Eclectic Visions unfolded in the bustling heart of Delhi, showcasing the rich tapestry of artistic expression. From poignant socio-political commentary to vibrant explorations of heritage and the fusion of jazz and art, our exhibit was a celebration of diverse voices and perspectives. The exhibit brought together four distinct voices, each weaving their narratives into the fabric of creativity.
A.A. Raiba's mastery of charcoal and calligraphy transported viewers to a world of nostalgia and intimate observation. Chittaprosad Bhattacharya's works, rendered with poignant realism, shed light on the plight of the marginalised in mid-20th century India. His pastels, gouaches, and mixed media on paper works also reveal a lesser explored dimension of his artistic prowess. Keren SouzaKohn's exploration of her Jewish roots captivated with dramatic narratives and vibrant colours. Louiz Banks', (the "Godfather of Indian Jazz,") infusion of jazz and art added a layer of richness, creating a multisensory experience.
Chittaprosad Bhattacharya (1915-1978, Naihati) was a pioneering figure in Indian socio-political art, known for his mastery in watercolour painting and printmaking. His artistic journey began during his student years at Chittagong Government College in the 1930s, where he developed strong political convictions. Focusing on the plight of impoverished peasants and laborers, Bhattacharya skillfully used pen and ink sketches to satirize feudal and colonial systems. Proficient in linocuts and woodcuts, his works were intended for the masses, critiquing oppression and often confiscated by authorities.
Chittaprosad Bhattacharya, Ration Shop, Tempera on paper board
Departing from the traditional Bengal School style, Bhattacharya embraced a bold and incisive realist approach, influenced by witnessing the Bengal Famine of 1943. His first published book, "Hungry Bengal," starkly exposed the region's suffering, drawing the attention of the British government.
Bhattacharya eventually settled in Bombay in 1946, continuing to explore political themes in his art until his passing. In his later years, he devoted himself to the world peace movement and initiatives supporting underprivileged children, leaving behind a lasting legacy of artistic and humanitarian commitment.
A.A. Raiba (b. 1922) was an artist fueled by an unyielding passion for Urdu poetry and Islamic literature. Born in Mumbai, his works are steeped in nostalgia, offering intimate reflections of old Bombay and his travels across the country. Raiba's artistic journey, rooted in extensive historical research and calligraphy, began at Anjuman-I-Islam School, where his talent in Urdu drew attention.
At Nutan Kala Mandir and later at the prestigious Sir J.J. School of Art, Raiba developed a distinctive style, influenced by Indian miniature paintings and rejecting Western norms. His early works depicted sharp, angular lines, evolving over time to reflect a more fluid style akin to the Mexican Muralists.
After graduating in 1946, Raiba embarked on transformative journeys, capturing the essence of Kashmir before returning to Bombay to explore oil on jute canvas. Despite facing challenges, including the loss of his studio in 1980, Raiba's creativity persisted, fueled by his resourcefulness and commitment to craft.
Raiba's artistic narrative delved into Islamic literature, Urdu poetry, and historical research, reflected in exhibitions like "Old Bombay." His exploration extended to South Indian temples, Goa, and Portuguese-influenced territories surrounding Bombay.
Throughout his career, Raiba experimented with diverse mediums, venturing into printmaking and glasswork. His legacy transcends his paintings, embodying resilience, resourcefulness, and an insatiable curiosity that continues to inspire audiences worldwide.
A.A. Raiba's charcoals
Raiba consistently wielded charcoal as his chosen medium for sketching, and his approach to lines evolved in tandem with his subjects over the years. These charcoal on paper works from the artist’s estate were made in the 1960s.
Early in his career, he portrayed Christ, nude studies, and the erotic using sharp, angular shapes, teetering on the edge of cubism without fully embracing it. In a later series featuring landscapes and portraits of rural life, Raiba's lines took on a lively, curvaceous quality reminiscent of the styles employed by Mexican Muralists. Perhaps it was this dual training at the JJ School of Art in Western and Indian painting techniques, coupled with his scholarly and introspective nature, birthed a distinctive style and technique that set his work apart from his contemporaries.
Raiba's charcoal sketches also vividly brought to life his observations on the lawns opposite Mumbai’s Victoria Terminus, Crawford Market, and the Neo-Gothic School of Art ( J.J. School Of Art) building designed by George Twigge Molecey. His studies of nature and architecture consistently revealed a deep connection with the architectural elements of these iconic locations.
Experimentation with Calligraphy
Raiba designed and organised his own exhibitions. His exhibitions went beyond paintings; they were holistic experiences. His invitations, uniquely designed by him with an eye for detail, showcased his experimentation with fonts, paper textures, and innovative folds. A true connoisseur of calligraphy, Raiba seamlessly integrated Arabic couplets with intricate bird shapes, adding a distinct and captivating dimension to his artistic expression.
Keren SouzaKohn's artistic journey is deeply intertwined with her rich familial legacy. As the daughter of Francis Newton Souza, a prominent figure in the Bombay Progressive Artists' Group, she inherited a profound appreciation for modern Indian art. Immersed in a bohemian environment saturated with artistic influences, SouzaKohn's unconventional path in art education led her to graduate from Ravensbourne College of Art.
Her early works reflected her father's style, characterized by bold edges and vibrant colours. However, as her personal style matured, SouzaKohn embarked on a journey of self-discovery, infusing her art with unique approaches that imbued her works with profound depth and meaning. Her fascination with Hebrew letters, influenced by her exploration of her Jewish roots, is evident in her current pieces.
The unexpected juxtapositions within SouzaKohn's art give rise to dramatic narratives, offering viewers both subtle and overt interpretations. Her artistic evolution is a tapestry woven with threads of familial influence, unconventional education, and a deep exploration of heritage. SouzaKohn's journey as an artist reflects the intricate layers of her personal and artistic identity, resulting in a compelling visual narrative that resonates with audiences worldwide.
Louiz Banks, known as the "Godfather of Indian Jazz," has made a significant impact on the Indian music scene for over five decades. Born into a lineage of musicians, Banks began his musical journey at the age of four, influenced by his father's jazz skills and his mother's Nepalese folk songs. His affinity for jazz's rhythmic and improvisational nature allowed him to carve a unique niche in the industry.
From Darjeeling to Calcutta, Banks collaborated with Bollywood luminaries like R D Burman and Bappi Lahiri. His work in ad films earned him the nickname "Jingle King," crafting memorable tunes for brands like Gold Spot and Britannia.
Beyond music, Banks is a versatile artist, seamlessly transitioning between sound and visual art. His paintings, devoid of formal training, reflect a visceral exploration of colors and shapes, mirroring the improvisational spirit of jazz. Drawing inspiration from his surroundings, Banks captures subtle nuances that elude the casual eye.
Despite accolades, including a Lifetime Achievement Award, Banks remains dedicated to music education in India, nurturing the next generation of artistic talents.
In conclusion, Eclectic Visions brought together a captivating array of artistic voices, each contributing to a rich tapestry of expression. From A.A. Raiba's evocative narratives to Chittaprosad Bhattacharya's insightful commentary, Keren SouzaKohn's vibrant compositions, and Louiz Banks' fusion of jazz and art, this exhibit showcased the boundless creativity of the human spirit.