Jagdish Swaminathan made his presence felt in the Capital's art world in the'50s
and'60s mainly as an art critic and theoretician of art. Born in Simla in 1929,
Swaminathan in his early days joined the Communist Party of India and worked as a
journalist and art critic for Left magazines for about a decade till the mid '50s. He had
brief spells of art education at the Delhi Polytechnic and in Warsaw, Poland, and in the
late 50's he decided to become a full-tirne artist. In August 1962, Swaminathan and some
other artist founded the Group 1890, the mystifying number being the house number of
Jayant and Jyoti Pandya at Bhavnagar. The manifesto of the Group 1890, evidently written
by Swaminathan, was an attack on 'vulgar naturalism, 'pastoral idealism of the Bengal
School, and against the imposition of 'hybrid mannerism' of European modernism. The
manifesto urged the creative artists to see phenomena in their virginal state'. The Group
had its first and last show in 1963. However, his perception of this virginal state of
phenomena he tried out in his paintings, creating an alternative pictorial space in
dividing purely conceptual landscapes in bright colour fields on which appeared mountains,
stretches of water trees, diagonally levitating stones with an' archetypal bird form.
Painted with captivating simplicity his paintings explored the pictorial possibilities of
his limited imagery which were emblematic of elements necessary for man's survival on
earth and interpretatively the numerous permutations and combinations of the imagery and
bright colours suggested the ascent of man's inner being leaving the gross and the
sullied. In his paintings of the '90's, Swaminathan broke away from his earlier well
ordered colour-geometry and brush paintings, going back to retrieve the pristine freshness
of symbols as used in the tribal air applying the pigments with his fingers.
In 1966, he published the monthly magazine, Contra in collaboration with
the famous Mexican poet and ambassador m India Octavio Paz challenging the prevailing
views of modernity through polemical articles on art and aesthetics. In 1968 he was
awarded the Nehru Fellowship to work on a project titled The Significance of the
Traditional Numen in Contemporary Art. He was a member of the International Jury of the
Sao Paolo Biennale and served on the board of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations.
He was also a trustee of the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, and in 198 1, the
Government of Madhya Pradesh invited him to set up the art museum Roopanker at Bharat
Bhavan, Bhopal. As the Director of Roopankar, Swaminathan served till 1990. He held about
thirty one- man shows and participated in many national and international exhibitions.
Swaminathan died in 1994.
Jagdish Mountain, Bird and Tree Series
Oil on canvas
40.2" x 48"
Jagdish Journey - IOil on canvas
47.4" x 41.5"
Jagdish UntitledOil on canvas
46" x 68"
Jagdish UntitledMixed media on canvas
45" x 63"