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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