India: Print edition

Aug 14, 2013, 03:51 IST | Soma Das

The National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA) is hosting Between The Lines: Identity, Place and Power, a selection from artist and art collector Waswo X. Waswo's collection of Indian printmaking, from 1916 to the present

A selection of Indian printmaking from artist Waswo X Waswo’s collection was showcased in the exhibition, titled Between the Lines, at the India Habitat Centre in New Delhi, a year ago. Next, it moved to NGMA in Bengaluru and is now in the city. Works by 79 artists include woodcuts, etchings, lithographs and screen prints that date from 1916 to the present. Born in the USA, Waswo is known for his photographs as well as his art collection. He shuffles between Udaipur and Bangkok and hopes the exhibition next makes way to Kolkata and Bangkok. Excerpts from an interview:

Ladies Compartment by Preeti Agrawal

What are the highlights of the collection on display?
I’ve been forming this collection for over 10 years. It started in an unfocused manner, during a time, I was buying things that caught the eye. Later, I took my collecting habits more seriously and realised that I wanted the collection to become an overview of printmaking in India. The historical artists are there, starting with the early Bengal masters such as Haren Das, Mukul Dey, Nandalal Bose and Chittaprosad. More recent historical artists who are considered important came into the collection, people like Anupam Sud, Jyoti Bhatt, and contemporaries like Zarina Hashmi. I wanted the collection to shed light on young printmakers working today, so there are works on display by young artists like Soghra Khurasani, T Venkanna, Kurma Nadham and Subrat Behera.

Fishing by Haren Das. “Early prints of the historical Bengal masters are seen with more frequency in New Delhi, but not here.”  -- Waswo X Waso

Is there certain criterion that was kept in mind while selecting prints on display?
Curator Lina Vincent Sunish did the actual selection of works for the show. I’m attracted to quality, historical relevance, and artists who have something to say. But boundaries had to be set, so I eliminated any form of commercial printmaking, and also digital printmaking. I buy prints made by artists. There are no reproductions, only original artist prints in limited edition. I prefer etchings and woodcuts, so those probably predominate. As for imagery, I am attracted to everything from the so-called nostalgic scenes of Haren Das to the stark minimalism of Zarina Hashmi.

Waswo X Waswo

What fascinates you about Indian printmaking?
My family was artistic, so I grew up in a space where art was appreciated and there was an idea of buying art for the home. My father had a connection to India since he was here during World War II, and also retired to Goa when he was older. Living here for over 12 years and being an artist myself naturally drew me into the Indian art scene. About 10 years ago, I decided to focus the collection on Indian printmaking. Of course, there were many who made collections of Indian art, but none focused on printmaking, which is a medium I love. I worked with printmaking when I was younger. The collecting continues. It’s an evolving project that has become consuming.

Is there renewed interest in printmaking lately, particularly in India?
Printmaking is finding itself in the spotlight again. Other shows in India have also helped in this. It can only be good for increased appreciation of the printing medium.

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