New Delhi-based Gallery Art Motif’s annual group show for this year features drawings by Indian artists, ranging from established masters and senior artists to up-and-coming names. The show has been divided into two parts. The first one, called Contemporary Drawings I, features artists born before 1947 and includes works by Satish Gujral, Sudhir Patwardhan, Ganesh Haloi, Ram Kumar and Arpita Singh. Most of the drawings have been made in the last couple of years and all the works, including those made earlier, are being exhibited for the first time. The second part, showing drawings by the younger set of artists (born post-1947), will open shortly after the first one concludes.
“There is an enigmatic quality about the nature of a drawing,” says art historian and critic Ela Dutta in the accompanying essay to the show. “It is one mode of expression that is difficult to define with its diversity of purpose and practice.”
Mixed Media: Fishing Village, charcoal and pigment on paper by Delna Dastur. Gallery Art Motif
This is in full evidence at the gallery—an array of mediums and instruments has been employed on a variety of surfaces to create the drawings, and part of the show’s appeal lies in seeing how these elements have been used in different permutations and combinations to create very different kinds of works.
Patwardhan and Gopi Gajwani’s choice of charcoal on paper seems just right to depict their quotidian scenes of couples, crows and footwear in decidedly modest settings; K.M. Adimoolam has used pen and ink to sketch gods and demigods straight out of old temple walls, their casual lines and vacant eyes imbuing them with exoticism; Gujral has used pencil on rice paper for his handsome, classically contemporary drawing of horses and a latter-day charioteer; and Sheila Makhijani’s enigmatically titled ‘HMPHZ’ uses gouache (opaque watercolour) on paper to create a delicate ethereal abstraction.
Ram Kumar has used a palette knife—meant for mixing and applying paint—and acrylic paint to make his drawings, and Kriti Arora, as gallery director Mala Aneja mentions, has used tar to draw on canvas. (Her drawing will be on display in the second part of the show.)
One can also see from these works that drawing, in all its variety, lends itself to a certain lightness in approach, even whimsy (though nowadays these qualities are not lacking in paintings and sculptures either). K.G. Subramanyan’s minimalist crayon naga sadhus seem deliberately offhand, and Madhvi Parekh’s set of four portraits in ink look more like extended and witty doodles.
But a light approach shouldn’t be mistaken for a “slight” approach—these are all fully realized pieces. “Drawing is an important genre, and the basis for a lot of art,” says Aneja, “It is also an independent art form in its own right.” She says drawings have always been sought and prized by serious collectors.
Presented with such a variety, it is only natural to wonder what defines drawing and what distinguishes it from, say, a painting. As the show amply demonstrates, there can be no one definition or a set standard. Artists and art lovers say that you can tell that an artwork is a drawing when you look at it.
To the inquisitive novice’s rescue then comes Dutta’s excellent and illuminating essay in the show’s catalogue which explains just what makes a drawing a drawing.
Contemporary Drawings I will be on view from 14 December to 11 January at Gallery Art Motif, F 213 C, Lado Sarai, New Delhi.