In Memoriam: The art luminaries we lost this year #ArtWorld2021

Home » In Memoriam: The art luminaries we lost this year #ArtWorld2021

The year 2021 was full of both challenges and epiphanies, and also a time of crisis that united the entire planet. In such a phase, even as humanity shone through in new beginnings, society also faced the shadow of losing a number of incredibly talented luminaries, as is the balance of life. The world of art was not far behind. In India, several stalwarts from the art sector breathed their last, but they all left legacies that are indelible and continue to uplift the soul in this realm. Abir Pothi remembers them all fondly, and pays tribute once again, in memoriam.

Laxman Pai (January 21, 1926 — March 14, 2021)

The grand old man of Goan art, Padma Bhushan awardee Laxman Pai was not just an artist, but also influenced and shaped many people as a teacher. Pai was inspired by Indian miniatures from 1947 to 1950 and painted Goan subjects in that idiom. The body of work that he has left behind makes us a richer culture.

Read our tribute to him here.


Rajen Chaudhari (February 24, 1931 — March 16, 2021)

Poignantly, Rajen had once professed: “Art is a journey of which you don’t know the end. But my process is for me, not others. I do my work because I love doing it.” For decades, Rajen had been a powerhouse for preserving the dwindled art of hand spinning and hand weaving, keeping it alive and vibrant with his sheer will and effortlessly natural skill. Living in Gujarat, he had become an epicenter of sorts for carrying on a well-beloved piece of Gandhian heritage that had transformed the Indian Freedom Struggle.

Read our tribute to him here.


Yogesh Rawal (1954 — April 16, 2021)

Experimental artist Yogesh Rawal was an eminent pioneer of styles in collage, sculpture, print and painting. It is in Bhopal that one of the artist’s most larger-than-life works was executed: A stunning paper collage recreation of the magnificent gates of Sanchi Stupa at the doorway of the Madhya Pradesh Vidhan Sabha, made in poured concerete covered with layer after layer of coloured tissue and kite paper lacquered — a glowing, fiery flow of colour and texture, making for a grand installation.

Read our tribute to him here.


JMS Mani (1949 — June 2, 2021)

When one speaks of JMS Mani, as artist JM Subramani is popularly known, the most instinctive evocation is of his colourful Badami paintings. But while Badami may be his most famous and well-sold body of work, there is much, much more to the Kannada artist, as numerous art aficionados, his peers and students would testify about his legacy. Mani worked with nature-based abstraction and created several archetypes of mountains, trees, monuments, and Hampi’s landscapes; his other well-known series, ‘Mother and Child’, explored a fresh dimension for the artist.

Read our tribute to him here.


S Elayaraja (April 19, 1979 — June 7, 2021)

The stunning paintings of artist Elayaraja Swaminathan, popularly known as S Elayaraja, were well-known for their almost superhuman attention to detail and vivid celebration of the Tamil culture. He entered the world of professional art in early 2009, and immediately, his portraits of ‘Dravidian women’ — with elements of traditional household things (mud pots, mud stoves) and typical South Indian cultural attire such as the ‘dhavani’ (part of the traditional half sari), bangles, etc. — won plaudits and appealed to hearts beyond the South.

Read our tribute to him here.


Rini Dhumal (1948 — September 8, 2021)

Harmoniously straddling the dichotomies of the familiar and the phantasmagorical, Dhumal’s artworks are redolent of earthiness, and like fables unto themselves. And yet, while drawing inspiration from the intangible, Dhumal’s art also rooted for real issues. Over the years, her oeuvre rallied for many a cause, from breast cancer to environmental conservation. The protagonists of her art were usually vibrating with feminine energy, and with age, her art had become even more contemplative, portraying a deep serenity. Her insatiable quest to grow her mastery of the visual language and nurture the philosophy that manifested into her art did not cease till the very end.

Read our tribute to her here, and her interview with us here.


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