In Dialogue: Amrita Sher-Gil and Lionel Wendt

16 Sep – 31 Oct 2014

Jhaveri Contemporary is pleased to present an exhibition, curated by Shanay Jhaveri, that pairs the Indo-Hungarian painter Amrita Sher-Gil  (1913-1941) with Ceylonese photographer Lionel Wendt (1900-1944). Both artists came from privileged backgrounds, were of mixed race, and led cosmopolitan lives. Beyond these biographical parallels, Sher-Gil’s prolific output of paintings and Wendt's extensive archive of photographs demonstrate similarities in subject matter. Yet their approaches are strikingly different. Sher-Gil returned to India in 1934 to create what is regarded as her most important suite of paintings. Wendt, who was a classically trained pianist in London, turned to photography only in the early 1930s in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). This correspondence in timelines allows a fruitful pairing.

Much of the work from this period for both artists was centered on the body, specifically the people of India and Sri Lanka. Their individual approaches in rendering or capturing these bodies is of particular interest. Aware of the international artistic currents of the time, together with a deep knowledge of the classical past, they integrated both past and present into their work. There is a dynamic interplay when both artists are presented side-by-side: their practices are uniquely important, central to the modernism of South Asia.

Wendt’s photographs have never been publicly displayed in India. Many of Sher-Gil’s paintings seen here are on loan from private collections and have never been exhibited. 'In Dialogue' juxtaposes, for the first time, Sher-Gil’s Indian paintings with Wendt’s photographs from Ceylon. This rare visual juxtaposition makes for a ‘conversation’ with many tonalities. Respecting this dialogue, the curatorial method adopted deliberately eschews a literalistic presentation. Instead, it pursues consideration of individual works, as well as the artistic lineages they collectively embody. The aim is to set the background, and the backdrop as it were, in and against which Amrita Sher-Gil and Lionel Wendt created their great art.