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.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Bratin Khan has embraced Sri Aurobindo's famous speech to be his inspiration

Finding the soul within - "Home > Lifestyle > Report
Sujata Chakrabarti DNA ednesday, September 30, 2009 23:59 IST Mumbai:
Kolkata-based artist Bratin Khan has embraced Sri Aurobindo's famous speech to be his inspiration. This memorable historical event that took place in the pre-independence era was epoch-making.It was one of the most significant speeches in the revolutionary turned spiritual leader's lifetime. The speech -- his first after his release from the Alipore Jail in Kolkata -- announced his exit from the ongoing revolutionary freedom movement.
Khan says, 'Unlike Sri Aurobindo's regular speeches, this one was non-political and announced his adoption of the sanatan dharma that propagated that every object had a soul within.' ... His show In A Silent Way is on view at the Point of View art gallery in Colaba.