Part I: 18th August – 3rd October 2016
Part II: 14th October – 31st December 2016
Curated by Ranjit Hoskote
Laxman Shreshtha is one of the most distinguished abstractionists practising in India. The Infinite Project traces a retrospective arc across his career from the early 1960s to the present. Fittingly, it draws on the collection of Jehangir Nicholson, who was a close friend of the artist and a dedicated champion of his work. The Nicholson Collection boasts 49 of Shreshtha’s works, arguably one of the most substantial representations of the artist’s oeuvre over a span of fifty years.
The Infinite Project is a viewing platform, from which to survey the various phases of the journey that Shreshtha has made since his student years at the Sir J. J. School of Art, Bombay; the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux Arts, the Academie de la Grande Chaumiere, and S W Hayter’s Atelier 17, Paris; the Central School of Art, London; and his first exhibition, held at the Taj Art Gallery in 1963.
Structured in two phases, this exhibition presented Shreshtha’s trajectory along a chronological axis, from 1963 to 1988 and from 1988 to the present. It was punctuated by annotations concerning various dimensions of the artist’s work: his understanding of abstraction as a departure from landscape; the dyadic interplay between pattern and discontinuity in his art; his play with scale, from the miniature to the monumental; his alternation between compositional and improvisational methods; his more recent use of the painted space itself as a studio, a site for trying out formal and conceptual alternatives, and even for questioning abstraction. It invited viewers into the universe of Shreshtha’s intellectual and cultural references, as well as into the vibrant milieu of Mumbai artists and writers that he has inhabited.
Born in Siraha, Nepal, in 1939, Laxman Shreshtha was educated at the University of Bihar, Patna; the Sir J J School of Art, Mumbai; the Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux Arts, Paris; and the Central School of Art, London. In the Parisian tradition of the atelier, he also studied at the Academie de la Grande Chaumiere and with the legendary print-maker Stanley William Hayter at Atelier 17.
Shreshtha has held numerous solo exhibitions of his works since the early 1960s, and has also been represented in major curated exhibitions in India and overseas. Shreshtha has been the recipient of many awards, fellowships and honours, including the French Government Scholarship, the British Council Grant, and the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD, Germany) residency.
Shreshtha started his career as a figurative artist but gradually moved onto abstract works. His journey, from being a member of an aristocratic family in Nepal, to a struggling art student on the brink of starvation, made him embark on a spiritual quest, which has been reflected in his work. He looked for answers to his early existentialist dilemmas in books on Western philosophy. Later, he turned to the Upanishads and to Buddhism and his paintings reflect these experiences. These abstract works are greatly inspired by landscapes, sometimes echoing the mountain peaks of his native home Nepal, the pristine white light of rarefied heights sears through the dense opacity of colour creating dazzling effects. His desire for capturing the expanse of the Himalayas made him create his large-scape works. His works are both sensuous and meditative in their shifts and balances of colour. There is an intermingling of vivid browns, yellows, reds, oranges and blues. He is greatly inspired by Jazz and classical music, and listens to it while he paints.
Until the 1980s, he was extremely social, but now turned into a recluse. He lives and works in Mumbai.