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Contemporary Indian Art

Date Added: September 26, 2011 08:33:56 AM
Author: Priyanka Sharma
A genuine avant-garde movement in visual art is no longer possible today in the true sense of the term. It happened last time with POP and not any more afterwards. Not that new thoughts have stopped emerging since POP but these are based on the ‘isms’ developed earlier and are more like Beethoven’s twelve variation of a theme, innovative as one listens to the movements but are easily identifiable with links to the central theme. Since the days of classical modernismin the West, it appears in retrospect,that all significantly original ideas in art are like a panoramic spread with peaks appearing in predictable intervals. Interestingly, the heights of the peaks vary little with one another signifying no art movement is more or less important from other art movements and all contributing to the mainstream of modernism in art – the way a major river gains in volume of flow by its tributaries and loses depth as it reaches its end-point of meeting with the ocean. That is to say Conceptual Art of the comparatively recent era with its associated ‘happenings’ and ‘performances’ is not better, or lessin significance, to movements like, for instance, ‘Bad Arts’ – the exponents of which proudly exclaims their singular devotion and obsession on deliberately created stylistic crudity. In between the two extremes of art today, with the emotional charades of ‘neo-expressionism (and neo-Dada) on one end and the cerebral permutations of the ‘conceptual art’ on the other, lies a near-endless variety of artists who wish to consciously avoid such extremes. Contemporary Indian art is characterized by such a scenario in which a large number of practicing artists keep their faith in acquired skills to draw and paint and avoid using extremities of the imported variety. Ability to visualize pictorial metaphors and proficiency in translating the same in line and color on canvas and paper usually characterize them. In these they differ mostly from their contemporary practitioners of the extreme kind who often relies on borrowed skills of other artists they consider not enough artistic. Art of those down the middle path is also distinguishable with their unmistakable contemporaneity and varying degree of comprehensibility without being obvious. They are true exponents of transavantgardeism as they exhibit little faith in creating visual shocks of the extreme kind. Historical evidence throws up an interesting role reversal in public response to modern art. In pre-War days it reached its nadir while, in post-War days, the same public welcomed modern artists with open arms and much enthusiasm. In Europe and also in the USA large exhibitions were organized to celebrate victory of allied forces over the oppressive voice of the Nazi. These important and landmark exhibitionsoffered due honor to those artists of the modern era who defied Nazi dictum to continue their professed path of modernism even in exile. The public, faced with the hardship of daily life in the war-ravaged world, was more than ready to embrace the artists whose work they understood only in parts, if at all. A very significant increase in the footfalls to these large exhibitions almost converted such art-events like a mass-entertainment package to showcase art with a social message (of the failure of the Nazi war-machinery to suppress artistic freedom) even though it still retained its abstracted vocabulary with little hint to unscramble its coded thoughts. In sharp contrast to pre-war skepticism, modern and post-modern art soon gained the status of being newsworthy.Artists and their life –style and also the market-valuation of their art received journalistic attention. Even the Government of the concerned Nations, sensing the popular perception, came forward to offer State patronage to post-modern art in the form of InternationalArt Fairs like Venice Biennale in Italy, the Bienale des Jeunes in Paris and the Documenta in Kassel, Germany. Such a genuine degree of sympathy of public towards contemporary art, even with its increasingly abstracted profile in the hands of not a few, was not what the artists concerned had faced earlier. One thing that had triggered such a dramatic polarization was the changes that slowly yet steadily took place both in the mode of representation as well as in the selection of what is worthy of representation in art. Visual arts, historically speaking, had always been choosy about what it represented. Religious themes and stories from epic and historical anecdotes, in addition to royal portraiture were once considered as fit enough for the artists’ brush. Changes in artistic subject matter, initiated by Dutch-Genre, got a major boost in POP Art with its singular attention on commercial consumerism. They brought about the needed revolt to not only in the subject-matter but also equally so in how to represent such ‘new’ thoughts in art.
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