Thursday, February 19, 2009

Indian Summer blooms

From my blog at


I feel a desperate need to slough off the English winter and replace it with an Indian summer (or at least a Delhi spring). Sadly, I won't be gracing the duty-free shops of Mumbai airport or practising my practical Hindi ('How do you keep your economy so buoyant?') but I will be attending a season of exhibitions and events at the British Museum.

No-one would try to claim that the BM is now only known for the Elgin Marbles and the Sutton Hoo burial: it has made strides far beyond this with blockbuster terracotta warrior and Hadrian exhibitions, and now it has moved into Babylon and thence Iran. Judging by this vaguely eastward movement, it's time to hit India in a season sponsored by HSBC.

Of equal interest to fans of Gertrude Jekyll and the history of art, Garden and Cosmos: the Royal Paintings of Jodhpur will explore a relatively unknown facet of Indian art: the landscape. These paintings are in some ways exactly what you would expect, bright and vibrant portrayals of a world away from Constable.

What lifts them above the mere landscape (take that, Constable) is the metaphysical dimensions they tackle. The paintings move into exploring planes and colour fields, more like Rothko than Rajasthan.

There will also be, thanks to the kind curators of Kew, an Indian garden installed in the Museum's forecourt. Theory and practice, you see. And if Indian trees can't ward off the rain and coax out the sun, then there's really no hope for us. Step inside instead.

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