Everything we do is music

30 November 2017 – 4 March 2018

Private view Wednesday 29 November, 6-8.30pm, starting with a curators tour with Shanay Jhaveri.

  • View large image Musicians, 1999

    Mohan Samant, Musicians, 1999 Watercolour on paper, 55.9 x 76.2 cm. Private collection

  • View large image n/eighty five, 2016

    Prabhavathi Meppayil, n/eighty five, 2016 Drawing with thinnam on gesso panel, 60.9 cm x 60.9 cm Image courtesy the artist and Pace Gallery. Photography by Kerry Ryan McFate

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    Shahzia Sikander, Disruption as Rapture, 2016 HD video animation with 7.1 surround sound; Music by Du Yun featuring Ali Sethi; Commissioned by the Philadelphia Museum of Art duration: 10 minutes 7 seconds Courtesy the artist and Sean Kelly Gallery

  • View large image Kanku Raga, (still detail), 2007

    Hetain Patel, Kanku Raga, (still detail), 2007 Single channel video with sound Courtesy the artist and Chatterjee & Lal

  • View large image Untitled, 1992

    Francesco Clemente, Untitled, 1992 Watercolour on handmade paper, 22.2 x 23.7 cm Courtesy Blain Southern

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    Vidya Sagar, Untitled, 1992-1993 Graphite on Paper, 10. 22cm x 29.8cm Courtesy of Anjalika and Jyoti Sagar

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    Untitled, Undated Pastel and acrylic on paper 45.72 x 60.96 cm Courtesy the Estate of Lee Mullican and James Cohan, New York. Photo credit: Estate of Lee Mullican.

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    Dayanita Singh, Pages from Zakir Hussain maquette, 1986 Silver prints pasted onto art card 9x17 inches Courtesy the artist

A major new exhibition that explores how Indian classical music has inspired modern and contemporary artists.

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Everything we do is music, curated by Shanay Jhaveri, traces a long history, from early Indian miniature paintings (Ragamalas) through to drawings, animations and video works from the present day. Including works by pivotal Indian and Pakistani artists such as Nasreen Mohamedi and Lala Rukh, the exhibition features a number of works previously unseen in the UK. It presents newly commissioned pieces by Michael Müller and Sarnath Banerjee alongside works by contemporary artists such as Prabhavathi Meppayil, Shahzia Sikander and Dayanita Singh . The exhibition also explores the influence of Indian classical music on important American artists such as Lee Mullican and Marian Zazeela, and its wider influence on western popular and counterculture.

Whilst the range of approaches represented in the exhibition are diverse, drawing and mark making form the core of each artists’ response to music - journeying from the figurative and graphic to the abstract and performative.

In Everything we do is music, figurative approaches start with the miniature Indian paintings known as the Ragamalas (a genre emerging in the second half of the 15th century, in which an attempt is made to capture an associated mood or character of raga through a staged tableau). These continue with Mohan Samant’s vibrant drawings of musicians and Shahzia Sikander's animation Disruption as Rapture, whilst Sarnath Banerjee will make a new set of commissioned figurative drawings.

A more direct presentation of how artists respond to Indian classical music can be witnessed in new work by Michael Müller, made as he listens to Raga interpretations. The rhythm of the production is determined by the music itself and its relation to time, to structure and the sequence of the day. Another method is illustrated by Hetain Patel in his video Kanku Raga (2007), in which the artist assigns each stroke of the tabla drum to a different movement of marking or erasing Kanku pigment from the body. Performing each part, Patel highlights the idea of instilling cultural rhythm physically within the body through repetition.

The show will also include works that while definitively not notations of Indian classical music, evoke the improvisational tenets of the music as observed and felt in the drawings of Nasreen Mohamedi, Lala Rukh and the artisanal copper wire works of Prabhavathi Meppayil. Francesco Clemente will be represented by his ‘Evening Ragas’ series (1992) and Lee Mullican by abstract works on paper made in the late 1960s.

The impact of Indian classical music on a range of mid-century avant-garde American composers and underground art-makers will also be explored through the inclusion of concert posters by Marian Zazeela, for performances by the musician Pandit Pran Nath and the composer La Monte Young. Analogously, in 1971, the French artist Tania Mouraud created her Initiation Rooms, a series of white sensory-lit environments in which Pran Nath, Terry Riley, Young and Zazeela were invited to perform. Mourand believed that experiencing music performed in such an environment would create heightened self-awareness. These rooms will be represented in the show through drawings and models. Similar sensory explorations with Indian music preoccupied the Argentinian experimental filmmaker Claudio Caldini whose 1976 film Vadi-Samvadi will also be screened throughout the exhibition.

Everything we do is music is curated by Shanay Jhaveri, Assistant Curator, South Asia, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Recent exhibitions include Companionable Silences (Palais de Tokyo, Paris, 2013); and India: Visions from the Outside (Cultuurcentrum Brugge, Bruges, 2012).

Watch Shanay Jhaveri's Curator's View video here.

A series of music events will be programmed during the course of the exhibition. Please see our events page for information. An exhibition catalogue includes essays by Saira Ansari, an independent researcher and writer living in Dubai, UAE;  Shanay Jhaveri; and by Alexander Keefe, a writer living in Los Angeles, California, specialising in Sanskrit and Indian studies. It includes 25 full colour images, artist biographies and a bibliography.

We are grateful to the R and S Nanavati Charitable Trust No. 2, Saroj Jhaveri Foundation, for their generous support of the catalogue. With additional support from the Goethe-Institut London.