Art philanthropist Shalini Passi essays her thoughts around artistic innovation in India.

FEB 27, 2019 | By Shalini Passi
CLOCKWISE, FROM LEFT Artist Puneet Kaushik's barren red, 2016, rests on woven cotton, jute and wool cord, which was showcased at gallery escape; In his work Realm of the senses, artist Avinash Veeraraghavan employs the fine needlework of his embroidery to render images like the pixels of a photograph.
CLOCKWISE, FROM LEFT Artist Manjunath Kamat's extended nostalgia , 2014, marries terracotta, cement and wood, which was showcased at Gallery escape; The contemporary artist and curator Sudarshan Shetty explores juxtapositions- the traditional with the modern- in Untitled, which fuse artisanal objects with digital processes.

In my view, the best of contemporary Indian art and design embraces artistic innovation while acknowledging India’s depth of artisanal tradition. When acquiring contemporary pieces from India, I seek works that bear significance to the culture, but are not limited to a heritage craft aesthetic. To me, this does not represent a contradiction, but a philosophy: Art cannot push boundaries if there is no constraint to push against — there is no innovation without tradition. The re-imagining of craft heritage, in the context of the country’s present day issues, represents the fundamental dynamism of Indian contemporary art. While at onepoint there seemed to be a tendency to record, in a somewhat literal way, the changes that society was undergoing, I feel that Indian art is now steadily becoming more nuanced, resulting in more stimulating and provocative work. I believe that the best contemporary art does not attempt to be ‘Indian’, but to be India — to capture the diversity and complexity of India through a powerful visual language. One such work in my collection is LN Tallur’s Victory Pillar, 2012 (bronze, cement, coin and oil.) It speaks of the rural farmlands where Tallur grew up and which have strongly influenced his work. I love how the piece contrasts the traditional with the contemporary, referencing an inherently Indian experience while still managing to successfully communicate the anxiety of his subject matter to a wider audience. Artist Mrinalini Mukherjee’s work is a cross-over between sculpture and textiles. The intricate curves, folds and drapes have a stronger note of sexuality evoking a very sensuous quality. The work titled Kusum is a woven hemp work representing the female form and its embodiment.