Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.  – Frank Zappa

A recent article I read put this question to me – What is there to talk about? Whether we choose to talk about the weather, politics, religion, family, there is always a certain amount of risk involved in what we should or should not withhold. We make certain assumptions about what might please and what could offend and attempt to map a course of least or most confrontation, depending on our intentions and our desired outcome. Similarly we may ask what is there to paint, sculpt, photograph, present and what are its intentions?


Third in the series of exhibitions organized by Gallery Threshold, New Paradigms III yet again posits new trajectories the visual arts are investigating and formulating. This new may be identified as divergent art practices, contemporary preoccupations or even, simply, fresh artists who are breaking new ground.


Participating in this exhibition are Abir, Binoy Varghese, Bose Krishnamachari, Debraj Goswami, Farhad Hussain, Hamid bin Amar, G.R. Iranna, K.T. Shivaprasad, Rajesh Ram, Pooja Iranna, Shanthi Swaroopini and Subodh Gupta. As a group these artists probe themes as varied as urban-rural, glocal, migration, gender, individual-communal, fantasy and environment. These artists also investigate such formal concerns as the significance of diverse artistic practices and visual vocabulary, the dialogue of the choice of mediums, the tactility of surfaces and the beauty of harmonious colours and composition.


The Shifting Paradigm


A paradigm is a thought pattern. In its contemporary meaning, given by Thomas Kuhn, a paradigm is a set of practices that define a discipline during a particular period of time. If we were to apply Kuhn’s definition of a paradigm shift we would view this exhibition as the result of a challenge to and change of basic assumptions in existing art practices and their resultant theories. The need for change is understood to occur when practitioners encounter anomalies within universally accepted paradigms, A shift or change occurs when enough anomalies are sighted to cause a crisis demanding a response. This leads to a new paradigm being established which in time gains its own following. This process is often discordant and fraught with contestations involving protracted “attacks” against existing systems. New paradigms are fought for rather than simply found.


Paradigm shifts tend to be more dramatic where they are unexpected. A simplified analogy for paradigm is the commonly used phrase “thinking outside the box”. In current practice the shifts range from emphasis on form to meaning, from decontextualized to grounded in ‘real life’, from artist leader to artist as co-learner and facilitator, from audience as passive receptor to audience as active constructor of meaning and integrated knowledge and skill.


The ‘Future’ in New: Past, Present and the Passage of Time


When we look at the ‘new’ the expectation would be to see a mapping of the future. Contrary to this assumption, the art of today is based very much in the now. In India, art as a vision into the future has been treated differently in different periods. Until the modern period, art commissioned by rulers and the aristocracy, was to preserve for posterity the memory of the patron. Whether this donned the mantle of religious or secular themes, the idea underscoring as imagery was to bring to mind the greatness of him who commissioned the work lor ail eternity. The future was seen as endless. The modernists, who were articulating the future of the nation, were imagining a glorious free independent and prosperous India half a century hence.


We today seem to be focused on the immediate. This preoccupation with the present is a not often commented but can be seen in the urgency with which we conduct our daily affairs. this is especially noticeable in the speed with which we communicate – instantly, even when spanning several time zones and thousands of miles. If the modern was a break from the past, the contemporary is a break from the ideas of past and future. Artists situate themselves in the present (understood as time that is perceived directly, not as recollection or speculation) and ground their work in their everyday realities and experiences.


Collapsing Margins: Rural in Urban, Folk in Fine


Migration is an ever-present fixation in India. People move not only across geographical definitions but also religious social, caste-based, education and aspiration confines as they traverse the country and the globe. Artists that especially emphasize this trend are Subodh Gupta, Binoy Varghese, Farhad Hussain, Debraj Goswami and Bose Krishnamachari. Each has a unique aesthetic and whether the migration is fantastical or problematic, aspirational or barbaric it is marked in each case by an obvious adoption of a vocabulary that highlights the ‘other’.


Two artists who have especially explored this connection by interacting directly with ‘another’ are the sculptors in this exhibition, Abir and Rajesh Ram. By creating works of and inspired by nature and assimilating or adopting the techniques and imagery from the tribal and artisanal metalworkers in India, these artists stimulate a dialogue about the changes in the structuring both of art practice and social distinction.


Family, Gender and the Individual


Community still remains a predominant subject of engagement for artists. And by community the artists go beyond religious and caste definitions. Community I not read as communal with its accompanying subtext of separatist an distinct. It is a more harmonious vision of people sharing, welcoming and accepting differences. Farhad Hussain ; perhaps overly optimistic in his smiling happy families but it highlights a new sanguinity. We are defined by o differences but it revisits and re-presents the idea of secular India.


Women as subjects too have progressed. Shanti Swaroopini’s woman is calm, serene, investigative or divine but all with a quiet confidence. It is an inner and personal journey, far removed from the grappling of place and position which defined earlier decades. These visualization are personal to each artist. Unhampered by a hesitation to put an individual opinion forward each artist has his unique vocabulary which he/she uses unstintingly.


Image, Material and Meaning


Along with various themes, artists are also experimenting with medium and idiom to create their desired conversation with the audience. Ranging from painting, sculpting, casting. photographing, and digital manipulation, the artists apply a range of practices to create their images. This liberal movement between methods is also a new confidence that is marking the contemporary artists, widening and expanding their aesthetics, pushing the preconceived ideas of art creation. It in tum is challenging the audiences’ notions of the established categories of art, craft, cinema and documentation.


Distorting both through hyper-real and abstracted images, the artists exhibit that they have once and for all shed the skins of Indian, Western, Figurative and Abstract and donned a multicoloured dream vision. With artists such as Pooja Iranna who employ a range of technologies and techniques starting with photography and digital manipulation of imagery to create her base she paints on this prepared distorted base fantastic futurist urbanscapes. Bose Krishnamachari has made it his trademark the ease with which he flows between hyper-real narratives and bold color fields, both creating an equally powerful impression.


Alongside we have the lyricism of Hamid bin Amar and the honest observations of Binoy Varghese who places in turn cynical and ironical images and text against Henri Rousseau-esque lush landscapes


Many Voices Multiple Visions


Though curatorial practice dictates making connections and underscoring movements and categorizations, Indian art today is marked by a consistent spirit of experimentation which upholds and encourages disparity and individuality. What becomes abundantly clear is that though artists do not adhere to fixed ideologies or techniques the one underlying truth that binds them is the spirit of voyage. To travel to unknown creative destinations and to ensure that every frontier is mapped seems to be the character of New Paradigms.



Deeksha Nath, Art Historian
March 2006


Curatorial Note

Gallery Threshold, once again embarks on a revelatory journey along with young contemporaries, mapping the trajectories and directions of their creative pursuits, along with their continuous strife in exploring new conceptual framework for their visual imagery as well as subsequent evolution.

Third in this series, my attempt is to capture the shifting Paradigms and emerging possibilities. There is no attempt to make underlying connections – the only truth being the spirit of voyage.


Tunty Chauhan


Galerie Romain Rolland, Alliance Francaise de Delhi, New Delhi

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