Modern and Contemporary South Asian Art / Jagdish Swaminathan (Indian, 1928-1994) Untitled (Mountain & Bird Series)
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Private Collection, Mumbai;
Acquired by the vendor from Baburao Bhalinge in 2006, who acquired the work from the artist in 1990.
For a similar work sold at Sotheby's see, South Asian Modern & Contemporary Art, New York, 16th September 2009, lot 528.
'Commonly referred to as the Bird and Mountain series, the paintings are luminous and induce a meditative calm. They are suggestive, open to interpretation: as an expression of the self's unity with nature, they can be seen as a visual equivalent to the transcendental principle expounded in the Upanishads.' (A. Jhaveri, A Guide to 101 Modern and Contemporary Indian Artists, Mumbai, 2005, p.93)
Swaminathan founded 'Group 1890' in 1962, alongside 12 other male members, some of whom included Gulam Mohammed Sheikh, Himmat Shah, Ambadas Khobragade and Eric Bowen. Many of these members had graduated from the University of Baroda, and they held their only exhibition, 'Group 1890' at the Lalit Kala Akademi, where they publicised their manifesto. Their manifesto was a call to artists to see phenomena in their 'virginal state,' and Swaminathan's canvases from his 'Bird and Mountain' series can be seen to emulate this. The canvasses feature mountains and levitating stones with the archetypal bird form. Painted with a delicacy and simplicity that is confounding, this work seeks to exemplify the ascent of man's inner being leaving the gross and the sullied. (J. Swaminathan, 20th Century Museum of Contemporary Indian Art, presented online by Vadhera Art Gallery).
The series is heavily inspired from the folk and tribal art of India which feature lucid compositions, forms and bold use of colours, and the series therefore is a rejection of the romanticism of the Bengal tradition and the mannerism of modern European Art. The abstracted forms hint at a ritual significance and are reminiscent of Neolithic cave paintings found throughout Europe, Africa and Asia. The common theme pervading the series is the artist's spirituality and respect for nature as the guide to the unrealized and hidden.
The series is perhaps best described in Swaminathan's owns words, 'In the late 1960s I tried to probe the relation of colour to space and after a study of Pahari miniatures did a series called Geometry of Space. After the colour Geometry show I entered the now famous phase of the bird, the mountain, the tree, the reflection, the shadow, and it lasted for quite a while...However, the obsession was wonderful while it lasted and what tribute would a painter want then a letter from a collector saying that my work brought peace and tranquillity into her house.' (Lalit Kala Contemporary, Issue 40, March 1995, New Delhi, p.11)