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Exhibition recapitulates spiritual master Sohan Qadri's journey

Saturday September 03, 2011 05:38:48 PM, Madhusree Chatterjee, IANS

New Delhi: Sohan Qadri, one of the country's leading spiritual artists, believed that an artist had to see through the form to break its laws. A rare showcase of 70 of his abstract frames painted between 1960 to 2010 has opened here.

Qadri's abstract art was inspired by Kundalini Yoga, Rig Veda and Vajrayana Buddhist tantrism.

The first-ever exhibition covering 50 years of Qadri's life opened at the Visual Arts Gallery Sep 1. The week-long exhibition was inaugurated by Union Tourism Minister Subodh Kant Sahay.

Qadri, who died this year in March in Canada, had been working with Kumar's Gallery here since 1965 as an artist on roll.

Qadri played with his material, paper and canvas, the way a weaver spins his cloth. The artist managed to give a textile finish to his canvas and paper with the weft and the warp of a fabric, chaotic forms and dots or "moola beeja", the tantric symbol representing the source of energy.

Qadri's art has been a journey like his life which was spent mostly outside India.

The canvases on display are arranged in a loose chronological order of Qadri's evolution as an artist, reflecting his movements in mediums, forms, deconstruction and experiments with colours.

They begin with the impasto (thick coats of paints in solid patches) imprints on canvas and move on to paper to capture the canvas-like surfaces.

"His life as an artist is characterized in two important journeys. During 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, he painted on canvas. But he decided to move on in the late 1980s to paper - with the same phenomenal contours that he created on canvas. It continued till 2000," Sunil Kumar Jain of Kumar's Gallery told IANS.

Qadri brought the medium of oil on to paper.

"It was a difficult marriage of the two mediums. How can an artist who paints impasto abstractions in oil on canvas do the same with ease on paper - producing similar abstract forms," Jain said.

Two off-beat figurative compositions of a 'tabaliya' (tabla player) and that of a city of highrises throw rare insights into the play of figures in the abstractionist's life, who was obsessed with nebulous forms and sacred symbols.

Qadri's art assimilated from his travels around the world. He went in search of spiritual salvation to Tibet where he studied Vajrayana Buddhism.

Africa painted his spirituality in myriad shades of rites and rituals and Europe inspired him with its classical and neo-classical arts movements.

A brief tenure as a teacher at the Chandigarh University on his home turf helped Qadri master Indian traditional genres like miniatures, tantric mandalas and spiritual paintings.

Qadri eventually found a home in Denmark where he lived for nearly three decades.

He founded the free city of Christianna outside the Danish capital Copenhagen.

Failing health compelled him to relocate to Canada a few years ago.

"He painted till a year before his death. A pictorial biography of his life's works that we published to mark 60 years of his life as an artist reached Qadri before his death. His wife telephoned us from Canada and said 'Sohan says I now have my entire life's work in front of me and I can die happy...'," Jain recalled.

In a few months, he succumbed to his kidney illness at age 78.

In a tribute to Qadri in the biography, peer F.N. Souza said: "Sohan Qadri may be a guru, he may be a tantrik sage, he may be anything... to me he is an artist par excellence."

(Madhusree Chatterjee can be contacted at





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