Master Sculptor, Painter Vivan Sundaram Passes Away
NEW DELHI – Vivan Sundaram, a pioneering multidisciplinary artist who often used his work, melding sculptures, photographs, videos, and paintings to reflect contemporary issues of the day died here on March 29. He was 79.
He had been ailing for the past few months and was being treated by doctors for several issues said, friends and family.
Sundaram, nephew to the legendary artist Amrita Sher-Gil, is survived by his wife, art historian-critic Geeta Kapur.
Born in Shimla in 1943 to Kalyan Sundaram, former chairman of Law Commission of India, and Indira Sher-Gil, sister of Amrita Sher-Gil, the Delhi-based artist studied painting at Baroda’s MS University and London’s The Slade School of Fine Art in the 1960s.
Sundaram was also active in the students’ movement of May 1968 in France. He later helped set up a commune in London where he lived till 1970.
On his return to India in 1971, he worked with artists’ and students’ groups to organize events and protests, especially during the Emergency years.
His oeuvre, which moved from painting during his college years to engaging with photographs, videos, and sculptural installation “has been widely considered crucial in the definition and development of installation as a practice in the country”, Vadehra Art Gallery said in a statement.
Sitaram Yechury, general secretary of CPI(M) and friend of Sundaram, wrote on Twitter that his “endearing gentle presence will be missed. Deeply grieved at the passing away of Vivan Sundaram, one of India’s foremost creative artistic personalities. A dear friend whose life & work never lost focus in championing people’s causes…,” he said.
Probir Gupta spoke of his experience and impact of Sundaram on him:
“’Collaboration’s Combine’ is the title of a work by American painter Robert Rauschenberg. My first experience and exposure to Vivan Sundaram’s thoroughly researched, and deeply rooted art practice was his solo at the Triveni Kala Sangam also titled ‘Collaboration’s Combine’ in the late eighties.
After a five-and-a-half-year stint in Paris, this was a landmark exhibition that I witnessed, and his line of thought till date continues to inspire me. Vivan’s ‘Collaboration’s Combine’ helped me identify and think and steered me towards a contemporary language rooted in the Indian subcontinent to talk about the global.
Much later I connected ‘Collaboration’s Combine’ with Joseph Boeuys saying an “artist is not a creator but a transporter”.
Vivan in many ways remains one of the main architects of today’s contemporary art practice in the Indian subcontinent. I am blessed by Vivan and Geeta Kapoor’s appreciation and affection… Vivan’s personal note to Roobina Karode, Director, and Curator at KNMA, on my large solo at Bikaner House in December 2019 said, “this is the best show of the decade”. Roobina was kind to forward it to me the very next day.
He had put his hand on my shoulder on the opening amid a large group of visitors and had said “you don’t know what you have done”.
It’s a sad day for the art world. My salute to this great man… Vivan, you will be missed.”