The colours we see around us is a complex network of visual signifiers. Like spoken dialects, each colour contains multiple—at times conflicting—meanings that are moulded by a universal base and many regional variances.
Blue is a colour that is fundamentally Indian. It is the fourth colour of the Indian flag, used to paint the wheel at its centre. The colour has symbolised power through the ages. Ancient royalty dressed in blue silk, as did Dr. B. R. Ambedkar in his iconic power-suit; and now blue appears on the flags of Dalit rights activists. In Natyashastra, the ancient treatise on aesthetics, blue is the colour of the Shringara rasa, the most important of the three emotive states, which invokes purity, love and beauty. Because it is the colour of the cosmos and water, different Indian religions have ascribed mystical qualities to it.
Blue has been a constant presence in Indian art. During the transition from colonial-era naturalism to post-Independence abstraction, it evolved from a representational pigment to having deep metaphorical value. Indian Blue: From Realism to Abstraction traces how Indian modernists first ‘raised’ themselves to the colonial ideal and then successfully broke away from it. The exhibition is a journey mapping the many developments in landscape and figurative art that ultimately leads into abstraction.
This exercise to explore the history of the colour blue was prompted by its overarching quality. In the Indian context, blue goes much beyond the traditional emotions of sadness and death attached to it. It is divine, regal and striking.
10 October – 1 December 2021
12 Dr A. P. J. Abdul Kalam Road
New Delhi 110011
11:00 AM – 7:00 PM