Savitri Era of those who adore, Om Sri Aurobindo and The Mother.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Partha Mitter has completed his trilogy on Indian art

Based in Oxford, noted art historian Partha Mitter has completed the third part of his trilogy on Indian art. He spoke with Romain Maitra about modernist and contemporary Indian art:

What were the main features or tendencies of modernism in Indian art during pre-independent period?

By the modernism, I mean the particular discourse of the avant-garde that arose in the West and then spread globally (in literature, for instance, Eliot, Proust or Joyce; in music, the dissonance of Schoenberg, Stravinsky or Bartok; in art, cubism, surrealism or expressionism), representing rebellion against classical taste. Its nature and inflections changed radically outside the West.

In India, even though Gaganendranath used the syntax of cubism to construct his fairy-tale world, far more significant was the primitivist tendency. It was a form of critical modernity that challenged capitalist urban modernity which lay at the base of colonial empires.

What was avant-garde in the works of India’s artists during that time?

Gaganendranath’s poetic cubism brought a new era of modernism in India. However, from the naive art of Sunayani Devi to Amrita Sher-Gil’s melancholic images of peasants, Rabindranath Tagore’s animals, masks and other compositions, and Jamini Roy’s creation of a new collective art that repudiated the ‘aura’ of a work of art and artistic genius, as well as the art teaching of Nandalal that led to Benodebehari Mukherjee’s moving representations of common folk and Ram Kinkar’s heroic image of the Santhals — all these went against the historical and nationalist allegories of the previous gene-ration and were self-consciously avant-garde and radical.

Does contemporary Indian art have any real appeal in the mainstream artistic appreciation in the West?

Let us not forget that most of the enormously expensive paintings are bought by the NRIs. Even today apart from a few open-minded art critics and historians in the West most are indifferent to what goes on outside New York, Paris and London art markets. This situation can only change from constantly scrutinising the underlying assumptions of western modernism.

Please comment on M F Husain’s paintings which have generated fundamentalist reactions.

Husain is not anti-Hindu. On the contrary, he is one of the few who constantly engages with Hindu mythology with bold imagination and creativity. Hindu deities have been depicted in the nude and semi-nude since at least the 2nd century AD and similarly in the texts their physical descriptions are explicit. This is because in Hindu tradition, there is a constant intermingling of sacred and profane love and the erotic has never been denied.

Unfortunately, during the colonial period we imported Victorian prudery and now seem to be thriving on it. Finally, Husain’s depictions of Hindu goddesses are hardly erotic.

No comments:

Post a Comment