Anjolie Ela Menon, New Paintings: Grosvenor Vadehra

7 - 27 June 2013


Press Release


Grosvenor Vadehra is pleased to announce a solo exhibition of recent paintings by Anjolie Ela Menon. The exhibition will run from 7 - 27 June and will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue.


Anjolie Ela Menon is among India's leading contemporary artists, and has created a name for herself in the domestic as well as international art scene. Her works are a part of significant museum, private and corporate collections across the globe. Though Menon normally prefers to work with oil on masonite, she has also experimented with other media such as glass, acrylic, computers, ceramics and painted junk. Born in 1940 in West Bengal, she pursued her studies at Sir JJ School of Art, Mumbai, and then went on to obtain a degree in English Literature from Delhi University. During this phase, she was influenced by the works of artists like Modigliani and Indian painters like Amrita Shergil and MF Husain. At the age of 18 Anjolie Ela Menon showcased her works in much acclaimed solo exhibitions in Delhi and Mumbai.


The French government offered her a scholarship to study at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, where she studied Fresco. Menon utilized this time to travel extensively in Europe and West Asia studying Romanesque and Byzantine art before returning home. After her marriage, Menon lived and worked in India, the USSR, the US and Germany. The trajectory of Menon's career soared steadily upwards in the years to come. Her first solo exhibition was held at 71 Lodhi Estate in 1958 for which the invitation was designed by MF Husain.


Desolation is a quality that is palpable in many of Menon's paintings and again, one may infer that a sense of loss imbues some of her work a certain profundity. Menon evokes that which is hinted at but not quite visually stated even as the unsung ode wafts across disturbing landscapes. While the window, the crow or the chair recurred through the 1980s, slowly allegory gave way to more direct engagements with subjects close to the artist. Her marriage into a Kerala family and the discovery of a stack of Daguerro-type early photographs in her husband's ancestral home in Kerala seem to have inspired a series of paintings. South Indian ancestors and young ascetic poojaris and acolytes drawn from the cultural backdrop of the south appear in sepia tones in her paintings of that period, and in a few portraits in this show.


The small miniatures in this show are the result of the period of experimentation that began in 1992. Menon's conviction and courage in leaving the safety of her preferred medium - oil on masonite - was fraught with considerable uncertainty. In an ongoing engagement with Kitsch, Bollywood posters and street art, Menon imparts objects appropriated from so called "low art" with an aesthetic identity and autonomy. In her inimitably impish manner, Menon coalesces the traditional and post modern with rare panache creating a pastiche with collage and paint. Underlying the slick surfaces of the totally new compu-pictures are echoes of the artist's earlier work, reinforcing those elements that have been associated with the Menon idiom while achieving a new visual language of intriguing complexity.


Her works are regularly sold at all global auctions including Sotheby's and Christies and have been acquired by several museums in India and abroad including the National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi; Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi, Benjamin Gray Museum, Peabody Essex Museum, Asian Art Museum, San Francisco; and Fukuoka Museum, Japan. Every important corporate collection in India hangs her work including Tatas, Birlas, Larsen and Toubro, TIFR, Shah House, Shell, Reliance, ITC, Times House, Hindustan Times and many others. Anjolie has represented India at the Algiers Biennale, the Sao Paulo Biennale, and three Triennales in India. She has participated in several group shows in India and abroad including.


She has a 'Buddha' mural in the Prime Minister's reception lounge at the Indira Gandhi International Airport and several other murals in public spaces such as the Esplanade Metro Station, Kolkata, Mumbai International Airport and many five star hotels. Menon is also a social activist, who supports the education of disadvantaged children. Based on her life and work, a book "Anjolie Ela Menon: Paintings in Private Collections" has been published and several films have been made on her by Doordarshan and CNN. She has been honoured with the Padma Shri, one of the highest civilian awards in India. She is married to strategic analyst and writer Admiral Raja Menon. They have two sons and four grandchildren.