Sundaram was born in Simla in 1943. He studied painting at the Faculty of Fine Arts,
Baroda (BA Fine, 1965) and at the Slade School, London (Post-Diploma, 1968, on a
Commonwealth Scholarship). In London he had the opportunity to meet and learn from R.B.
Kitaj. He held his first solo exhibition in New Delhi in 1966 and has had numerous solo
exhibitions in New Delhi, Baroda, Bombay, Calcutta, Bangalore, Madras, London, Montreal,
Winnipeg and Vancouver Important group shows include Group Exhibition, New Delhi (1 974),
Pictorial Space, New Delhi (1 977), Six who declined to show in the Triennale, New Delhi
(1 978), Place for People, Bombay (1 98 1), Contemporary Indian Art, Festival of India,
London (1982), the Second and Fourth Biennale, Havana (1987 and 199 1), A Critical
Difference: Contemporary Art from India, UK (1 993), Rivers cape, Four International
Artist Residencies, Cleveland, UK (1 993), the Second Asia-Pacific Triennale of
Contemporary Art, Brisbane (1996).
Sundaram is an artist who has been consistent in his pursuit of a
politically honed art. Some of his early work from the 1970s, such as the series The
Heights of Macchu Picchu, The Discreet Chann of the Bourgeoisie and The Indian Emergency
give voice to a constantly reactive subjectivity. During the early 1970s, he was actively
involved with the student movement, and worked with activists. This activism later
manifested in his involvement with the work of the Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust (Sahmat),
of which he is a founder member and trustee. A keen organizer, he initiated the Kasauli
Art Centre in 1976, which has hosted numerous national and international ~ts workshops and
Sundaram's major output of paintings through the 1980s marks his
involvement with a historically conscious figuration. One of the interesting dimensions of
his work is the excavation of the historical through the painting. Often the historical
also manifests as the personal in a situation of asserting a Third World identity and a
position of solidarity with the exploited and the working classes. Sundaram's political
consciousness has always seized upon the topical, upon the question that needs to be
asked. The Gulf War of 1991 occasioned a series of works in engine oil and charcoal
on paper. Though the use of unconventional media is not new to Sundaram, this series may
be seen as being special in the move towards a more conceptually-oriented practice, that
from then onwards, operates increasingly in three, and then four dimensions. In thematic
terms, Sundaram's recent work remains concerned with social and environmental protest, and
with an 'archaeology' of the recent past. In terms of practice, his interests in the
appositional interventions of Dada and Surrealism. a well as such tendencies as Fluxus has
led him to constantly reinterpret the role of the artist and the values of authorship and
creativity, giving his recent work a strong conceptual content. Several of his recent
projects involving the use of photographs, found objects, video and three-dimensional
constructs in a variety of materials, are expressly collaborative. His role here becomes
that of the arranger, the conductor, a curator in a quasi-archaeological dig that probes
identities in the contemporary international context. Some of his recent exhibitions have
had the appearance of meticulously presented mini-museums, each one geared to the
expression of a set of conceptual meanings that are coded into every detail of the
Vivan Sundaram lives and works in New Delhi, where he is a Visiting
Professor at the Jamia Milia Islamia University.
Gateway from Memorial Exhibition
Tin Trunk, Neon Light, Enamel Paint
91" x 86" x 33"
House from House/Boat installation, Montreal.
handmade paper, Steel, Glass Video
78" x 78" x 78"
The table is laid.
Wood, Glass Bowl, Milk, Straw Matting, Earthenware with curd, leaf plates with rice.
78" x 156" x 78"