India, past and present
February 5, 2010
The artists engaged came from the length and breadth of India, from traditional artists immersed in traditional forms with traditional motifs to intellectuals with socio-political concerns or aesthetic quest who reinvent metaphors and abstract images. Here we travel from the past to the present.
A family, Ravi
Krishna Bhat with his wife and toddler son are from Ahmedabad, Gujarat.
His ancestors have carved artefacts and figures of religious and cultural
expressions. The images that the family displays, in strong primary colors,
are those that fill spaces in carnivals. Stylized animals, half mythical
and half ritualistic have been part of our cultural traditions. He carved
a figure with a flute, obviously, Krishna. Moving from the terrestrial
to the celestial, here is a journey with spiritual nuance, India’s special
Pandiram Mandavi and his group have come all the way from Chattisgarh. A tribal group having international exposure is perhaps rare. They have gone to Italy, Germany and Moscow. In his village, folk prefer stone and casting, but Mandavi loves wood. The pillar the team has carved resembles a tree with four sides. The carving tells the story of a dancing girl with a drummer on the other side. Captured in action with the exuberance of youth and vitality, the carving is an insight into their way of life. The Ghoutul tribe has a different set of values. The young in their teens enter into a community life. After a day’s work, the couples come to an exclusive dwelling place to have an exclusive life. The place is decorated with such pillars, fine arts fine-tuning Erotica. Or call it Life Force.
from Lakshadweep, Mohammed Haneefa, has a different theme, the angst of
islanders bound by the sea. The diminutive figure wound and crushed by
a serpent has a mythical touch, yet it speaks of the human spirit suffocated
by geographical constraints.
traces its history from Vedic times. The trees used for making icons and
trees used for making household things were catalogued even then. People
all over India carved in the available medium. Coastal and mountainous
regions have gone for wood carving. Kerala has preference for wood while
neighboring Tamilnadu used stone. So when Kerala Lalithakala Academy gave
a piece of mahogany to each artist to carve their work, it is not a coincidence,
but has a sense of history behind it. "The mask has been a motif in our
performing arts," says Ram Sanjeevan, Lalithakala Academy, Delhi. His masked
face is the symbolic evil, quite in tune with the traditional.
But with Johnson the mask acquires a larger meaning. MK Johnson, a freelance artist of Kerala known for his creative photography, has worked mostly in stone. Both folk and classical performing arts have been using masks in Kerala. His sensibility shaped by rural Kerala, Johnson has carved a head, with its mask, smaller and behind it. It could well be each one of us, a real face and another for public consumption. But, for him, his work is inspired by a street play popular in Kerala that took up the mask as an allegory. In the play, a small boy in a village gets an alien object, a mask. The village head persuades the boy to discard the useless thing. Soon he finds two people wearing this strange thing. It multiplies until the village head is forced to wear the mask to be inclusive to the village. You can empathize with the artist who finds he is like the village head, coerced to fall in line with the forces of globalization.
Linu, a product
of RLV collage of Fine Arts, Thrippunithura, Kerala, carves the trunk of
a coconut tree, stunted in growth, devoid of leaves. The tree symbolizes
the present Kerala, the land of coconut trees. The piece is a critique
on the lopsided development that destroys the very roots of life and vegetation.
VK Rajan, who
loves to work on huge pieces of granite, shapes an abstract piece. Sculpture
is basically the interplay of space and form. As an artist, he finds everything
having a geometric pattern. Chipping, chiseling, and grinding alone in
highland regions, amidst waterfalls and Nature’s orchestra has unveiled
the strange aesthetics of sound. So, carving 'Bridge' is an attempt to
create an iconography of the sound; you can feel the poise and a harmony
in this abstract, yet geometrical beauty.
"Art denying the past must correspond to the intellectual needs of the times." For Narayanankutty, Principal of the Fine Arts College, Thrissur, art should mirror alarming changes in social systems. So, his huge hand with its cuff-buttons intact, holding the mouse with a long cable attached, is the symbol of the IT age, the conquest of cyberspace, and virtual reality that rule our lives.
carvings are displayed, they finally will find a place in the Museum that
the academy hopes to build very soon. The products of an earlier camp are
still in Thunjan Parambu in Kerala. The effort to document the impulses
of a subcontinent geographically united, yet culturally diverse moving
through history, is a laudable effort that only Government sponsored institutions
can do today.