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Amrita Sher-Gil

This video brought to you by Tate.org.uk

With a Hungarian mother, Sikh father, and an international education spanning Budapest and Paris, artist Amrita Sher-Gil (1913-1941) has been called India's Frida Kahlo. Sher-Gil was just 28 when she died but was already recognised as one of India's most important artists. In this film her nephew Vivan Sundaram, an artist in his own right, talks about her legacy and the international scope of her influences.
Created by Tate.

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Video transcript

Amrita sure Gil is regarded as one of India's finest artists during her very short life she could used a body of work that explores both eastern and western traditions the exhibition at tate modern also features work by her nephew the van Sundaram who has created a series of digital photo montages drawn from the sure Gil family photo album namitha Sharon is of mixed parentage mother's Hungarian a father seek born in 1913 and in fact died when she was just 28 years old and of those 28 years she spent more or less half of it in Europe and half of it in India and her training was in in Paris and so therefore there is the very strong influence of a school of Paris of the 30s but she imbibed very much of a kind of modernism which was not the avant-garde kind but a kind of realism that was being evolved between that period of the two was and in a sense that informed some of her perspectives on the human figure this painting she is done when she is in Paris and it's remarkable because although it's a new study the way that she's kind of given it a kind of dynamism and an energy to it so it's very much about desire but it's also structured in a way that is is very you know evocative and and and complex and the fact that it's this top view and this very strong diagonal you know gives this aspect of what is sleep a kind of you know a very quiet sort of energy and in one sense this informs a lot of her work because the work is really very much about posing about stillness there is a tendency in Indian writing on her to say she abandoned everything from the west and started becoming Indian but that's not not correct because she's constantly because first where she's working with oil painting and she understands materiality this paintings done in Budapest in 1938-39 when she went back to marry her first cousin and for me it's a remarkable painting because it it sort of brings the various aspects of herself and and her a kind of personality that's working these these opposites also the fact that she did not foreground very much the relationship of women in a very overt sense but that this fainting and then if you read back to other paintings does speak about how a woman represents a woman and how a woman is able to also represent a relationship so it works in one sense you know in a kind of social sense if you take it is like is the marriage between you know the European and the ndm the Indian the dark the other but have been interested in bringing into my artwork the photograph I have done works which are photography based but a lot of them are to do with already found in existing material but once I got into the digital format it allowed me to actually sort of take the family photograph which index Utley has no narrative element it is just documenting a moment to be able to transform these into various levels of of relationships that say most dominant of course is father-daughter relationship but it's about east and west it's what identity it's about modernity in each of these photographs that I am able to kind of create a kind of complex mood and narrative and the one at the at the very end the long one which is the most complex I have you know the sort of double portrait of Amrita's as European in Indian I have the mother looking at herself and I'm seated on my grandfather's lap further with the camera and so in a sense as if I'm taking this photograph