Ethonic Figures, 1967
Better known as an art critic and historian, Appasamy worked briefly as an artist, painting mostly landscapes. As chair of the arts organization Delhi Silpi Chakra (Delhi Sculptors’ Circle), she resisted contemporary efforts to create an Indian national art. She saw modernism as the confluence of a range of artistic traditions, not a novel form of expression, and rejected the common academic conception of it as a Western language. In Ethonic Figures she paints a landscape that might be anywhere, from any time. The monumental figures’ bodies are distilled to thickly outlined cylindrical and ovoid forms. They dominate the pastoral landscape of trees, earth, and sky, blurring the traditional figure/ground dichotomy. Leaving both faces and topography undefined, the artist leaves the scene open to multiple interpretations.
Born in Madras, Appasamy studied at the famed Santiniketan arts enclave established by the Tagore family at the turn of the century. In 1952, following a brief visit to China as a Government of India Scholar, she enrolled at Oberlin College in Ohio, where she studied the works of Abanindranath Tagore. In 1964 she became editor of Lalit Kala Contemporary, one of Delhi’s major art periodicals, and in 1977 she was appointed professor at Kala Bhavan, Santiniketan’s institute of art