Avinash Chandra: Humanscapes
Hauz Khas Village, 28 February – 24 July 2016
Kala Ghoda, 12 October 2015 – 2 February 2016
The Fuller Building, 17 September – 2 December 2015
This is the first-ever retrospective of the Indian modern artist Avinash Chandra who lived most of his life in the West, in London and New York. The artist, who had trained in New Delhi, left soon after for London, and most of his practice was limited to London and New York, the two cities he called his home till his unfortunate early death in 1991. In the roughly three-and-a-half decades of his career, Avinash’s work changed amazingly, reflecting his environment and milieu as he grew and adapted to cities vastly different from their Indian counterparts, with their own sub-cultures. That this happily coincided with a discovery of India, however superfluously, as a land of spirituality and sexuality, seemed to serve him well as his muse.
Avinash Chandra’s work reflects the wantonness of the hippie movement and the colours of pop art but his art wasn’t just a hedonist celebration of the human form or sexuality, even as his humanscapes pulsated with the energy of elegant, curving, faceless bodies or genitalia, that recalled the sexual themes and visual harmony of tantric art, also then very popular in the West. Received very well in London, he repeated his success as an émigré Indian artist in New York in the 1970s, before returning to London, where he lived till his early death in 1991—remaining, ironically, unsung in India all along. Avinash Chandra’s art possesses a rare verve and energy that sublimated his influences to create an entirely original art that was emphatically modern in its thrust. This was true till the very end when he turned from the human form to nature in detailed, lyrical foliagescapes—a major turn in his oeuvre that he didn’t live long enough to see fully through.
From his landscapes, his paintings morphed to humanscapes. Shapes were shed and formed, limbs appeared, and soon an outpouring of sexuality began to inform his work. Always a strong colourist, these now reflected in his palette and his lines which flowed across the scrolls of paper and his canvases. And however hard the aspect of settling into and finding recognition in a new city and country, Avinash overcame these hurdles with great self-assurance.
This long overdue retrospective recognises the contribution of one of India’s star modernists who settled in the West but whose origins and cultural roots found a place in the vivacity of his art practice.