shantiniketan.
She also received an Inlaks scholarship for an MA in painting at the Royal College of Art, London.
She has been mentored by veteran K.G.Subramanyam; she has also been influenced by Nalini Malani. Though she began as a painter, she then moved onto three-dimensional, often large-scale installations that draw deeply from the roots of India, especially revolving around the lives of its women.
Her use of everyday material especially cow dung, kumkum, paper, printed textiles, wood and other architectural as well as found material is a reflection of this exploration. Her work has been exhibited in India in Bengaluru, Mumbai and New Delhi as well as around the world in Switzerland, South Africa, New York, and London.
Jitish Kallat is one of India’s most expensive artists, renowned in the global circles. Another graduate of Mumbai’s J.J.School of Art, Jitish’s cutting-edge oeuvre is spread across media— painting, photography, drawing, video and sculptural installations.
He explores several aspects of life from nature and outer space to history and its momentous occurrences and utterances and heritage, especially dwelling on the city of Mumbai.
His work has been exhibited at museums around the world including the Tate Modern (London), Martin Gorpius Bau (Berlin), Gallery of Modern Art (Brisbane), Kunst Museum (Bern), Serpentine Gallery (London), Mori Art Museum (Tokyo), Palais de Beaux-Arts (Brussels), Hangar Bicocca (Milan), Busan Museum of Modern Art, and Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art (Oslo).
He has been the curator and artistic director of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale in 2014.
After graduating from the J.J.School of Art, Mumbai, the Kerala-born artist pursued a Master’s programme in Visual Art Theory and Practice from the University of London and then taught at the J.J.School of Art.
He is an artist as well as a curator, having explored various media including drawing, painting, sculpture, design, installation and architecture.
His work has been exhibited around the world including in Mumbai, Singapore, Austria, Milan, Rome and Amsterdam. He established Gallery BMB in Mumbai to bring international contemporary art to the country; he is known for his passion to promote young artists.
He is the President of the Kochi Biennale Foundation and has received several awards including the Mid America Arts Alliance Award in 1996, the Charles Wallace India Trust Award in 1999 and the Kerala Alit Kala Akademi Award in 1985 and felicitated in 2009 with the Lifetime Fellow of Kerala Lalit Kala Akademi.
T.V.Santhosh graduated from Santiniketan with a B.F.A. in painting, and from the MS University in Vadodara with a Masters in Sculpture.
His work has been critically acclaimed by museums and galleries around the world for their exploration of violence in society, especially when viewed from the media perspective.
His work has been exhibited at the Singapore Art Museum, The Saatchi Gallery, France; Royal Academy of Arts, London; MOCA, Shanghai; the Frank Cohen Collection, at Initial Access, Wolverhampton, UK; and Devi Art Foundation, Delhi.
His apocalyptic images appear like colour negatives and often grapple with the social perspective of violence. He is among the highest selling artists in India.
Born in Andhra Pradesh, Ravinder received his Master’s degree in sculpture at the M.S.University in Baroda. He went on to study sculpture at the Goldsmith College of Art and Ceramics at the Royal College of Art, and then taught at Kanoria Centre for Arts Ahmedabad and the Andhra University, Visakhapatnam.
He is known for his free-standing oversized heads and figures of nude women and couples, inspired both by classical figures as well as contemporary ideas of love.
The figures are often gilded or painted in bright colours, and are characterised by a wide, hypnotic gaze. His work has been featured in solo exhibitions at the Grosvenor Vadehra, London; Le Jardin d'Acclimation, Paris; Walsh Gallery, Chicago; Apeejay Techno Park, New Delhi; Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburg; Deitch Projects, New York; and Sackler Gallery, Washington D.C.
(Based on inputs from , , , , Gallery Ske and )