Remembering Jehangir Sabavala, the versatile nonconformist

In an exclusive conversation with The Morning Standard, Puneet Shah, Founder of Akara Art, and Curator of the show tells us more.

Connoisseurs of Jehangir Sabavala (1922-2011), will take delight that a new exhibition titled ‘Pilgrim Souls, Soaring Skies, Crystalline Seas’, stands true to its name as the showcased works contain all the signature details that the Parsi modernist came to be known for.

​It is organised by Mumbai’s Akara Art and is on view both online and in the gallery space. In an exclusive conversation with The Morning Standard, Puneet Shah, Founder of Akara Art, and Curator of the show tells us more.

What led you to curate this show?

As you may know our gallery has been an active host to well curated exhibitions of modern Indian art. The idea of the show came about as a fluid conversation with Shirin (Sabavala’s wife) and Afreed (Sabavala’s daughter) quite many years ago, when we moved into our new space at Churchill Chambers and I mentioned to them about having a show of Sabavala’s works at the gallery. This conversation took a serious turn in the lockdown, which gave us an opportunity to research on Sabavala’s practice and find his works in various private collections for the exhibition.

What particular aspects of his works drew your attention?

Sabavala didn’t want to be confined to a particular style of painting. He deviated from the classic Synthetic Cubism and developed an exclusive style of his own. The artistic development of Sabavala offers an insight into the steady transformation of art as a medium of self-expression and discovery and you find a confident Sabavala revisiting themes and subjects from earlier paintings all the time.

Could you talk about the legacy of the artist?

Jehangir Sabavala was one of India’s most desired artists who left a lasting mark on the art scene. India was in a transitional and testing time when Sabavala returned from Paris in 1951. He chose not to be associated with any one group or ideology, welcomed the versatility of all influences and built his own language which kept evolving. In his career of over 60 years, Sabavala was honoured with the Padma Shri (1977), and the Lalit Kala Ratna (2007).

Published on New India Express