Back to all artists
Next Previous

N S Harsha

Indian Contemporary Artist
Born 1969, Mysore, Karnataka, India
Lives and works in Mysore, Karnataka, India

NS Harsha revived the miniature tradition of courtly and popular Indian paintings, and fuses contemporary concerns as content with the traditional forms of art. Known widely for his socially motivated art and community projects he is the third Arts Mundi awardee, who has elevated India to the global art scene.



Master of Fine Arts (Painting), Faculty of Fine Arts, Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda


Bachelor of Fine Arts (Painting), Chamarajendra Academy of Visual Arts (CAVA), Mysore

VIEW     Selected exhibitions     Text      Videos      Awards      Selected images      View all




Gallery Show Solo


Countries exhibited in


Museum Show Solo


International / national residencies


Years in Practice




Special Projects




Museum/public collections


Museum Show Group






Gallery Show Group


Art Fairs


NS Harsha's work is a product of his formative years

NS Harsha, Untitled, 2009, acrylic on linen, 182.9 x 365.8 cm 

NS Harsha reworks the tradition of miniature painting

NS Harsha’s phenomenal contribution to the world of contemporary art lies in his revival of the traditional Indian miniature painting tradition, especially of the medieval age found in Mughal, Rajput, Deccani and Pahari courts. He has spoken of his art as "a way in which to portray large crowds or gatherings and their collective absurd acts." He believes in depicting vast, flat fields of space populated by dozens of highly individuated, colourful figures.

In addition to his visually rich acrylic paintings, Harsha works in sculpture, community-based collaborations, and site-specific installations that are often political. In Cosmic Orphans (2006), he painted a crowd of sleeping pilgrims, guards, workers, and children atop the roof of the Sri Krishna Temple in Singapore.

NS Harsha, Mass Marriage, 2003, acrylic on canvas, 168 x 290 cm 

He incorporates social consciousness in his work

Although NS Harsha makes use of the miniature tradition, he does not restrict his subject matter to religious, mythological, literary or courtly subjects. His works are a sharp commentary on the skewed nature of development, pitfalls of globalisation, and the monopoly position of powerful nations even in international peace keeping bodies. His dark pigments help to highlight the contrast in the living conditions of the people affected by the differential treatment of them by the economic forces of liberalisation and global capitalism. The figures in his paintings emerge as levitating in mid air, harking back to the lila scenes of the miniatures depicting the Radha-Krishna myths, making the image appear as a romantic story spun out of the banality of lower middle class existence.

NS Harsha, Dhobi Ghat, 2010, acrylic and gold leaf on canvas, 182.88 x 182.88 cms

He experiments with space and materials both

In an interview, N S Harsha said, “I have worked on community art projects for the last 10 years in several different countries. It has been a rich learning process for me. It has enriched my understanding of different cultural practices as well as the new challenges we are facing as a global community.”

He loves to experiment with materials depending on the situation and the work; he also uses many other objects, including found objects, wood, mud, powders, photography and rice. This interaction with materials is not just about experimentation, but rather part of how he uses space and place.

His work like Cosmic Orphans (2006), a site-specific painting installation was created at the Sri Krishnan Temple for the Singapore Biennale. Here the artist “covered the entire surface of the rooftop above the inner sanctum and the floor surrounding the temple's tower with paintings of sleeping figures. Painted directly onto the floor using flat colours, the figures occupy a space not normally associated with traditional painting - their displacement provoking the audience to consider what is permitted and forbidden in relation to where they tread in the temple.”


NS Harsha, Cosmic Orphans, 2006, emulsion wall paint

NS Harsha, Ambitions and Dreams, 2005, cloth pasted on rock

His works are those of satire

Not only are Harsha’s paintings a direct social commentary on economic disparities and social injustices, but are often extremely edgy, witty, and evoke laughter. The multitude of figures are all animated in unison and focused on an incongruous or comically strange event. Or they are animated by some mutual curiosity. Harsha’s paintings wittily combine rites and rituals common to Indian life with images drawn from world news. This tendency is most poignantly evident in Smoke Goes Up Smoke Goes Down Your Search For Me Is Always On, part of a cycle of twelve paintings made between 2004 and 2006.

Ultimately Harsha’s works are a sensitive and empathetic depiction of the human condition alluding to the convergence of local and global concerns, refracted through satire.

NS Harsha, Harsha Circus Study 2, watercolour on paper, 16.5 x 12"