2006 - Self & Identity

A Few Thought On...

The contemporary art scene in South India is entering a potentially exciting phase, especially among the younger generation of artists born since the Independence.

The Stages being traversed in this post-colonial setting include a healthy resistance to simply mimicking Western fashions in painting and a re-examination of the enduring strength of Indian culture, trying to define what that means in light of today's hybridized world. In short this process is giving birth to the ques for authenticity and identity.

In a society undergoing huge transitions, where in the past the function of art was largely ritualistic, religious and conformist in nature, the question of what the role of the serious artist should be today is a relatively new consideration. We find a spectrum of options ranging from the decorative, the representational, the narrative, the socially critical to the philosophical, thought-provoking and purely aesthetic. Each artist is faced with the task of finding and developing his own voice, embarking on his own personal exploratory journey, according to his individual temperament and aspirations.

The idea of the individual artist having a unique vision, within the strongly collective milieu of South India, is perhaps in itself a somewhat revolutionary concept. Here, much more than in the West, it takes a bit of rebellious courage in addition to talent to choose the life of an artist! Being outside of the mainstream, however, offers a view with a different perspective which often has a fertile impact on the creative process.

It is said that South India is much more traditional than other parts of the subcontinent. Without elaborating on what this might entail.. if this is indeed the case, then the work of South Indian artists inevitably reflects this ethic Gestalt to a greater or lesser degree, consciously or otherwise, if only through a kind of tension created by coming into terms with the contrast individual impulses would create. One can sense in the choice of subjects, which often incorporate certain cultural symbols and samskaric elements. I have seen work where a level of gentle iconoclasm is attained, not without humor!

Certainly, in addition to the influence of the psycho-cultural environment, the sheer sensuousness and vitality of the physical environment can have a deep impact on any artist working here. The heat, the humidity, the floral perfumes permeating the air, the vivid exuberance of colors vibrating in a more equatorial light find their way to many a palette.

Most of the work I've seen is figurative. however stylized. It seems a few artists have ventured into pure abstraction. Perhaps globalization hasn't made inroads in to the same degree here as other parts of the country (for the better or worse!). The artists here seems less a piece of canvas has been seriously questioned and multi-media forms and one-time installations of certain Western art trends (in which the relevance of painting a static image on ta piece of canvas has been seriously questioned and multi-media forms and one-time installations are all the rage) in any case. There seems to be less pressure on artists here to be "original", provocative and to constantly push the envelope. Rather perhaps more focus is put on developing a feeling or a quality of sorts which is transmitted through the image, a depth which can be found and explored even through familiar forms and recognizable objects. I have also seen work expressing more personal, internal experiences. Dreamscapes, excursions into both the Angst and light of the subconscious, spontaneity as a way to free up the creative flow all show a shift from the constraints of the conventional to be changing more dynamic view.

Artists in South India could be pioneers in facing the challenge of how to integrate the influences of so many forces currently shaping and rapidly changing the entire world with the poignantly unique essence of an enduring way of life here which refuses to entirely succumb to the values of consumerism. Such a synthesis could reflect a truly new Zeitgeist in the future direction of their art.

Pamela Winfield

From: 15 August 2006 To: 31 August 2006

At: Male\', New Delhi, Mumbai

Stitching Two Women