The art scene is abuzz with auction previews, gallery openings, page three opportunities and a burst of publications that catalogue artists and shows. The new circuit of international art travel is Venice, London, Basel and Miami. The biennales and Documentas are curated. Contemporary art galleries and museums showcasing modern and contemporary art are on the rise. The art scene is hot and happening and the art market is broader and better.
In India, economic liberalization, urban patronage and commercial success are a part of the gallery culture that promoted the contemporary art scene. These established artists are responsible for the growing art market and they have to be credited with making contemporary Indian art more visible on the international art scene. One also needs to look at the writers and curators who have contributed to this phenomenon and acknowledge their individual journeys. These artists represent the diversity of modern and contemporary figuration and abstraction which are the dominant trends in Indian art. These trends are part of the diversity we encounter in India, where subtle abstraction co-exists with overbearing representation of images in our living tradition and our visual culture.
This show has been a subjective choice, a gathering of individuals who deepen our insight about divergent discourses. Each of these established artists have a distinctive subjective preoccupation and visual language. Collectively they resonate with one another to represent a kaleidoscopic variety of established names for the discerning eye. One sees the diverse treatments of material and form transforming the mundane material with the magic of creativity and personal subjectivity. These artists are from different cultural geographies with distinctive stylizations and techniques. They face the common dilemma of carrying on a tradition of image-making or symbolic abstraction in the face of modernization.
Visuality changes with the times. It incorporates the social, political, and personal with the same conviction. These artists blend the ethereal with terrestrial, the eternal with the temporal. The personal becomes political and They are essentially looking at the familiar with new eyes. Myth, reality, and fantasy are woven with the here-and-now in the artists’ vision. As these artists walk the tight rope of tradition and change, they believe in the notion of reinventing authenticity and are concerned with the continuity of a shared visual style with the local source as inspiration. Tradition changes with the times, it incorporate the social, political and personal with the same conviction. These artists blend the celestial with terrestrial, the eternal with the temporal. They are essentially looking at the familiar with new eyes. Myth and reality are woven with the here and now.
The strong legacy of figuration continued to dominate Indian contemporary art in the 1990’s.It survived in new dimensions and the narrative intent was discarded for new visual options. Fragmentation was visible and the image of the body became iconic with allegorical references. The past decade has brought into focus self-consciousness about subjectivity and the role of the self in the historical narrative of the nation. These artists belong to generations who have built on the success of their predecessors in a more challenging situation. They belongs to a social situation were the nation is politically disturbed, the rise of fundamentalism decreased levels of tolerance and acceptance, and the intellectual and artistic space contested. Changing with the times, innovating and exploring possibilities to speak about the personal are a challenge. The uniqueness of these artists is their ability to adapt to new situations and retain their identities.
Abstraction is like a parallel river flowing with the excess of figuration. The many fellow travelers support the journey of another way of looking. The collective learns from each other and evolve a distinctive style that gives them a vocabulary and an identity that defines this journey. It is a spiritual yatra from the terrestrial, an inward journey or a meditative mantra of self absorption. A private getaway from the humdrum of the urban chaos, into silence and solitude. Into monologues with colors, gestures and canvas.
These artists have been persistently exploring abstraction for many years. They have achieved a consistency with skill to look at the world in layers of planes, perforations and urban hieroglyphs. An aesthetic that liberated the artist from representing the overbearing reality. By moving away from objective meaning into another zone of Abstraction.
The alternative modernism of Abstraction is an aesthetic that liberated the artist from representing the overbearing reality. By moving away from objective meaning into another zone of Abstraction. These paintings are with color planes and masses, a perspective of flattened space that evokes distance. The artists employ the play of surface with depth and use lines, planes and colors to experience space, by focusing on one element to the next, they create absorbing details of nature based abstraction or pure formal play with texture and colour.
What makes owning art exciting, inviting, and sexy? Lindemann (2006) suggests that you should not buy painting to match your curtains and cushions but to buy because you enjoy it. Like the many who come to seek instant spiritual bliss in India, he comes to see the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala. He says, “While surrounded by monks and westerners striving to attain happiness through Eastern teachings and meditations, it suddenly occurred to me that all I could think about was collecting art. Call it what you will, a sickness, a crass materialism, an obsession or passion – there are many more like me who may never attain spiritual enlightenment but will continue to seek out great, and not so great, art objects that provide us with a meditative field of bliss, that transcendent feeling you get in front of a true masterpiece. Art was always a part of my life, but I didn’t really look at works as collectibles or investments, it was just another part of my upbringing.” (p. 8)
Certainly, the boom is visible and art is acknowledged as an investment. However, collecting art is not just about speculation and easy returns. One needs to train the eye and buy art as unique fragments of culture to live with it and warm your heart. Art can be an indulgence and a passion. It opens up to social avenues for intelligent interactions and makes life worth living. “Art is about life, the art market is about money” (Damien Hirst, quoted by Lindemann).