Review of Asian Studies Volume 18 (2016) 213-222 Richardson: Subramanyan



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Works Cited
Achkhanian, Mary. “91-year-old pioneer is among the most respected artists in India.” Gulf News, April 16, 2015. http://gulfnews.com/news/uae/society/five-decades-of-artwork-by-india-s-k-g-subramanyan-1.1493299. Last accessed May 22, 2015.
Asianart.com. “Exhibitions: Edge of Desire: Recent Art in India.” http://www.asianart.com/exhibitions/edgeofdesire/3.html. Last accessed May 27, 2015.
Clark, John. Modern Asian Art. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1999.
Clark, John, ed. Modernity in Asian Art. Sydney: Wild Peony, 1993.
Contemporary Indian Art. “K.G. Subramanyan.” http://www.contemporaryindianart.com/k_g__subramanyam.htm. Last accessed May 22, 2015.
Daniélou, Alain. The Myths and Gods of India. Rochester, Vermont: Inner Traditions International, 1991.
Harrington Street Art Centre, Kolkata. http://hstreetartscentre.com/Current@.php?id=3549&title=New%20Works%3Cbr/%3E%20K.%20G.%20Subramanyan. Last accessed May 22, 2015.
Kapur, Geeta. K.G. Subramanyan. New Delhi: Lalit Kala Akademi, 1987.
Poshyananda, Apinan, et. al. Contemporary Art in Asia: Traditions/Tensions. New York: Asia Society, 1996.
Richardson, Margaret. Between Reality and Dream: The Aesthetic Vision of K.G. Subramanyan. Calcutta: Seagull Books, 2013.
Seaman, Anna. “A long-awaited UAE debut for the veteran Indian artist KG Subramanyan.” The National, April 6, 2015. http://www.thenational.ae/arts-lifestyle/art/a-long-awaited-uae-debut-for-the-veteran-indian-artist-kg-subramanyan. Last accessed May 22, 2015.
Siva Kumar, R. K. G. Subramanyan: A Retrospective. New Delhi: National Gallery of Modern Art, 2003.
Staff. “Sketches, Scribbles, Drawings by KG Subramanyan to debut in UAE: UAE to host works spanning 5 decades of 91 year old Indian artist's illustrious career.” Emirates 24/7, March 31, 2015. http://www.emirates247.com/entertainment/sketches-scribbles-drawings-by-kg-subramanyan-to-debut-in-uae-2015-03-31-1.585971. Last accessed May 22, 2015.
Subramanyan, K.G. The Creative Circuit. Calcutta: Seagull Books, 1992.
___________. The Living Tradition: Perspectives on Modern Indian Art. Calcutta: Seagull Books, 1987.
___________. The Magic of Making: Essays on Art and Culture. Calcutta: Seagull Books, 2007.
___________. Moving Focus: Essays on Indian Art. New Delhi: Lalit Kala Akademi, 1978.



1 This essay highlights some of ideas I examine in my book on Subramanyan, Between Reality and Dream: The Aesthetic Vision of K.G. Subramanyan (Calcutta: Seagull Books, 2013). Other than a 1987 monograph by Geeta Kapur and some exhibition catalogues, the most expansive being R. Siva Kumar’s study accompanying Subramanyan’s retrospective exhibition in 2003, there was scant critical evaluation of Subramanyan’s philosophy and legacy. Expanding on these important sources, my book was one of the first major studies outside of India to examine in depth the formation and significance of Subramanyan’s polymorphic aesthetic vision of art and culture. While Subramanyan is a towering figure in contemporary Indian art, his influence is still largely unknown outside of the field. My study placed his ideas in the context of modern India, introducing them to an audience that may be unfamiliar with his work and the culture and history that informs it. Analyzing the many influences Subramanyan absorbed in India and abroad, it elucidates his unique contributions to contemporary art theory and practice.

2 See Subramanyan’s essay, “Baharupee: A Polymorphic Vision” (1994), in R. Siva Kumar, K. G. Subramanyan: A Retrospective (New Delhi: National Gallery of Modern Art, 2003), 104-106.

3 My book examines these influences in more depth, revealing how they specifically shaped Subramanyan’s own aesthetic philosophy.

4 Subramanyan quoted in Anna Seaman, “A long-awaited UAE debut for the veteran Indian artist KG Subramanyan,” in The National (April 6, 2015), http://www.thenational.ae/arts-lifestyle/art/a-long-awaited-uae-debut-for-the-veteran-indian-artist-kg-subramanyan Recent paintings and drawings from 2014 were exhibited across India, and his works debuted in Abu Dhabi, UAE at the exhibition, Sketches, Scribbles, Drawings by K.G. Subramanyan in April 2015.

For recent works, see the Harrington Street Art Centre, Kolkata, http://hstreetartscentre.com/Current@.php?id=3549&title=New%20Works%3Cbr/%3E%20K.%20G.%20Subramanyan

For the UAE exhibition, see: Staff, “Sketches, Scribbles, Drawings by KG Subramanyan to debut in UAE: UAE to host works spanning 5 decades of 91 year old Indian artist's illustrious career,” in Emirates 24/7 (March 31, 2015),

http://www.emirates247.com/entertainment/sketches-scribbles-drawings-by-kg-subramanyan-to-debut-in-uae-2015-03-31-1.585971

Mary Achkhanian, “91-year-old pioneer is among the most respected artists in India,” in Gulf News (April 16, 2015) http://gulfnews.com/news/uae/society/five-decades-of-artwork-by-india-s-k-g-subramanyan-1.1493299

All accessed May 22, 2015.




5 While there were a few pioneering regional scholars, like Geeta Kapur in India, who were writing about contemporary art in Asia in the late 1970s and 80s, most studies began to appear from Western presses the 1990s. An early example includes John Clark who edited Modernity in Asian Art (Sydney: Wild Peony, 1993) and wrote, Modern Asian Art (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1999). The 1990s also saw a rise in exhibitions of contemporary Asian art around the world. See for example Apinan Poshyananda and others, Contemporary Art in Asia: Traditions/Tensions (New York: Asia Society, 1996). A few more studies of modern and contemporary Asian, African, and Latin American art have been published in the 2000s, but the fields are still in their early developments.

6 See the articles and lectures written between the early 1960s and mid-1970s collected in Subramanyan, Moving Focus: Essays on Indian Art (New Delhi: Lalit Kala Akademi, 1978).

7 Subramanyan discusses this idea in numerous essays and talks. For examples, see an early text, “Modern Art in India and the West,” (1960s-70s) in Moving Focus and a later one, “Theory, Text, Context” (1996), in The Magic of Making: Essays on Art and Culture (Calcutta: Seagull Books, 2007).

8 Subramanyan, The Creative Circuit (Calcutta: Seagull Books, 1992), 25.

9 Subramanyan, Creative Circuit, 51.

10 Subramanyan, Creative Circuit, 36-37.

11 Subramanyan, Creative Circuit, 20.

12 Geeta Kapur, K.G. Subramanyan (New Delhi: Lalit Kala Akademi, 1987), 125.

13 Subramanyan, Creative Circuit, 7.

14 Subramanyan, as quoted in Siva Kumar, K. G. Subramanyan: A Retrospective, 68.

15 For a few examples of his work, see Contemporary Indian Art, “K.G. Subramanyan,” http://www.contemporaryindianart.com/k_g__subramanyam.htm, last accessed May 22, 2015.

16 Siva Kumar, K. G. Subramanyan: A Retrospective, 56.

17 For an image, see Asianart.com, “Exhibitions: Edge of Desire: Recent Art in India,” http://www.asianart.com/exhibitions/edgeofdesire/3.html. Last accessed May 27, 2015.

18 The “Bull-Demon” or buffalo is one of the shapes an evil genie took to fight the goddess Durga. According to the story, Durga cut off his head with a sword, restoring heaven to the gods. Alain Daniélou, The Myths and Gods of India (Rochester, Vermont: Inner Traditions International, 1991), 286-288.

19 See Subramanyan, The Living Tradition: Perspectives on Modern Indian Art (Calcutta: Seagull Books), 1987.

20 Some examples include Gulammohammed Sheikh, who attended M.S. University in 1955-61 and was a teacher there, 1966-93, and his wife, Nalima Sheikh, who graduated in 1969 & 1971. Sculptor Ravinder Reddy also attended M.S. University, 1975-82. New York-based Pakistani artist, Shahzia Sikander, has also acknowledged Subramanyan’s influence.

21 See Subramanyan’s essays in The Magic of Making.




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