Modern and Contemporary Art from India
February 25, 2011 through September 4, 2011, San Jose Museum of Art
  UNTITLED, 2004
33 x 27 inches
Reverse painting on Mylar film
Collection of Anita and Sridar Iyengar
Photo: Sakshi Gallery, Mumbai

K.G. Subramanyan
Born 1924, Kuthuparamba, Kerala, India
Lives and works in Vadodara (formerly Baroda), India

K.G. Subramanyan creates spontaneous, calligraphic paintings that synthesize the influence of European modernism, Indian mythology, and folk art. After studying at the art college of Kala Bhavana in Santinketan and the Slade School of Art in London, he served as an influential teacher at the School of Fine Arts, Maharaja Sayajirao University, in Baroda. In the 1970s, he began experimenting with reverse painting, an eighteenth-century craft tradition. Related to the glass painting tradition, the artist paints on a sheet of glass and reverses the glass to view the final image.

In Untitled (2004), Subramanyan composed twisted figures and distorted spatial relationships that call to mind the style of French artists Henri Matisse and Georges Braque. As noted by scholar Ranjit Hoskote: “The basic tension in Subramanyan's art is that between vulnerability and inviolability, secrecy and exposure: he mediates this through the constant opposition, in his tableaux, between dress and undress, face and mask, the clothed and the naked.”1 Subramanyan’s narratives balance morality and eroticism, public and private, wit and satire.

1 Ranjit Hoskote, “Entering Pictorial Space,” February 20, 2005,