Graphic Matter: 3 portfolios
The Mind's Cupboards | Lalitha Lajmi
Retrospective Sketches | AA Raiba
awaiting REDDY | announcing 60 Years of the JJ Printmaking Studio
Each year, on his journey to Shantiniketan Dr. Heinz Mode an archaeologist would stop into Bombay to meet Lalitha Lajmi, replicating the barter trade that existed between his country the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) and India. He was one of her first collectors. The two hailed form socialist economies where the paucity of liquid funds was acute. Thus they devised a barter where Lalitha would receive art books in lieu of the art work Mode would pick up. From this friendship over a few decades arose an extensive library. In 1983 Lalitha travelled with her daughter to Germany on the invitation of Dr. Mode. A pastor and his wife arranged for an exhibition of Lalitha's works in West Berlin. Lalitha thinks back to her journey by train to the other side of the wall to an exhibition of her etchings arranged by Dr. Mode. The stark contrasts of the two worlds, and the her two simultaneous exhibitions across the iron curtain, were coincidences that resembled the dichotomies within individuals, represented in her works. Often described as stark and biographical, etchings that are difficult to view, they were personal metaphors, easily misunderstood as literal, until read as a visual vocabulary for concise, psycho-analytic insight in a confessional mode. A solo retrospective of her etchings at Clark House, 'The Mind's Cupboards', narrates a story of early feminisms that preceded the 60s, and a determined commitment to the genre of printmaking. For this occasion, a special portfolio of prints by Lalitha Lajmi, from zinc plates in her archive from the 1960s, and new works from 2012, encompass the major themes that re-occur in her work: dichotomies of the self hidden behind masks; the trope of social performers, like the clown; intense portrayals of the abject; metaphorical windows and psychological interiority; erotic works of intimacy between the sexes; and arresting portraits.
Abdul Aziz Raiba has long maintained detailed and classified sketch books that deal with specific subjects such as architecture from the western coastline of India, miniature painting, and folks motifs, spanning a period of more than six decades. Raiba had pasted into school exercise books hundreds of his drawings, jottings and cuttings, folds of papers which open up to larger grids of space, from which he drew his world of references. He labeled them according to his obsessions. Fifteen sketches from these notebooks act as a visual manual to deconstruct his large compositions on jute. They are reproduced through serigraphy by the JJ Printmaking Studio to create a portfolio of his 'Retrospective Sketches'.
Professor Anant Nikam often reminisces about a workshop he attended as a printmaking student at JJ School of Art, conducted by Krishna Reddy more than two decades ago. Lalitha Lajmi also remembers attending this luminous workshop with other printmakers in the city. Krishna Reddy had invented a sensitive and remarkable technique of viscosity printing, that added a new spontaneity and possibility to multi-colour printmaking which he demonstrated within the workshop. Printmaking has an interesting sculptural quality to its plates most observable in the etching plates of Reddy, who trained as a sculptor. The democratisation of the visual within minimal cost has historically been achieved in printmaking, for which it was used in political propaganda, and it incorporates changes in technology with a certain onus, such as the use of the photocopier in the 1990s, and digital mediums in the present. Thus in the coming year, to celebrate the 60th year of the printmaking studio at the Sir JJ School of Art, Professor Anant Nikam has planned a retrospective exhibition of Krishna Reddy, an inventor, to argue for the relevance of the practice in our times. Krishna Reddy has traversed through cities precisely at those moments for which they now retain a certain glow in the history of art. The exhibition will trace this traversal, of places, and thought, as a retrospective not only of Reddy, but the artistic dialogue and purpose, that has made these cities so vividly a part of our common imagination. 'awaiting REDDY' is a portfolio of prints that announces the eagerness of the department to bring in their 60th year with this historic returning of a deeply loved artist. It has 24 etchings by members of the JJ Printmaking Studio, including the works of Yashwant Deshmukh, Yogesh Rawal, and Anant Nikam who conducted workshops at the studio that dealt with the exploration of form and abstraction in graphic printmaking.
Clark House began an association with the Printmaking Studio of the Sir JJ School of Art in Spring 2011 with a stark portfolio of prints made in tribute to the artist Jehangir Sabavala. Eight portfolios have since been published by the studio, in association with Clark House. From the first portfolio on, Clark House began curating a series of workshops by alumni and visiting international artists within the department. The portfolios are the result of collaborations between the students and the invited artists. They are constructed through an exchange of labour. No renumeration is paid to any participant. Funds from sales, after deducting the costs, are used towards much needed scholarships for students pursuing their masters in printmaking. This year a Krishna Reddy Scholarship was instituted by the department through funds collected from the sale of portfolios, and in the coming year scholarships honouring AA Raiba and Lalitha Lajmi will be instituted from the sales of the portfolios published this year.