K. G. SUBRAMANYAN (1924 - 2016)
K. G. SUBRAMANYAN (1924 - 2016)

The Blue Pool

K. G. SUBRAMANYAN (1924 - 2016)
The Blue Pool
initialed in Tamil (lower left); further signed, dated and titled ‘K. G. Subramanyan 93-95 ‘THE BLUE POOL'' (on the reverse)
acrylic on canvas
48 x 48 in. (121.9 x 121.9 cm.)
Painted in 1993-95
India: Contemporary Art from Northeastern Private Collections, exhibition catalogue, Rutgers, 2002, p. 115 (illustrated)
Rutgers, Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, India: Contemporary Art from Northeastern Private Collections, 2002

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Lot Essay

K.G. Subramanyan was an esteemed scholar, prolific writer, revered teacher and skilled painter who began his study of art under Benode Behari Mukherjee, Nandalal Bose and Ramkinkar Baij at Santiniketan. The works he created over the course of his long career reflect his in-depth study of traditional Indian art forms, particularly Pata, Kalighat and miniature paintings. Subramanyan’s concerted efforts to blur and demythologize the distinctions that had been established between artist and artisan, art and craft, are evident in all his work. For Subramanyan, craftsman, artist, theorist and teacher become attributes and skills of the same whole rather than limiting and segregating descriptors.

Drawing upon all of these qualities in his creative process, Subramanyan deployed a range of media, styles and techniques to champion craftsmen and storytellers and usher their work into the realm of contemporary art in India. In his paintings from the 1980s onward, the artist created fantastic images and complex narratives that were equally steeped in life experience and myth. These paintings “were provoking and celebratory, teasing and subversive, humane and irreverent at once. Done with scintillating spontaneity, they were not merely expressive and complex like most things he had done in the past but were also some of his most vibrant paintings. This came partly from his deep engagement with the world and partly from the way he moved from one level of communication, or expression, to another through calculated inflections of his visual idiom” (R. Sivakumar, Self Portraits and Other Early Drawings, Kolkata, 2020, unpaginated).

Paintings like the present lot are timeless, at once modern and ancient, evoking the potency of primitivism, but implementing its language such that it continues to reverberate meaningfully in the present. “Subramanyan’s understanding of art as a kind of linguistic system allows him to envision a living tradition in which artists constantly renew traditional as well as modern forms by not only accepting the eclectic nature of the ‘modern’ world but also by maintaining contact with the world” (M. Richardson, The Aesthetic Vision of K G Subramanyan, Kolkata, 2013, p. 157).

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