Identity Of Indian Art 

Sunday, June 20, 2010 5:40:17 PM

- By Prof. R. S. Bisht

Creativity is not an isolated activity. When in any society the social and cultural awareness is found missing it always has a dampening influence on creativity.

Right from early morning newspapers, radio and television draw our attention to art news. It probably indicates the growing interest in art among the city dwellers, but still a vast population remains uninformed because the mass media reaches only a small fraction of the population in our country. However, it would be worthwhile to review the currents and cross currents in the field of visual art that have stirred, the art world. Obviously paintings, to some extent, being universal language, could not remain insular. International factors which have influenced us have got also to be considered in today’s development in art in our country.

Academies, cultural clubs, art shops and societies, have come up, and art is constantly being remodelled since Independence. The metropolitan cities attract large number of artists from various parts of the country for holding exhibitions of their works. This eventually encouraged the establishment of the commercial art galleries on the pattern of the art galleries in the west. This naturally threw up economic issues concerning the mechanism of the art galleries. Experiences in other developed countries were helpful but certain new dimensions have inevitably been initiated engulfing the metropolitan and other major centres of the country. The cultural pacts with many countries with diverse political systems have opened new dimensions – pleasant, and sometime unpleasant.

Nevertheless this helped us to relate to and compare our arts with those of others and has also promoted us in rediscovering and revealing many unknown elements. With increasing general awareness the art education which was limited to professional schools of art got its rightful place in university education. New faculties in Fine Art with vigorous teaching have also come up in some universities. This led to a considerable increase in number of professional painters. Art exhibitions: International, National, State, Group and Solo have become regular features. But all this remains confined to the larger cities, and art centres cover a very small population and area.

Large numbers of urbanised Indians, live in sub-human surroundings. Houses, streets, towns and cities are over crowded. Civic facilities in many areas either don’t exist or are scanty. They are worse than ghettoes. Cinema being the only form of entertainment. Museums, art galleries, art exhibitions, theatres and other performing arts are generally not known to these people. The old forms of performing arts like Kabbadi, Nautanki, Ram Lila, etc. are gradually disappearing; School, College or extra-curricular activities are hardly seen. Bizarre calendars are mostly displayed in homes. Records of film songs are played, with loudspeakers all twenty four hours.

The other group of privileged urbanised Indians grow in an altogether different atmosphere. This alien, and a rather technological culture has gradually made inroads, into our soil and has already done greater damage than a foreign rule which lasted for over two hundred years. And now, to many, anything from the west is the one and only gospel. This is a complex and absurd situation breeding complexities. Unfortunately by and large the modern Indian thrives in this atmosphere.

When in any society the social and cultural awareness is found missing it has always a dampening influence on creativity. After all, creativity is not an isolated activity. In such social situations creativity suffers and healthy and meaningful forms do not take birth, ultimately leading to morona, and creative degeneration. Thus it is natural that such climate only generates a lop-sided growth. This and many other factors born out of social-economic problems resulted in inspiring a large number of Indians. New expressions in the realm of art did not resemble the contemporary art of the most advanced art centres of the West. These new art forms still do not find a genuine place in the minds of these so-called West-oriented art-minded people and, what is most unfortunate, these people control power and money and are, therefore directly or indirectly instrumental in shaping the art scene of the country.

We should intensify our effort, in knowing ourselves in terms of visual art forms which existed and also try to unearth the remaining hidden art treasure in various forms of human expressions. This is in abundance in many remote parts of the country.

This situation will have to be re-examined and, if necessary, altered. At the same time we should intensify our effort, in knowing ourselves in terms of visual art forms which existed and also try to unearth the remaining hidden art treasure in various forms of human expressions. This is in abundance in many remote parts of the country, and we must study them in their perspective which, I am sure in many ways, will give us new insight. This will help in revitalizing the new art forms and the deep love for the art heritage and also lead to a formulation of a mechanism for constant nourishment and re-interpretation in the new context of human achievement as a whole. Unless a genuine and concerted effort is made in the direction suggested we will not be able to have a real, viable, and meaningful creativity.

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Goals and Objectives of Professional Art Education and its Relationship With Contemporary Art 

Sunday, June 20, 2010 5:36:00 PM

- By Prof. R. S. Bisht

We have had two hundred years of varying systems of art education. This creates a challenge to any art-educationist. It is a well accepted fact that if we have to prepare students, we have to train them in such a manner so that they may imbibe the spirit of adventure to meet future challenges that will be thrown up by the new technological culture and not only in contemporary art but in other art forms like advertising, graphics, pottery, industrial, textile, weaving, etc.

There are quite a few significant artists in the contemporary art world and some of them proclaim that they are self taught; this may be partially true, but if one goes into their life history, one finds that they might not have acquired art education in the professional art schools, but must have undergone some kind of informal art education for a short period of time either in the association of some working artist of the time or with an art institution or had some private coaching. The claim that they are self taught, is nothing but a gimmick to draw the attention of people to get quick recognition. This only proves that art education is an essential component of contemporary art world.

The present professional at school concept in the country was introduced by the Britishers in the model of British Art Schools. With the passage of time, the Indian intelligentia struggled for its cultural awakening. Some Indian artists started looking for their inspiration into their own rich traditions. This aroused favourable interest in the mind of the then rulers and some kind of traditional art forms were incorporated in teaching and few such art schools or societies were also instituted in some parts of the country, where more emphasis was given to Indian method and technique.

That was the time when Europe was experiencing an explosive art situation and that wave also touched the Indian shores and some Indian artists’ works were influenced with the so called modern approach. Various art groups were formed in big and small art centres and their activities have drawn considerable attention of art connoisseurs and art critics and art students. Though their art activities were confined to few cities, but it gave a new orientation to the contemporary art of the time.

After a long struggle, India attained freedom. This was a time when World War was over. With the dawn of Independence, the stage was set for formulating a new dynamic concept of democracy, socialism and secularism, taking into consideration the regional, national and global situation. This unique experiment which India is undergoing, we firmly believe, will bring all-round growth and progress in all areas of human activities, because this ideology is a human and noble one. The National psyche has undergone a tremendous transformation. New areas of development were identified and new ideas with close cooperation with other developed countries were initiated. Visual art being an important expression of human activity, also got place in the National and State planning. Lalit Kala Akademies at the Centre and at State levels were created for the promotion of Visual Art. Under cultural exchange, treaties with various countries, programme of exchanges of art exhibitions became a regular feature, with the result, the contemporary art of the country underwent influences of various art movements of the world, especially of the West. Experimentation had become the cult of the contemporary artists, living in the urban areas.

The net result was that in this sphere a lot of activity was generated and big cities experienced large number of exhibitions of various State Akademies, Societies, Group shows and Solo ones. This was unprecedented in our history. In the name of creativity, gimmicks with high sounding manifestoes are still taking place, which, at times, causes great concern, as they, though temporarily, distort thinking and even expression. National Akademies too ventured in Triannale. An International Art exhibition is a regular annual feature. In the early ears of its inception, it used to excite the artists and generate enthusiasm in them; now we notice a gradual withdrawal and dampening of interest among the artists especially among those who acquire some recognition. This may be the result of faulty policies or retarded thinking of the policy-makers of the Akademy. Triannale, our Internatinal Art Exhibition did arouse interest among the people in general and artists in particular in the country and with the course of time in the successive Triannales, the number of the participant countries increased.

These exhibitions, under one roof, gave to our artists a wider spectrum of the contemporary Global Art scene and gave material for thought and also to ponder over the problems, relating to creativity, medium and identity. This also generated countrywide debate on the great regeneration in the field of Folk Art, Handicrafts and Traditional Crafts. The State and Central Government have opened many avenues in these areas. Some State and National level awards were also instituted, which have covered master-craftsmen, practicing their crafts in the country, including villages. Some big shows on the State and National level were organised. Only recently India Festival in U.K. was organised on a large scale, where various arts and crafts formed a significant part of the festival. This gave a big boost to these crafts in England.

These exposures, which have weakness and strength, need a close scrutiny and deeper analysis so that they can be placed in proper perspective. The study will help us in enriching our insight and broadening our vision. In the course of time, the whole socio-cultural, socio-economical milieu of the country started vibrating. Revival of self-reliance became the essential spiritual element in contemporary India. Thus, a search of identity in all areas became imperative.

Today the world is divided in political terms in three broad categories, ie. capitalist world, the ex-socialist world and the third world. Most countries of the third world have newly emerged from foreign rule. They have rich culture and vibrant traditions in arts and crafts. India falls in the third world. We, in the country, considering the economic, cultural, geographic and anthropological diversities, seem to simultaneously live in many countries together. This can be experienced from the contrast in living situations of the metropolitan cities and remote tribal villages where the inhabitants are still living in the primitive age. It is a unique feature and an experience for the creative people. Though this could provide unlimited possibilities in creativity to the contemporary artist, at the same time it is so complex and difficult that it requires extraordinary perception to carve out a clear expression. This is a real exchange. It is this area where creative thinking and sensitivity are necessary to plan out the approach in such a complex situation, which directly concerns visual art. This may appear, to some baffling, but it can regenerate confidence and better perception of new realities.

The above mentioned situation has a direct relation with the professional art education which requires restructuring. We have a tradition. In fact, we seem to be living in different traditions, periods of history and also at the level of what is termed as contemporary – which have their dynamics both on the physical and non-physical levels. As stated above, we have had two hundred years of varying systems of art education. This creates a challenge to any art-educationist. It is a well accepted fact that if we have to prepare students, we have to train them in such a manner so that they may imbibe the spirit of adventure to meet future challenges that will be thrown up by the new technological culture and not only in contemporary art but in other art forms like advertising, graphics, pottery, industrial, textile, weaving, etc.

 

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Prof. RS Bisht and His Realism in Art 

Sunday, June 20, 2010 5:20:00 PM

- S. P. Verma
Aligarh Muslim University

For his landscape and figure compositions, Professor Bisht owes much to the hilly surroundings of his birth-place. His representation of human figures seeks to imbibe all the strength and characteristics of sculpture.

Professor R. S. Bisht is a landscape painter with a difference. His landscapes are in effect, inscapes. Nature is his first love. He portrays it with a deep understanding of its changing phases and its impact on men and matters. Rooted in the many-sided experiences of the life of our times, his art is at once inspiring and revealing, and it has grown with him, imbibing his personality, in the philosophy of his life. He gives form to a grand spatial concept. His art has evolved into a standard whereby creations of contemporary painters can be judged.

Professor Bisht was soft-spoken and of a delicate and enviable personality, and yet one always found in him an inner struggle for unrevealing the mysteries of earthly bodies. Looking at his landscapes one is spontaneously captivated by a feeling of solitude. His studies in water-colour mostly, belonging to the period 1955-65, bear testimony to a remarkable softness, simplicity and depth. In his characteristic technique of handling colours his art stands out for precision and the totality of impact. The effect of chiaroscuro achieved through blending of colours and details reported in bold strokes show the artist’s control of the medium and his tools. Some of these masterpieces exhibit distinctive trends of the Lucknow school in association with the style of L.M. Sen. The artist’s talent in oil medium became apparent by 1958. His ‘Forest flame’ is remarkable for its realism and richness in colour. This characteristic, according to a well-known art critic, establishes Bisht as a ‘colourist’. He wrote: ‘As a colourist, few are his equal.’

For his landscape and figure compositions, Professor Bisht owes much to the hilly surroundings of his birth-place. His representation of human figures seeks to imbibe all the strength and characteristics of sculpture. His pictures, viz. ‘Madonna and Child’, ‘Jesus in temple’ and ‘Christ in a village’ are unique instances of Christian themes being executed in Indianised form. Bisht’s exotic nudes and the series on ‘Beast and Beauty’ make a class by themselves. According to Indra Chopra, this group of the paintings is the outcome of an artist’s urge for seclusion at one stage. His art often shows a passionate sensitiveness.
His animal-studies in Chinese technique herald a shift towards abstraction. Compositions ‘Rickshaw-puller’, ‘Porter’ and ‘Cook’ are intimate depiction of the common-man. Bisht generally prefers the application of full range of colours along with the glaze technique wherein sometimes light is reflected from a base of lighted surface through one or more layer of transparent paint. While in water-colour, his merit depends in large measure on the quality of brushwork, in his later work (after 1965) the picture plane is better adapted to a flexible use of brush. In the intervening years, a disregard for the common rules of perspective, colour scheme and compositions is the prominent trend where both form and content are subjected to an internationally violent and often complicated idiom.

In his later phase, Bisht seems to be engaged in the pursuit of ‘Realism’ – the essential character of the subject portrayed. It brings him close to impressionism. Here, he develops his concern for classical stability of form and rhythm of contour, enriched by an arbitrary handling of pigment.
His canvasses are the replicas of his inward experiences. Profesor Bisht does not portray; he reacts spontaneously to the object of his experience which finally acquires the shape of his painting. Due to his disposition he remains completely flexible and defiant of the linear growth of his artistic cognition. His creations are unique in the spontaneity of reaction and for the multi-dimensional treatment of forms, as seen in his serials. Not content with a single version of a subject, he delighted in the repetition of forms in a variety of ‘interpretations’; the spontaneity where the eye fails to keep pace with the brush.
In his interpretation of art, Bisht is inclined to agree more with Picasso, than anyone else. He sees painting as a source of intellectual inspiration. In his own words, ‘All my paintings are nothing but the expression of my inner self.’ Professor Bisht’s latest work displays an affinity to the post-impressionistic styles, or more precisely surrealistic. His latest series was conspicuous by the simplification of the subject of treatment, the highest water mark of his contemplative genius. Here complexity of composition is replaced by the intensity of experience through the solitary object of nature (‘Landscapes in Blue’).

Professor Bisht was a man of strong convictions. Propogation of art-consciousness and art-education form the most important part of his mission. He foresaw a grand wedding of painting and performing arts in near future on the national level with Lucknow as the venue.

 

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From Feeling To Painting 

Saturday, May 29, 2010 5:28:00 PM

-R. S. Bisht

Every significant event which shook me and every experience which enlarged my thoughts, led me to introspection and assimilation of my inner feelings but which can be only question of sadhna. I know it for a fact that sense perception is an intense personal matter and in order to cultivate it, one has to strive really hard. One should have a simple clear heart, should try to understand life, society and the vastness of nature. Deeper than that is that acute discrimination, which the artist should possess to know what the elements he has to select and what elements he has to reject. This is a long journey from many subjects ultimately to an act of creation. A newness in every painting, a definite new element, to conceive something original, and then to create, is possible only after a very hard discipline, study, practice and sadhna.

Starting from a subject, to come over to an intense feeling, and from intense feeling to a painting, is a long creative journey. In order to understand and to give expression, every painter has to bas e himself on the ground he is born, the culture he inherits, his own temperament, his own perceptions and his understanding of craft. To grow and to live with one’s inheritance and to adapt to the changing values of society, is a process of education which gave me the feeling of constant search to accomplish something different from verbal communication, one which enlightens my feelings and sharpens my individuality.

In this timeless existence I found joy and a feeling of fulfilment, and slowly but surely, I was inclined to take painting and thereby to attain fulfilment of the objectives I have already mentioned. I worked hard in the direction, with full vitality and dedication. All the objects, elements or ideas, which contain something new, gave a strange attraction of beauty with a force around it and I tried to do something newer. I did my best to gather whatever I found desirable. To attain the purpose, I travelled within the country and outside it and tried to understand deeply the various cultural and social aspects of life. The basic thing that forms a man is the thought process from the infinite to the beautiful, from the beautiful to the infinite—all these became a matter of happiness for me and I tried to understand this constant and eternal movement.

Every significant event which shook me and every experience which enlarged my thoughts, led me to introspection and assimilation of my inner feelings but which can be only question of Sadhna. I know it for a fact that sense perception is an intense personal matter and in order to cultivate it, one has to strive really hard. One should have a simple clear heart, should try to understand life, society and the vastness of nature. Deeper than that is that acute discrimination, which the artist should possess to know what the elements he has to select and what elements he has to reject. This is a long journey from many subjects ultimately to an act of creation. A newness in every painting, a definite new element, to conceive something original, and then to create, is possible only after a very hard discipline, study, practice and Sadhna.

I have been engaged for the last few years in creating some paintings which I term as ‘Series of Blue’. I was born in Lansdowne, a beautiful hill resort situation at a height of 6,000 feet. On its north are majestic Himalya ranges and on its south the plains of Uttar Pradesh. Here nature wears new garments every moment. For all twelve months, the Himalyas are dressed up in different colours and the predominant colour is of course blue, and which, in some form or the other, permeates the whole atmosphere. This had a great impact on me. From the beginning of my earlier art education, I tried to proceed with the eyes of a painter, studied the various ways, painted it and the blue colour of the Himalyas becomes an integral part of my life. In order to paint these blue series, I have travelled in these parts of the Himalyas for the last many years and have tried to imbibe the deep spirit behind it. Sometimes I travelled, by a motor car, sometimes I flew on plane and sometimes I tried to reach many hill tops or traverse low valleys; miles on foot. I stayed in that atmosphere; I actually breathed it. The new colours of the changing season, the new forms, and resultant ideas and the contemplations that were generated in their midst—all these inspired me to paint, providing me new constructions, new frames, and all these produced in the deeper feelings.

Sometimes I was prompted to sketch in pencil or in colour, I took some notes and I came back to my studio full with those feelings and I confronted the canvas. A large number of days were spent just in sheer thought and then suddenly something which had a possibility swayed my life like a volcanic eruption and then the joys of colour and that too with the various shades of the blue and compulsion to choose or to leave—a natural tension and the ultimate success in selection. Spreading the selected colour on the plate and spreading turpentine oil in large cups fully dissolving the colours and after proper preparation, would come the conception of a painting with its planning in terms of space and then the first stroke of the selected colour on the white canvas and then quickly the second and the process of bringing about the frame spreads. Some forms emerge and forms start taking shape—sometimes looking up from the near, sometimes from a distance and then judging it from all aspects and ultimately trying to arrive to some conclusion.

Then I think over whether the net result is what I desired or somewhere near it or something far more sensitive, far more forceful in the direction of what I had thought. Then I try to understand its possibilities and employ all the crafts at my command and continue the process of painting. If the thing turns out different, I restart with full confidence, to create first the structure of the painting. After a successful effort, I start filling up colours; sometimes with broad brushes and sometimes with small ones, fully understanding its various interconnections and creating a texture, which has all the dramatic quality of that painting. If the feeling and the idea do not get through, I make the canvas lie flat on the floor and spray the colours—the colours of my liking – with full discipline I shake and tilt up and down, right and left – the canvas in such a manner that it brings the desired effect and pick up the form which I so desired and then start looking minutely at the demands of the painting and the forms that have newly emerged and develop it. Accordingly, if it appeals, I leave colours to dry. With the detached view, I look at the painting and after some interval I again have a second look and if I find the creation is not as I had desired, I try locate the reasons, think over the new changes, in terms of form, colour or texture. But all the time I assure myself that whatever process I am undergoing, may become a good basis for the painting and in this process I do not regret the amount of time spent in it.

After I have made a successful attempt I leave all the colours to dry and wait for the situation till I may feel, that the painting invites me to do more work in that direction. During all this, the inspiration is so powerful that one feels like working uninterrupted till the painting itself does not ask for a halt. A painting, under the process of completion, is a situation when one starts feeling that further work on it is not asked for. Then a stroke that is further applied, is fully measured, in terms of the quantity of colour choice picked up on the brush, the intensity of the stroke; sometimes a very faint application, sometimes vigorous one and even varying or texture one has to decide how thick or broken would be the lines. Hereafter the painting is put on the easel and it is put to further study in an effort to link it with the basic creative feeling. This process goes on for a long time. One returns to painting with a freshness and different mental state. If it needed some work, it is done in conformity with the basic feeling. Obviously in the process, it gives sometime a sense of deeper satisfaction, sometime an element of dissatisfaction and again the process of rethinking starts. In the end, one realises that further work is not needed in the painting.

To understand and to think with the heart and soul involved in painting is its subsequent process because at that point, the painting is its subsequent process because at that point, the painting reaches its consummation, but all the while there is sometimes feeling of some danger but at the same time of resolution. Then suddenly realisation starts that the painting is still incomplete and gradually all its discrepancies are removed and the whole painting flashes up and finally a situation starts when the brush stops and the painting begins to live.

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Creativity and Individuality 

Saturday, May 29, 2010 5:25:00 PM

-R.S. Bisht

There is always a collective and also an individual experience which fertilises the creative faculty.

Two apparent parallel main streams are visible in the present day art world: one, the collective creativity which is born out of ethnic, linguistic, cultural, religious, national or international art experiences, and the other the individual creativity which is born out of adventure, and at the same time one which crosses all ethnic, cultural and other barriers, and as such difficult, hazardous, hard and unknown.

Being a practitioner of art, educator of long standing, it prompts me to give some serious thought to the art scene of today in terms of environment, the creative urge, the momentary impulses and the impact and influences it makes through the works of art, artefacts, articles, lectures, literature, science and technology.

Today we are living in a complex and difficult world, one in which whatever happens in any part of the globe, gets known to us immediately. The whole world has become a little hermitage where art and culture are intermingling and social and political interactions taking place, and a new world is rapidly emerging. It is thus, new psyche, new ideas, new visual symbols, new elements flow. The enlightened artist is expected to understand these ongoing processes and the various aspects and aspirations arising out of it. This will help in creating art according to the sensibilities and understandings of each individual artists, such as, I am sure, will be very different from each other in its approach, expressions, content and form.

It is this culture which also allows complete freedom to plastic artists, to the extent that today any thing which the artist claims to be an art such as ‘Happening’, ‘Conceptual Art’ and so on attracts the attention of people; whether they agree or disagree is a totally different matter. A number of forms which could be the forms of other areas of creativity such as theatre, literature and religious activity are termed as art events. This concept varies from nation to nation, from culture to culture and from one artist to another, but it has one thing in common, i.e. international culture. But this also involves in-built heavy responsibilities on every artist. He has to be extremely honest to his art and his conviction, despite the hardship and difficulties he has to undergo in his pursuit of creativity.

There are artists of other kinds who have a different psyche from plastic artists; they are craftsmen, calendar artists, advertising and industrial, or many of these sorts who cater to the aesthetic, emotional, functional, religious and cultural needs of the cross section of people living at various levels, but it is the plastic artist’s psyche which is constantly impelling him in the quest of new experiences, new idioms and techniques.

There is always a collective and also an individual experience which fertilises the creative faculty. Plastic artists with their sensibility, and rigorous training of crafts and discipline of mind, help them react in a creative manner adding a new visual vocabulary with vigorous experimentation corresponding to their talent and sensibilities. (This need not be true in case of all the plastic artists). They are in the process confronted with many visual problems, in terms of design, texture, volume, space, medium, etc. Their involvement has inbuilt excitements and frustrations. This leads them into an area of the unknown from where they have to pick up all these elements, which can be transformed into visual language.
Still there are many artists who are insensitive towards these global developments. Though they are remarkably dedicated artists in their own terms, but they live emotionally in the past centuries. They sculpt and paint with traditional or established styles and techniques with conviction though without bothering much for the response, whether favourable or unfavourable they get from the spectators, art critics and connoisseurs of art. There are artists and artists who are working in various ways, various levels and also with various objectives and they can be judged by the same parameter. One must have separate parameter for each of them. Human activities and human affairs are very complex ones, and so is creativity. It is imperative to imbibe a broader outlook, understanding and sensibility in order to appreciate work of art. The genuine work of art must be encouraged irrespective of the styles or techniques, so that the art world becomes richer and richer.

It is easy to copy or imitate or follow trends, but it is very difficult to carve the original and individual path for oneself. Today an individual, who is part of the whole, has to face these challenges all by himself. On one side the whole experiences of physical and non-physical culture of the entire world artists, artisans and art-writers right from the pre-historic period to today are available to him and on another side for him the complex, tedious, hard, exciting, challenging and unknown creative journey is ahead. It is up to his genius to utilise these experiences to his best advantage. He is supposed to have a very sensitive, sharp vision and creative faculty of a different kind. Specially in a situation where choices are unlimited and the creativity of an individual artist is subject to a type of challenge where he has to create a work of art in his own terms. He can see and concretise the known into the unknown and vice-versa. It is this category of artist who act as catalysts; thus they become more significant.

The artist—whatever categories he belongs to, is a visualiser and commentator at the same time. Through his act of creation he enriches human life and his environment. His art pieces are instrumental in focussing on the complex social and other problems, in feeding the aesthetic and also in uplifting the soul of the beholder.

 

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Contemporary Indian Art: Nature and Perspective 

Saturday, May 29, 2010 5:21:00 PM

-R.S. Bisht

Whatever little respect we command in the outside world, it is in the field of Art and Culture. This is clearly evident from the response ‘Indian Festival’ received in London.

Today, in the art world, every artist tries to assert his creative art pieces as some thing new and significant in their conception and execution. This attitude has radically changed the Plastic Art scenario and has resulted in vast varieties of styles and other human creativities in the plastic art categories, which earlier fell in areas other than plastic art. This is a remarkable experience. As such contemporary art has assumed new significance and meaning. In such circumstances Indian contemporary art has been influenced and is now undergoing changes. This poses some serious and relevant questions. It needs a thorough understanding of the existing art situation in the country and the world at large.

With the dawn of Independence we have initiated new policies based on Socialism, Secularism and Democracy for an all round progress of the Nation. Despite progress in some areas, if we look closely, we find that we have not done that well in terms of the totality of progress.

Whenever we try to assert our opinion in various international forums we are usually treated with contempt and confused with many uncomfortable though relevant questions, such as poverty, diseases, over population, illiteracy and so on. For over sixty percent of our people are under the poverty line, seventy percent people are illiterate. Large number of schools have no buildings. There is hardly any facility of drinking water for large segment of the rural population. In the National Lalit Kala Akademy Artists’ Constituency list there are only about two thousand artists listed. This list may not be correct. Let us multiply it by five the figure would reach to ten thousand. Considering the size and population of the country the figure is negligible, and these artists are mostly confined to big or medium size cities and state capitals. But, inspite of this whatever little respect we command in the outside world, it is in the field of Art and Culture. This is clearly evident from the response ‘Indian Festival’ received in London.

The contemporary art of our time has engulfed the whole globe in its fold. Art in India is no exception. In India it began with the British rule; with them came their contemporary art and with he passage of time when the Indian artist became aware of the art movements in other countries especially a new orientation. Artists felt proud of imitating the French contemporary paintings without understanding their ramifications. Gradually Indian Art scene became active and big and small art centres started catching up with the new trends of Modern Art. This was an unusual and unprecedented experience in Indian Art History. National and International exhibitions in India gave a new awareness to artists and society.

What makes contemporary art different from the art of other ages? This is the question that strikes us, when we think of it in the context of contemporary society in Art. The whole psyche of man has been influenced by the technological culture, and the varied art forms flow from this psyche. This has liberated art from its traditional concept of line, form, pigment, canvas, etc. today anything such as ‘Happening’, ‘Conceptual Art’ and so on, attracts the attention of people –whether they agree or disagree is a different matter. A number of forms which could be the forms of other areas of creativity such as theatre, literature, group or religious activity are termed as art events. This concept varies from nation to nation, from culture to culture and from one artist to another. New experimentation in the visual art has become the cult all over the world; changed psyche is the driving force behind the cult.

The over all Indian situation is not conducive to such creativity, though occasionally one can come across such works but they are the products of those individuals who mentally belong to different situations.
Today the world is divided in political terms in three broad categories, i.e. the capitalist world, the socialist world and the third world. Most countries of the third world have newly emerged from foreign rule. Politically they have obtained freedom but in economic, education, communication and cultural field, they are still being dominated by forces beyond these borders. Some of the developed western countries are trying to influence our policies in all the areas in a very subtle way. Multi-nationals and various other international agencies are the main instruments. Gradually the shadow of neo-colonialism is enveloping the entire third world and which has resulted in creating new tension in all the areas of human activities.

These third world countries have rich physical and non-physical culture and vibrant traditions in arts and crafts. India falls in the third world category. We, in India, considering the economic, cultural, geographic and anthropological diversities, seem to be simultaneously living in many centuries gone and at this same time. This can be experienced from the contrast in the living conditions of the metropolitan cities and those of remote tribal villages where the inhabitants are still living in the primitive age. It is a unique feature and an urge for the creative people.
These complexities along with the socio-cultural, socio-political and socio-economic milieu of the country have given new dimensions to the problem. The search for identity has become all the more necessary. Though this could provide unlimited possibilities in creativity to the contemporary artist, it is so complex and difficult that it requires an extraordinary perception to carve out a clear expression. This is a real challenge. It is this area where creative thinking and the sensitive understanding of human situations are necessary to plan out an approach in such a complex situation which directly concerns visual art. To some extent this may appear baffling, but it can regenerate confidence and better perception of new realities and at the same time identify the areas and ideas which could impregnate vision.

I have broadly discussed this focussing really on the situation which each contemporary Indian artist has to define a role for himself. This pursuit will provide a vision which can create an art corresponding to the collective psyche based on environmental, cultural, traditional and historical experiences. The vision acquired must find a personal expression in tune with the genius of the artist. This will project the correct image of the country and strengthen the base, which has made the country survive in spite of its social and economic backwardness.

 

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Aesthetics of Indian Sculpture 

Saturday, May 29, 2010 5:16:46 PM

-R.S. Bisht
The sun kissed the surface of the water and the lotus bloomed. A pair of floating swans started dancing around it. The sound pierced through the bosom of the air and the universe woke up. The man stood up and bowed his head with folded hands to welcome the day break of human civilization. Nature became his first teacher. Fear and faith kept changing places till faith dominates fear resulting into system of life governed by religious codes. Man started giving shape to his ideas in many different ways. Gods were to be worshipped and their images were to be made. Hence Indian Sculpture is the form of a way of life where transcendental reality is experienced in actual shapes and their relations. The shapes are those of nature and of art.

Art supplies the body in which God is made real in certain configuration, peculiar to Indian sculpture of all ages. This mode of experiencing the way of life evolves its own themes and plastic symbols. It flourished for a period of five thousand years which can be classified in three main groups, for example, Ancient Indian Sculpture, Classical Sculpture 200BC to 800AD and the Medieval Sculpture 800AD to 1300AD. Unlike the Greeks who perfected merely the beauty of the human body, Indian Sculpture modelled what had a primary significance to him as an integral part of a supra-personal connectedness of life. In art, as Tagore said, ‘Man reveals himself and not his objects.’
Hence realism in Indian art is not an endeavour as in Western art but it is an unavoidable condition. The profound and partly over exaggerated modelling may not suggest any action but it depicts the vitality. Human figures are created with the multiplicity of the parts of the human body which turns them into the images of super human beings. These multitude heads and limbs represent stages of one movement and indicate the potency of the Super human in the simultaneousness of their presence.

The images have a function to serve and that is to help the worshipper to worship, hence they should be such as they would attract the respect and devotion of the devotees. Therefore, according to shilpa canons, an image to be beautiful must be of contemplative mood. It should be made slightly smiling, pleasant and possess all good signs. The sculptor should absolutely avoid the construction of the mouth which is passionate, impetuous, wrathful, sour, bitter or circular. If the sculptor made beautiful idols on the lines of established norms of aesthetics, many blessings will befall on him and his associates. For example, ‘If the sight of the image is turned toward the left, cattle are destroyed, if upwards, there is loss of wealth, if downcast and violent it would destroy the prosperity of the sculptors, if the forehead becomes too thick, there would be loss of life; if the sides are thick, there would be loss of life; if the arm pit be thick, it would kill the sculptor.

The sculptors therefore should take care that he does not violate the rules of the shastras which provide the technique of creating perfect and beautiful images. The modern art critic, however, may not react to these notions of Indian aesthetics, but for a proper understanding of Indian Sculpture, these ideas have to be taken into account. The Indian image maker tried to express the attitude of contemplation in the face of the image. So that as soon as the worshipper or the onlooker sees the figure, one is struck by the calmness and the contemplative mood of the image, as observed in the images of Sarnath.

The genesis of all art tradition must have been in some gestures in the methods and materials that spontaneously came to men of genius and were followed by others. The materials sanctioned by shastras for making images are wood, clay, jewel, gold, silver, copper and stone. An idol made in wood and clay, gives long life, prosperity, strength and victory and that of jewel does good to them. The image of silver brings fame, that of copper increases population and that of stone gives ground. It is obvious then, why our heritage in sculptural art is in all these aforesaid mediums.

The marvellous terracotta figurines of Indus Art and Kausambhi, the meticulous rock carvings of Classical Indian Sculpture, the temple arts of the medieval era at Konark and Khajuraho, mainly comprising of erotic sculptures by the side of deities, which is really a very hard test for the worshipper who comes for dhyana and lastly the world famous bronzes of Southern India. They are all manifestations of the Indian Sculptor who has created history that perhaps shall not repeat itself. The human figure, however, reached its highest sublimation in the Gupta classical phase when the divine image, rendered in the shape and form of a human being, assumed a super human aspect and attained its true spiritual import. In this sublimation one may recognise a sculptor’s vision and realization of the divine being and the intellectual process involved therein. Indian art has always been essentially a religious art and with the standardisation of the canons all artistic activities came to be governed by certain established principles of aesthetic.

To an Indian the image is just a medium for meditation and concentration upon the divine principle. The great European Sculptor Rodin paid glowing tributes to the Natraj bronze of thirteenth century as the finest composition, the medium of sculpture which the world has ever produced. The Natraj bronze was cast solid for it was considered improper that the image should be hollow from inside. It is an extremely compact circular composition in a terrific dance movement. It has four hands whirling in an ecstatic movement. One hand has a drum signifying the sound for the unfolding of the universe. The other has a flame, the symbol of destruction. The third hand is in a gesture of protection and he fourth is in Gaja Hasta Mudra. The whole body is poised on the right foot and the left foot is lifted, being the refuge of all. It is an abstraction of whirlwind in terms of man. In the perfect realisation of profound symbology underlying the conception along with rhythm, balance, proportion and movement and embodies in it, it ranks as one of the supreme creation of the Indian Art Heritage.

 

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