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  Courtesy: Paritosh Sen
'Bengal Village' 1938
Contemporary Art in India - A Historical Overview

The history of contemporary Indian art over the last century has been one of dynamic evolution.

The first `contemporary' Indian artists lived and worked within the highly politicized cultural environment of pre- and post independence India . They introduced themselves as modern and secular. While some Indian artists of the time were politically oriented, many others were involved with formal issues. Some revived indigenous traditions, others turned for inspiration to European influences.

Certain tensions inform the works of all contemporary Indian artists, particularly those who were pioneers in the field. There are three basic issues they have had to resolve:
a) how to express their Indian ethos
b) how to relate to international art idioms, and
c) how to evolve an original `voice'.

As KG Subramanyan points out, this has resulted in the last hundred years, in constantly fluctuating approaches by artists to their media. The Western Academic style introduced in colonial times into the curriculum of Indian art colleges - where it is still taught - was first challenged by artists of the Bengal School who made it their objective to promote an understanding of the language of traditional art forms.

Subsequently, rejection of traditional stereotypes and a turning towards Western models was followed in turn by attempts to present indigenous themes through not-so-indigenous methods. Then, a return to old themes and styles, and their mingling with foreign elements in order to create a large 'oriental idiom', activated a reaction towards 'global Olympia ' with attempts to hybridize native and foreign features. So it continued as if 'it were a game in which two antipodal cultures were wrestling with each other'.

Today Indian art is confidently coming of age. Every form of stylistic expression in the visual arts, from naturalism to abstract expressionism derives its power from the artist's emotional connection to his perceptual reality.

National identity has become a many-faceted phenomenon today. And since art is a vehicle for personal expression, modern art in India - as elsewhere - must reflect the complexities of life in our modern nation in its own unique context, and in ways different from the West.

It is in this context that the contemporary Indian artist has to identify with his land, his people, his past and his present - without losing either his individual voice or his universal values, in art as in life.

Over the last hundred years Indian artists have evolved a wide variety of expressive styles .

   
 

Sunil Das
‘Untitled'
oil on canvas

 

'Interpretative Realism' or personalized illumination of objective reality - sometimes accented with oblique, humorous or satirical social pointers, is presented with distinctive creative variations in the works of artists like Bhupen Khakkar, Paritosh Sen, Krishen Khanna, Bikash Bhattacharya, Dharmanarayan Dasgupta, Sunil Das, Sudhir Patwardhan, Shyamal Dutta Roy, Ghulam Mohammed Sheikh, A.G Ramachandran, Shuvaprasanna, Sajal Roy, Jai Zharotia, Atul Dodiya and Jaideep Mehrotra among others.

Realism becomes fantasy in the powerful linearity and surreal forms of Jogen Chowdhury, underlined with acerbic social comment; and in the romantic tenderness of Sanat Kar, the child's vision of Madhvi Parekh and Amitava Das, and the heightened sensory experience of Manjit Bawa.

   
 

Jogen Chowdhury

 
 

(from the book on the artist, Enigmatic Visions', published by Glenbarra Art Museum , Japan )

 

A recurring theme in Indian art is its engagement at many levels with the natural world - whether presented directly as in Paramjit Singh's light sculpted landscapes, illuminated with folk motifs as in the works of Madvi Parekh, or abstracted into almost spiritualized form in the works of Ganesh Haloi and Ram Kumar.

Predictably, spiritualism, symbolism, and surrealism too, assume many forms in Indian art. Here, perceived reality is transfigured through the prism of an introspective imagination and figured in images of many faceted possibility. Some of modem India 's most innovative art is rooted in this ethos.

So we have Ganesh Pyne's luminous introspective reveries drawn from mundane experience; and the iridescent poetry of J. Swaminathan's abstracted, imaginative reworkings of Indian design elements.

   
 

Biren De (1970)
‘Untitled'
oil

 
     

Cosmic and 'Tantric' symbols - often combined with calligraphy or figurative imagery - are charged with resonant energy in the art of G.R. Santosh, Biren De, K.C.S. Panikar, K.V Haridasan, Prafulla Mohanty or Om Prakash.

And even the familiar acquires mystic overtones in works of artists like Rameshwar Broota and Wasim Kapoor, when their subject appears in magnified format, with details stripped down to fundamental significance.

In subsequent sections we shall trace briefly the evolution of innovative art trends and movements as they developed and transformed in the work of representative contemporary Indian artists. While Bengal will remain our focus, we shall give brief sketches of eminent artists and art trends in other areas of the country.

 

Contemporary Indian Art: Historical Overview
Contemporary Art Movements in India
Contemporary Indian Art Prints
Contemporary Art in Calcutta & Bengal

We shall hold regular art exhibitions on our website to acquaint our viewers with the various impulses of ‘modernism’ projected in contemporary Indian artworks – in all their eclectic diversity of artistic ‘styles’ and themes. Look out for new displays every six weeks.

Our first show, ‘Horses’, presents established ‘masters’ past and present, as well as interpretations by newer artists.

 

Divider line - Online art gallery and art exhibitions of works
Anindita Saha
Anup Giri
Anusuya Majumder
Arjun Bhattacharya
Arunangshu Roy
Bhaskar Bhattacharjee
Chhatrapati Datta
Debashis Chakraborty
Debabrata Chakrabarti
Debabrata Sarkar
Dibyangshu Dasgupta
Dipti Chakrabarti
Gautam Basu
Gora Chand Bera
Jogen Chowdhury
Joydip Bannerjee
Malay Chandan Saha
Malay Saha
Manash Biswas
Manoj Dutta
Mona Ghosh
Munindra Rajbongshi
Nikhil Biswas
Parag Adhikari
Paresh Maity
Paritosh Sen
Pradip Bhowmick
Pradip Das
Partha Pratim Ghosh
Pradip Rakshit
Prokash Karmakar
Ranadip Mukherjee
Reba Hore
Sajal Roy
Sanat Kar
Shipra Bhattacharya
Shuvaprasanna
Sipra Dattagupta
Sk. Sahajahan
Sovon Das
Subhra Chatterjee
Sunil Das
Sunil Madhav Sen
Surajit Chakraborty
Swapan Kumar Das
Swapan Palley
Wasim Kapoor
 
 
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