Check the artists’ roster at any gallery today and you will run into a slew of names that obviously come from the South, especially Kerala. But art theorists and historians say that for southern artists, it was a tough march from neglect to recognition. This is especially true of the decades between the 1960s and 1980s.
It is this theme that drives Specially South, Chennai-based Apparao Galleries’ auction late next month. The works being auctioned will be taken on a travelling preview across the country starting today. The show includes 85 artists with some southern connection.
“The South has been an undervalued area in the art world. The artists have suffered for want of visibility and lack of aggression. But now, the market is waking to the very interesting work coming out of here,” says Sharan Apparao, gallery director. She believes that art from the South has a definite and distinct stamp—a strong linear quality and a subtle mix of tradition and modernity.
Today, Kerala artists such as Riyas Komu, Anoop Panicker and Babu Alexander are so sought after that few curators would exclude them from large shows. But this surge in popularity came after a lot of push from those who wanted to promote artists from the region.
Mumbai-based Bose Krishnamachari, who also features in the show, was among the first to pitch Kerala artists to art lovers across the country.
“This doesn’t hold true any longer, but there was a time when the art market was racist about the South. There were few opportunities for artists from the area to show their works,” says Krishnamachari, who took Double Enders, a show of 69 Kerala artists, across cities. The exposure made it possible for the artists to make a splash in markets dominated by artists from the North and Bengal.
But artists from other southern pockets are yet to make a similar mark. Apparao points out that iconic names such as K.C.S. Panicker in Tamil Nadu and Laxma Goud in Andhra Pradesh have spearheaded entire art movements and yet never cornered the kind of limelight artists elsewhere in the country have enjoyed.
Specially South will, therefore, feature a cross section of artists and styles: the richly coloured folk figures of Vaikuntam, the iconic images of Redeppa Naidu, the political tones of Riyas Komu, Akkitam Narayanan’s geometric forms as well as the mythical figures of Gopikrishna.
The show, incidentally, takes in artists from many backgrounds: those who live and practise art in the South, those who have migrated elsewhere, as well as those who have chosen to drop anchor in the South, or paint subjects from the area.
New Delhi: 30 June-2 July, Alliance Française; Mumbai: 14-15 July, Artists’ Centre; Chennai: 26-28 July, Apparao Galleries. The preview will also travel to Kolkata, Hyderabad and Bangalore. The auction will be held on 29 July, 7.30pm over www.apparaoart.com and also at the Chennai branch of Apparao Galleries.