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What is Abstract Art & 8 emerging Abstract artists from India
Abir Banerjee

For the uninitiated, abstract art can be intimidating. You may like abstract art, hate it outright, or not understand exactly what it is but it’s a form of art that compels you to look inward. To attach your own unique interpretation to the vivid colours, strange shapes, and bold strokes.

Read on to get a glimpse into the origins of abstract art, how it took shape in India, and a highlight of some of the best abstract artists in India.

What is Abstract Art?

Abstract art is art that doesn’t accurately represent visual reality, and instead communicates through lines, shapes, colours, forms and gestural marks. Abstract art can be seen as art with more freedom as artists create their designs without thinking of it as a replica of real images. Therefore, it is also known as “non-representational” art, bringing the artist’s own emotions to the forefront.

At the end of the 19th century, many artists felt a need to create a new kind of art which would encompass the fundamental changes taking place in technology, science, and philosophy. And thus, abstract art was born. The Abstract Expressionism movement began in the 1940s in New York City after World War II, however the first real Abstract Art was painted earlier by some Expressionists, particularly Wassily Kandinsk in the early 1900s.

1. Reena Saini Kallat

Reena Saini Kallat is an Indian visual artist who currently lives and works in Mumbai. She is interested in the role that memory plays, in not only what we choose to remember but also how we think of the past.

Reena Saini Kallat, Woven Chronicle

2. Asim Wafiq

Born in 1978, Asim Wafiq lives and works in New Delhi. His work is influenced by interdisciplinary fields of art, architecture, ecology and design, and he focuses on public art.

Another event which affected and resulted in the emergence of Abstract art is the 19th century wave of independence given to artists. Artists were given more freedom and power to produce work which allowed them to develop their interests and capital within the new industrial and modern world. Now commissioned by the public and patrons, artists were able to experiment more freely and become recognised for the intellect and ‘abstraction’ behind works.

Asim Wafiq, Untitled Propositions

Composition VII by Wassily Kandinsk

Some of the most famous abstract artists include Piet Mondrian, Jackson Pollock, Agnes Martin, Joan Mitchell, and Kazimir Malevich.

Composition with Red Blue and Yellow by Piet Mondrian

Abstract Art in India

In India, abstract art was a search for purity of line, colour, and form by artists in the 50s and the 60s. The movement really flourished in the 70s when abstraction gained huge popularity and was accepted by numerous eminent artists including Ram Kumar, S.H. Raza, Vasudeo S. Gaitonde, Akbar Padamsee, Jehangir Sabavala, and Jagdish Swaminathan.

Abstract Artists in India

Highlighting the Top Abstract Artists in India was a challenge - our list covers the stalwarts of abstract art in India as well as upcoming abstract artists to keep an eye out on:

3. Prabhakar Kolte

Prabhakar Kolte received his Diploma from Sir J.J. School of Art, Mumbai in 1968 and also taught there between 1972 and 1974. His early works show a strong influence of Paul Klee.

Prabhakar Kolte, Untitled

4. Bose Krishnamachari

Bose Krishnamachari is an internationally acclaimed Malayali painter. Born in Kerala in 1963, Bose completed his MFA Goldsmiths College, University of London. His work borrows effortlessly from various disciplines, including literature and design, and time periods.

Bose Krishnamachari, Stretched Bodies #1

5. Zarina

Zarina, who prefers to be called by just her first name, was born in Aligarh in 1937 and currently lives and works in New York. She has a particular love for paper, using the medium to create prints, drawings, and sculptures.

Zarina, Home Is a Foreign Place

6. Thukral & Tagra

Thukral and Tagra are an artist duo composed of Jiten Thukral and Sumir Tagra. They work with a wide range of media including painting, sculpture, installations, interactive games, video, performance and design.

Thukral & Tagra, Bread, Circuses & Wifi

7. S. H. Raza

S.H. Raza is one of the most prominent and groundbreaking Indian painters of his generation. At the heart of his art is the celebration of nature, whether it emerged through his early expressionist watercolour landscapes from the 1940s, or the Cubist compositions during his time in Paris

S.H. Raza, Maa

8. Manoj Kachangal

Born in Madhya Pradesh, Manoj Kachangal has deeply studied aesthetics, colours, and Indian Mythology. He is very particular about shapes, forms and their energies in his art. He now lives and works in Noida.

Manoj Kachangal, Untitled

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Written by
Abir Banerjee
Art enthusiast from Kolkata
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