Exhibition traces Piraji Sagara’s 40-year journey as an artist

A rare ongoing exhibition of fifteen works by late artist Piraji Sagara traces his development from the mid-1950s to the early 1990s.

Offering insights into a unique facet of post-Independence Indian abstraction, the works on display also demonstrate the slow shaping of Sagara’s artistic integrity, the maturing of his skill, and the vibrancy of his themes. The exhibition is on till December 22 at Akara Art Gallery. It offers a fresh perspective into a relatively unseen trajectory of Indian abstract painting and highlights Sagara’s significant contributions to the contemporary language of Indian art.

Born in Ahmedabad in 1931, Piraji Sagara received both his masters in drawing 1957 and his art masters from the JJ School of Art Bombay in 1960. Exhibited globally in the 1970s and 1980s, Sagara featured at the 1971 Sao Paulo Biennale, alongside shows in Europe and Japan. He is known for his organic, textural works that incorporate collage, wood relief, and visually dramatic sculptural surfaces featuring fragments of metal, glass-beads, embroidery, and paint on blow-torched, burnt and carved wooden boards.

Working in the late 1950s when Indian modernist painters were still discovering their own distinct voices in the context of a new, transforming country that was shedding its colonial skin, Sagara differed distinctly from his contemporaries. Whilst contemporaries Jyoti Bhatt and Raghav Kaneria documented the changing landscape of Gujarat and rural India through photography, Sagara, appropriated and redefined the visual language of folk culture. His work incorporates deliberate and carefully considered materials, including watercolour, pastel, relief work, ornamental scraps, glass bead fragments, metal and wood, playing with the abstract, whilst conveying a distinct cultural subtext.

Piraji Sagara remains significant in the context of Indian modernism, unlike his contemporaries, his materials and technique are not visual stimulants nor a means to reveal image through process, but instead important artistic metaphors communicating the travails of a dissipating culture.

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