Abirpothi

India’s only daily art newspaper

From Gujarat to New York and beyond, this abstract expressionist speaks the language of colour

April 7, On This Day 

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Born in a village in Gujarat today (April 7) in 1934, artist Natvar Bhavsar is today a well-known Indian-American abstract expressionist and color field artist, who has been based out of New York City for half a century. 

Today 88, Bhavsar had already attained prominence as an artist in India by the age of 19, working primarily in the Cubist vein. After moving to New York, he became influenced by the freedom of abstract painting. His works often feature a hazy object (absent of direct lines or geometric shapes) in the center of a solid canvas, that projects an astral-like mass of color. 

Bhavsar’s paintings appear in more than 800 private and public collections — prestigious ones lie the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney, Australia, the Library of Congress, NYU\’s Grey Art Gallery, and the Australian National Gallery. 

He primarily shows his work at the Sundaram Tagore Gallery in New York and the ACP Viviane Ehrli Gallery in Zurich, Switzerland, along with Pundole Art Gallery in Bombay, India. 

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He has also broken ground — in 2007, the Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University sponsored an exhibition of about 50 of Bhavsar’s works. It was the first US university to hold a one-man show of a South Asian artist. 

Speaking of inspirations and influences, Bhavsar says on his website: “[His artworks] evince influences from his childhood in India, surrounded by vivid textiles, practicing rangoli, and witnessing the Holi Festival, and adulthood in New York in the 1960s and ’70s, in a milieu that included fellow Abstract Expressionists like Barnett Newman, Mark Rothko, Clyfford Still, Ray Parker.” 

Typically, says Bhavsar, he “sifts powdered pigments onto canvas, allowing air currents and his own breath and body movements to determine where they fall, creating layered compositions”. 

It is reported that he employs some techniques from the Indian tradition of sand painting and paints in an improvisational manner, \”soaking the canvas with acrylic-based liquid binders that absorb and hold the fine pigment powder. He applies the base using a sifting technique with a screen, during which layers of fine, concentrated pigment are sprinkled and drizzled over the canvas (or paper), which is laid out on the floor so that the artist can walk around the painting and work on it from all sides\”.

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