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Decoding Indian art through the decades

Highlights

With his paintings that portray village life in a simple way, Bengali painter Jamini Roy occupies a preeminent place in the vast canvas of modern art in India, author-scholar Partha Mitter said at a lecture titled ‘Modern Art in India’ at the LV Prasad Eye Institute on Friday. The lecture was part of the ongoing Krishnakriti Annual Festival of Art and Culture.

With his paintings that portray village life in a simple way, Bengali painter Jamini Roy occupies a preeminent place in the vast canvas of modern art in India, author-scholar Partha Mitter said at a lecture titled ‘Modern Art in India’ at the LV Prasad Eye Institute on Friday. The lecture was part of the ongoing Krishnakriti Annual Festival of Art and Culture.

“The works of Padma Bhushan awardee Roy, who was born in 1887, took a primitive approach that was basically a Western concept, but his addition of innovative formalism to it enabled his art to function as anti-colonial statements,” Mitter said.

In his talk, the speaker, who has specialised in the reception of Indian art in the West, listed out Rabindranath Tagore, Gaganendranath Tagore and Amrita Shergil as the other pivotal figures in visual culture movement. “Nobel laureate Tagore did not experiment with primitivism; instead his paintings employed the totemism of America and Africa,” said Dr Mitter, who studied history at London University.

“Gaganendranath drew cubism while Sher-gil was the first professional female artist in India during her brief life from 1913 to 1941,” he added. “Kerala’s Raja Ravi Varma, who died in 1906 aged 58, was a successful portrait painter who revelled in realism,” said Mitter. He retired from the UK’s Sussex University as a lecturer in Indian History in 2002. Ahmedabad-based sculptor Karl Antao, who spoke next in the lecture series, took the audience down his artistic journey which began in 1993.

To a question from the audience, the 46-year-old alumnus of Mumbai’s Sir JJ School of Applied Arts said, “Dissatisfaction after doing a work could be positive, given that complacency often meant end of creativity.” On the prominence of Burma teak wood in his art, Karl, who has experimented with advertising, corporate filmmaking and trophy designing, said that he found the “erratic” nature of its surface a fascinating and challenging medium.

In the evening, a movie that focussed on gender and sexuality issues was screened at Annapurna International School of Film & Media. ‘The Other Song’, directed by Saba Dewan, narrated the lives of the Tawaif courtesans of the Indo-Gangetic plains. Dewan, who interacted with the audience, said that the essential mission of the film was to explore the marginalised existence of a section of female classical musicians.

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