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A look at what's hot in India's booming art scene

AS a boy, Om Soorya took charcoal from the family oven and drew pictures inspired by Hindu gods, film stars and comics. Today he's a star in India's booming art scene, writes Sam Riley

Indian artist Om Soorya enjoyed a meteoric rise to become one of the hottest stars of India's booming contemporary art scene, but his beginnings were humble.

Soorya began drawing in a village in the southwestern Indian state of Kerala. He drew in the backyard using natural charcoal from the family's wood-burning oven.

"As a child, I was not aware of being an artist, I just drew pictures like any other child," he says.

"It was mostly influenced by the calendar pictures of gods, popular film stars and comic illustrations."

An exhibition of his works, "Grass Hope," is underway at the Galleria dell'Arco in M50 (50 Morganshan Road), an art hub.

The exhibition is part of an artist-in-residence program run by the Galleria dell'Arco galleries in China and Italy. Each year two foreign artists study in Shanghai. In exchange, two Chinese artists will be hosted at the Italian gallery, each putting on an exhibition of works they completed during their stay.

Soorya spent one month in Shanghai and the exhibition features both works he completed in China and pieces he did while living in the Hyderabad, the capital of the central Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.

Many works were inspired by the challenges of the rapid urbanization and development he witnessed during his six years in Hyderabad.

The exhibition's title, "Grass Hope," reflects some of these issues.

"Grass is a symbol of greenery or nature and hope stands for optimism," says Soorya. "I chose the title because these are the two things we are missing today."

Sooyra has been active on the international art scene for the last two years and was recently honored as the emerging artist of the year by the Foundation for Indian Contemporary Art.

In 2007, he presented a solo show "Random Mirrors" at New York's The Guild Art Gallery and took part in group exhibition, "Recent Works" in New Delhi. In 2008 he was part of Galleria dell'Arco's group show "Effetto Stalker" at its Italian gallery.

Sooyra says the Indian contemporary art scene has gone through an unprecedented boom, on the back of strong international interest in Indian visual art.

While this has meant young artists can more easily gain financial support from galleries, it has also led to the commercialization of some aspects of the art scene, says Sooyra.

The Indian art market has been at its peak in the last few years and every artist could make a living, he says.

"This has had a major impact in creative productivity and this has produced both positive and negative. Most of the art students get placements in good galleries, which can boost their careers, but we cannot look at the market and work toward that. Everywhere you find such market-focused people, not only in art."

"Grass Hope" exhibition

Date: through April 15, 10am-6pm

Venue: Galleria dell'Arco, 2/F, Bldg 1, 50 Moganshan Rd

Tel: 5252-7164

For more information, email


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