Kishore Singh raises a fascinating question about the expatriate Indian Modern Masters and their turn toward abstraction to find a relevant visual language in a world that lacked access to their cultural and religious referants:
How did they manage this? By changing from a figurative genre to another where absolute distortion was key to their practice. Many of these artists preferred to express themselves as abstractionists. This elimination of cultural reference gave them a chance of being able to express themselves. The prime instance among these is of S H Raza who made his home in France for six decades. An impressionistic landscape painter, he turned to abstraction following Mark Rothko’s diktat of a gestural style, before switching to geometric abstraction coincidentally at a time when interest in Indian modern art began to grow.
Raza might be among the country’s better known artists, but a number of others who lived abroad have similar stories to share. Among these is Ambadas, one of India’s finest abstractionists who chose to give up India for Norway. At first sight, there is little that is ‘Indian’ about his abstract paintings, till one sees a seething mass of brushstrokes and a warm palette at odds with the cold weather and sterile atmosphere of his chosen habitat. In an interview a few years back, Ambadas confessed to missing the country of his birth, its sounds and smells – and food. Sohan Qadri took up residence in Copenhagen, a cultural cul-de-sac for an artist from the subcontinent, where he was a yoga teacher, and an artist whose brilliantly coloured works were evocative of his homeland. V Viswanadhan, in Paris, arrived at a abstract formulae before Raza did, and in London, S K Bakre found buyers for his works among the local population.
Away from the homeland (Business Standard News)