Choosing art of the future Suneet Chopra The Financial Express Sunday , July 02, 2006
When we talk of the market, we are merely talking of signposts that give one an inkling of the art of the future, Today’s signposts are the Rs 1 crore-plus artists like MF Husain, SH Raza, FN Souza, VS Gaitonde, Tyeb Mehta and Akbar Padamsee. I have chosen this sequence of names primarily because they belong to the same trend and were members of the Bombay Group as well as of the Progressive Artists Group. The essence of their success was that they were “progressives.” That means they were committed to creating an art that represented a break with that of our colonial past or with revivalist art. They saw themselves as the path-breakers of the future and made common cause with other artists who were like-minded. But the Bombay Group based in Mumbai was not the only such group. There were progressive artists in Kolkata like Somnath Hore, Paritosh Sen, Nirode Majumdar and Rathin Moitra. In Tamil Nadu one had artists like KCS Panicker and Haridasan. In Srinagar too, SH Raza founded a group out of which the artist GR Santosh emerged. Not all of these artists command the market as the luminaries of the Bombay group do. Nor do all artists of the Bombay group command the same high prices. Both Ara and Bakre are examples of this. So, while being a “progressive” artist has its plus points, there is more to successful art than that. Artists who are original fare better than those who are not. So when a collector chooses a work of a particular artist, he or she must see if the work marks a break from the artist’s general body of work and not merely representative of it. It is this originality of approach that marks out artists like VS Gaitonde and Akbar Padamsee, especially the non-figurative works of both of them. In the same way, both Raza and Santosh evolved a break from our traditional “tantric” art and brought its symbolism forward in a modernist frame. Artists like Tyeb Mehta and FN Souza, apart from their progressive and original credentials, were also masters of technique. And this shows in their work. That is why their art survived the past and is likely to go into the future. When we look at younger artists today. We have to evaluate their capacity to come to terms with the changing world and look beyond it. We must look at their capacity to handle technique and their success in breaking away from the past without resorting to copying Western avant-garde, contemporary or post modernist art. Their tryist with the future must be theirs and no one else’s. I am purposely not naming names here. I expect art lovers to internlise the rules of thumb outlined above and do the exercise for themselves. The experience ought to be rewarding.