Avinash Chandra's (1931-91) signature use of bold color and curvaceous form merges a sophisticated understanding of line with capricious and imaginative compositions. One of the most celebrated Indian Modernists during his lifetime, Chandra's art-world accolades began early in his career when he became the first painter to sell a work of art to the then newly-opened Museum of Modern Art, New Delhi. At the precocious age of 21, he was the youngest artist to be granted a solo show by the lauded Bombay Progressives Artists Group and was awarded top prize in the first National Exhibition of Indian Art at the Lalit Kala Akademi in 1955. Graduating from the art department at Delhi Polytechnique in 1952, Chandra felt that the pressure to paint in a "European style" preached by his art school professors, stifled his creativity and he moved to London in 1956 looking for stylistic emancipation. "In those days," said Chandra, "it was never fashionable to indulge in or appreciate Indian Art and perhaps as a result some Indian painters still bear a grudge because of it. So be it." (Avinash Chandra, Exhibition Catalogue, Rose Fried Gallery, New York, 22 October - 20 November 1968).
Changing his artistic style from structured cubistic compositions and naturalistic landscapes to looser, more whimsical displays of color, line and figuration, Chandra began to attract considerable attention in the British art scene. The artist comments that "Mine was an upbringing that taught me to think in straight lines but, perversely, I had to think in circles." Chandra's stylistic musings abruptly came together in November of 1958. The artist recollects that "As I painted I found shapes thrusting upwards like plants or mushrooms, shapes that virtually exploded into life. This convulsive moment stimulated and excited me, and more drawings and paintings magically materialized." (Avinash Chandra, Exhibition Catalogue, Rose Fried Gallery, New York, 22 Ocotber - 20 November 1968, not paginated). This new period in Chandra's work catapulted him into the art market, securing him international exhibitions and New York gallery representation. Chandra has often suggested that his discovery of new forms brought him back to the scenery of his native India, allowing him to reinterpret the architecture and landscape of London. According to Chandra, "English churches and their gothic spires reminded me of Hindu temples of the type you find at Khajuraho in central India." Noted poet and writer W. G. Archer was one of Chandra's most ardent supporters during this time and describes this tumultuous and prolific period in Chandra's painting. He "will go on to paint trees and buildings but they are no longer just trees and buildings, they are spirits of modern India, with an ardent life of their own, they express his exuberance and vitality, the experience of the artist himself: a Chandra who left India in order to be himself, who in the past four years has found that self to be more Indian than he knew."
This work, completed in 1969, truly embodies the saturated palette, ethos and ebullient energy of the West during the late 1960s. Epitomizing Chandra's characteristic liveliness and dynamism, the work possesses a sexual virility and joie de vivre executed in a scale that makes this work truly a masterpiece within the artists oeuvre.
The subject of his own 1962 BBC documentary entitled "Art of Avinash Chandra," part of the BBC's legendary Monitor 101 series, he also became the first Indian-British artist to be featured at the Tate Gallery, London in 1965. Taking the female form as his source of inspiration, Chandra's works, which often border on the erotic, seamlessly meld the sensuality of the female form with other poetic imagery.
Milton Schwartz, famed inventor of computerized typeset, and founder of the company Alpha Numeric, was one of Chandra's closest friends and prime benefactors for over 30 years. Schwartz, who's patronage began by buying paintings for the price of a months rent, provided both friendship and studio space for the struggling artist. Also a painter, Schwartz and Chandra spent countless evenings in London, Amsterdam, New York and Florida, doing what they love most talking, painting and working on etchings.