2010 - 2011
Artists: Hemi Bawa, Gautam Bhatia, Zuleikha Chaudhari, Sumedh Rajendran, Riyas Komu, Prajjwal Choudhury, Baptist Coelho, Vibha Galhotra, Sonia Mehra-Chawla, Abhishek Hazra, Prajakta Potnis, Shreyas Karle, Abir Karmakar, Suhasini Kejriwal, Prasad Raghavan, Siri Khandavilli, George Martin, Kristine Michael, Raj Mohanty, Suresh K. Nair, Pratima Naithani, Remen chopra, Sandip Pisalkar, Antonio Puri, Tarun Jung Rawat, Bandeep Singh, Viren Tanwar, Shiv Verma, Manisha Jha, Traun Chabra, Manisha Jha, Ayesha Kapur

India Awakens Under the Banyan Tree


"India is, the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, the grandmother of legend, and the great grand mother of tradition. our most valuable and most instructive materials in the history of man are treasured up in India only."

Mark Twain

What could be more evocative than this statement made by the American traveler more than a century ago. Contemporary India carries within its fold many histories and many Indias. Politically, India consists of 31 states, 1618 languages, 6400 castes, 6 ethnic groups, 29 festivals, plus a huge and myriad tradition of arts and crafts. The cultural diversity of the land is startling, yet India stands strong and one bound intricately with the deepest of complexity within its plural culture. When I sit and start to think about the Wonder that was India the title of an iconic history book penned down by the English historian A. L. Basham more than eight decades ago I again feel the title is not inappropriate.

As I live in a quickly changing India, an India which is being transformed from a developing economy to one of the major drivers of the international market I too am living and facing the challenges of a global culture.

China the country which it is often compared to because of its positioning in Asia, numbers and markets, India stands out singular. For India, unlike the rest of the world, within the nation there is a deep interplay of tradition and modernity. Within the land itself I wonder if as an urban Indian can I be equally at home with rural India, spiritual India, an inner India, a tribal India with its ethnic table, digital India. Hindu India, Islamic India, Sikh India, Christian India, Buddhist India, Jain India. I could continue with more diversities but I shall leave it up to you to visualise.

Against such complexities and web of ideas, traditions, and philosophies I decided to work with the metaphor of the Banyan tree.

The Banyan Tree is a familiar metaphor in India. Within its vast Hindu population it is also known as the Kalpavriksha or the "wish fulfilling tree." Because of its ever-expanding branches, people have great respect for it. The aerial roots which run from branches to the ground enable it to become very very large, sometimes going upto 200 meters in diameter.It was under the Banyan tree in the ancient town of Bodhgaya that Gautama Buddha the founder of Buddhism also attained enlightenment A more secular myth alongwith numerous other myths is that the banyan tree is named after 'banyans' or 'banians', the Hindu traders who in the past carried out their commercial exchanges sitting under the banyan tree. In fact during the last century the banyan tree became an important meeting place for many people who gathered in its shade to relax or chat.

Therefore the metaphor of The Banyan Tree appealed to me when I started creating a project which in some ways would represent to me The Wonder That is India. I selected 38 artists from different parts of the country, so that they would in some ways be able to represent the multitude vocals of the country which is so much a part of its cultural present.

I also wished to draw upon the richness of the material culture, the mediums which are both traditional like painting sculpture, printmaking and moving on to the digital which in some ways has taken birth in the land itself and is one of the main reasons for India's soaring future, the I.T. Technology. What for me was also very interesting and challenging was not to take the usual 'suspects' contemporary Indian artists who form part of important existing collected, but also introduce a segment of the next generation of artists who are younger, but can hold their own with the more mature artists who have already made their voices heard in the cacophony of contemporary art practice.

A nation of 1.17 billion people, with more than 10 British established fine art schools based on the Kensington College of Art model of the 19th century but also a younger generation which is moving between art, craft and design, a generation of artists who have also been educated abroad, a lot of artists today are internationally much more travelled than their older colleagues and are very much part of what is a global cosmopolitanism Indian have always had a tradition of movement, of traveling to different shores and setting down and I have also included a few artists who would be the diasporic voice in the exhibition. Living away in a home away from their land of origin the artistic engagement of artists of Indian origin provides a completeness to the story of contemporary Indian art practice.

The 38 artists in the show are well represented encompassing a variety of mediums. Abishek Hazra a new media artist based out of Bangalore, the painter Abir Karmakar, Mumbai, Antonio Puri, USA, Ayesha Kapoor-photographer, based out of New Delhi, Bandeep Singh,-Photographer, New Delhi, Baptist Coehlo Video and multi media artist, Mumbai, Gautam Bhatia architect and artist New Delhi, George Martin Painter, New Delhi, Gurdeep Singh Painter, new Delhi, Kalam Patua traditional artist from West Bengal, Kristine Michael Ceramic artist, New Delhi,-Mahua Sen, Musician, Filmaker and artist, new Delhi, Manisha Jha architect and traditional artist, New Delhi, Prajakta Potnis,Mumbai, Prajjwal Choudhary Baroda, installation, Prasad Raghavan, new Delhi, Video and Painting, Pratima Naithani New York, photographer, Remen Chopra, painte1,17r and sculptor, New Delhi, Riyas Komu painter and sculptor, Mumbai,, Sandip Pisalkar, Sculptor, Baroda, Shiv Verma, Sculptor, Baroda, Shreyas Karle, Sculptor, Baroda, Simran Mehra Agarwal, Painter, Milan, Siri Khandavilli, Intermedia artist, USA Sonia Mehra Chawla, Painter, New Delhi, Seema Kohli, Painter, New Delhi, Suhasini Kejriwal, painter, Kolkatta, Sumedh Rajendran, Sculptor, New Delhi, Sunaina Bhalla, Painter, Singapore, Suresh K Nair, muralist, Varanasi, Tarun Chabra, Photographer, New Delhi, Tarun Jung Rawat, graphic designer and artist, Vibha Gilhotra, mutli media artist, New Delhi, Viren Tanwer, painter Chandigarh Zuleikha Chaudhari, Light and performance artist. Mumbai

Dr. Alka Pande
Spring 2010

© sonia mehra chawla