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JAGDISH SWAMINATHAN (1928-1994)
PROPERTY FROM THE COLLECTION OF ABHISHEK AND RADHIKA PODDAR
JAGDISH SWAMINATHAN (1928-1994)

Untitled

Details
JAGDISH SWAMINATHAN (1928-1994)
Untitled
signed and dated 'J. Swaminathan / '91' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
31 5/8 x 45¼ in. (80.3 x 114.9 cm.)
Painted in 1991
Provenance
Apparao Galleries, Chennai
Acquired from the above

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Umah Jacob
Umah Jacob

Lot Essay

Madhya Pradesh also brought about a basic shift in my painting again. The live and vibrant contact with tribal cultures triggered off my natural bent for the primeval, and I started on a new phase recalling my work of the early sixties. If my work of the early sixties anticipated the journey of the eighties, my present phase recapitulates my beginnings. - Jagdish Swaminathan, 1993

Jagdish Swaminathan was an eclectic and enigmatic artist, ideologue and cultural reformer. Outside of the cultural milieu of Bombay and the Progressive Artists’ Group, Swaminathan’s ideas, persona and life-style largely stemmed from his belief that art is a form of purity that is at once primal, spiritual and mystical. Swaminathan is remembered for being a member of the Communist Party of India, a founding member of the artist collective Group 1890, for his short-lived and controversial art journal Contra, for starting a movement to reform the Lalit Kala Akademi in the 1970s and for establishing Bharat Bhavan, an interdisciplinary arts centre in Bhopal in the 1980s. These activities kept the artist very much at the forefront of developments in modern Indian art throughout his lifetime.

Swaminathan’s counter-cultural approach is clearly evident in his own artistic practice. Divided between distinct phases, his paintings bear influences of surrealism, free association and symbolism. In the 1990s, during the last few years of his life, the artist returned to his symbolist practice after moving back to Madhya Pradesh, inspired once again by tribal arts and motifs.

During this last phase of his oeuvre, Swaminathan maintained the simplicity and well-ordered nature of his canvases. Always innovating and reforming, he pushed his practice one step further and began using his fingers to apply pigment in order to achieve texture, naturalism and the authenticity that he so admired in the tribal arts of central India.

It was during this phase that Abhishek and Radhika Poddar met and befriended Swaminathan. When Abhishek accompanied the artist to Roopanker, the museum of fine arts he founded at Bharat Bhavan in Bhopal, the collector was amazed by the strength of the collection, and still counts it among the best put together by an individual in India.

The Poddars also hosted Swaminathan at their home in Coonor as part of one of their artist retreats. There, Abhishek remembers taking long walks with him, speaking about the extent of his body of work. On one of these walks, Swaminathan picked up three kinds of mud that he used along with red paint, applied with his fingers, to create his very last painting.

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