Three decades after the passing away of a painter-illustrator, whose independent works mirrored his fiercely anti-establishment spirit, Brij Mohan Anand is making a return of sorts to the art circuit with a landmark exhibition in the capital.
As many as 90 epoch-defining works of Anand from 1928-1986 will be on display at the 11-day show, which will unveil how his life and aesthetic intersected with some of the foundational events which defined and shaped modern Indian consciousness.
The exhibition, titled ‘Narratives for Indian Modernity: The Aesthetic of Brij Mohan Anand’, curated by art critic Alka Pande, opened with the release of a seminal book on the artist who was a trenchant critic of both Western imperialism and Indian militarism.
“I have chosen from his wide range of almost 1,500 works which are in the BM Anand foundation. They belong to almost every genre of his artistic practice,” Pande said.
It features more than 90 select works by the left-leaning Anand, who made no attempt to sell his paintings; instead, he believed that art was a powerful medium of social and political commentary that can be used as a voice of dissent and a tool for advancing social justice.
The exhibition features 35 sketches, 14 scratchboards, three scratchboard sketches, five ink drawings, six Red Cross posters, 23 book covers and five oil-on-canvas paintings.
The meticulously-researched book, also titled ‘Narratives for Indian Modernity: The Aesthetic of Brij Mohan Anand’, has been co-authored by writer-biographer Aditi Anand and British art historian Grant Pooke.
The book and the exhibition are the result of an accidental discovery of a massive tranche of lost works from the attic of Anand’s West Delhi home, said Neeraj Gulati, founder of BM Anand Foundation, which is organising the event.
Aditi described the Amritsar-born Anand as a highly talented and largely self-taught artist. “His starkly modernist figure compositions and apocalyptic landscapes reflect his defiant and politically subversive stance,” she added.
Pooke, who teaches at the University of Kent, said Anand “appears to have retained” relations with the Communist Party of India throughout much of the adult life. “He lived to raise a family, was professionally respected and survived to see India’s maturation as a social democracy.
CATCH IT LIVE
WHAT: Narratives for Indian Modernity, art exhibition
WHERE: India International Centre, Lodhi Road
ON TILL: May 22
TIMINGS: 11am to 7pm
NEAREST METRO STATION: Jor Bagh on Yellow Line