On the bookshelf

  • Monographs on four masters of art and photography that should be part of your collection.
  • Vivan Sundaram's book by artist-writer Ruth Rosengarten looks at the expanded field of the 'photographic' in the work of artist

AT HOME IN THE WORLD

The Art And Life Of Gulammohammed Sheikh

This book (published by Tulika Books and Vadehra Art Gallery, 4,500) is the first-ever comprehensive study of Sheikh’s art spanning five decades. Edited by Chaitanya Sambrani—Australia-based art historian and curator, who specializes in Asian modernist and contemporary art—the tome weaves a vibrant tapestry of Sheikh’s oeuvre. You get a glimpse of the young artist as a member of Group 1890, fuelled by his belief in indigenous modernism, and the profound impact that the poet-saint Kabir has on him. “This is a book that started 15 years ago. It requires time to do a book on someone who is a poet, critic, thinker and mentor. There are several dimensions to his practice—ranging from the idea of dialogue as being central to his work, use of fantastical colours, exploration of diverse media and formats, and more," says gallerist Arun Vadehra, who will be presenting this book at the India Art Fair. It illustrates Sheikh’s pioneering role in Indian art’s engagement with hybridity. 

VIVAN SUNDARAM IS NOT A PHOTOGRAPHER

The Photographic Works Of Vivan Sundaram

This book by artist-writer Ruth Rosengarten (Tulika Books, 1,950) looks at the expanded field of the “photographic" in the work of artist Vivan Sundaram. Set to have a March release, it begins with the notion that Sundaram is not a photographer in a traditional sense of the term. In fact, he has often said that he rarely takes photographs, but constructs or “assembles" them in the same way that he would treat the found object. One saw this in the work Stone Column Enclosing The Gaze (1992) and in the series Re-Take Of Amrita (2001) as well. Rosengarten discusses the ontological shift photography has undergone in the age of digital production, considering it more of a practice than a medium.

PHOTOGRAPHY IN INDIA

A Visual History From The 1850s To The Present

The fascinating selection of images in this book (Prestel Publishing, 3,690) juxtaposes sepia-toned works by European photographers from the pre-Independence era with more contemporary works by Indian artists. You will find detailed insect studies by John Edward Sache from an untitled album dating back to 1870 and a poignant image of an Andamanese group “with their keeper, Mr Homfrey" (Sache & Westfield, 1865), as well as an installation view of Dayanita Singh’s File Room at the German Pavilion of the 55th International Art Exhibition. Authored by Nathaniel Gaskell, associate director, Museum of Art & Photography, Bengaluru, and Diva Gujral, curator and PhD scholar at University College London, the book spans 150 years and includes 100 photographers, including Singh, Gauri Gill, Cecil Beaton and Raghu Rai. 

JANGARH SINGH SHYAM: THE ENCHANTED FOREST

Paintings And Drawings From The Crites Collection

This is a masterful telling of Jangarh Singh Shyam’s story (Roli Books, 2,495), who stretched the boundaries of Gond art like no other, giving rise to a whole new style named after him—the Jangarh Kalam. A chance discovery of his genius at the age of 19 by J. Swaminathan, the rise to fame with an exhibition in Centre Pompidou, Paris, the forging of a rare bond with patrons Niloufar and Mitchell S. Crites, and his tragic death at a residency at the Mithila Museum, Japan—these stories of talent, hope and despair line this volume. Written by Aurogeeta Das, a trained printmaker, The Enchanted Forest abounds with vibrant photos by Robyn Beeche, interspersed with essays and images. The volume explores the aesthetic and thematic engagements of an artist who died too early, long “before his spark could be fanned into a steady flame," as artist Arpana Caur says on the book jacket. 

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