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 N. S. Harsha  (1969 - )

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Lived/Active: India      Known for: painting

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
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His work has shown in solo exhibitions at the Institute of International Visual Arts in London and at the Maison Hermes, in Tokyo. In group exhibitions, his paintings have appeared at the Asian Art Museum, in San Francisco; the Centre Georges Pompidou, in Paris; the Sao Paulo Biennial, in Brazil; the Sharjah Biennial, the Chicago Cultural Center, Tokyo’s Mori Art Museum, the Centre of International Modern Art, in New Delhi, and many others. Among his awards and residencies he received the DAAD Residency Award in Berlin, in 2012, and a Visiting Artist residency at the Ecole Des Beaux-Arts, in Paris. In 2008, he was awarded the prestigious Artes Mundi International Visual Arts prize, in Cardiff, Britain’s largest art prize. Born in Mysore, India, Harsha earned his M.F.A. at the Faculty of Fine Arts in Baroda. The artist still lives and works in Mysore.
Christie's, Mumbai

Biography from Saffronart:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

N.S. Harsha’s work demonstrates his unique artistic practice based on the manipulation of traditional Indian miniature painting, known for its intricate illuminations and delicate brushwork, into bold, even absurd images that reflect his narrative bent and strong political views.  The astuteness of Harsha’s work lies as much in the scale of his depictions as it does in the meticulous detail of his painting.  Recognized as an artist with many skills, Harsha’s body of work straddles a variety of genres and mediums.  His oeuvre includes large, detailed figurative paintings, miniature drawings, site-specific installations, community-based art as well as research projects. 

In his monumental, tapestry-like canvases, Harsha weaves detailed stories, skillfully depicting the daily goings-on of his own community alongside significant global events.  Almost always figurative, these large-format works are populated with people who seem to be focused on an ordinary event, an activity the viewer would not typically consider uncommon.  However, within these customary settings, the artist might discreetly point out something that is unusual, something comically strange.

N.S. Harsha draws from several Indian artistic traditions, ranging from Mughal and Pahari miniature painting and ancient frescoes to popular murals and wall paintings, to create detailed works on paper, large-format paintings and site-specific installations.  "Like other stalwarts of the Baroda School…Harsha embraces the modern Indian narrative enriched with popular art forms as a platform for a powerful social and political commentary.  As the miniature painting format has regularly been used to highlight social and political inequities, Harsha's reference to them represents an embrace of the tradition updated by his personal idiom to embody contemporary conditions" (Savita Apte and Rebecca Morrill, Indian Highway, Serpentine Gallery exhibition catalogue, London, 2008, p. 98).

A series of twelve canvases titled 'Charming Nation', was exhibited in the artist's first solo exhibition at Gallery Chemould, Mumbai.  In this series, painted during a period of frequent international travel for the artist, Harsha contemplates some of the unique features of life in India, communicating each with humor and a touch of irony.  As Grant Watson notes, these works present "…aspects of Indian national life, its peculiarities, its intractable problems, its strange conjunctions, its enchantment and its comedy like a series of instructive scenarios, lessons that must be learned, situations that must be understood and dealt with by the next generation of Indians" (Charming Nation, Gallery Chemould exhibition catalogue, 2006, p. 19).  The works in the series, present viewers with a spare brown room or cube, populated by a limited number of elements and characters, each minutely detailed in the artist's hallmark style, resembling a theatrical stage or diorama, complete with a painted backdrop, props and actors. 

Born in 1969, in Mysore, N.S. Harsha received his Master’s degree in painting from the Faculty of Fine Arts of M.S. University, Baroda in 1995.  He has taken part in numerous projects and exhibitions internationally including the Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Arts, Australia, in 1999; the Second Fukuoka Asia Art Triennial in 2002; the Singapore Biennale in 2006; and more recently, in 2008, he won the prestigious Artes Mundi Prize, awarded at the National Museum in Cardiff. N.S.  Harsha lives and works in Bangalore.

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