Body Art is all very visible today in the form of tattoos that we see on people, especially the young. Yet, this sort of art is not at all new fangled and has its roots in ancient history as one of the oldest forms of art practiced by man.
From the perspective on an anthropologist, decorations on the human body dates back to pre-history. Tattooing, body piercing and body painting, as well as body reshaping, the application of henna and the making of scars – are all marks of identity used by different cultures and peoples in many lands over time. Some of these practices remain with us today.
Body art shows the way humans relate living experiences to their own physical body. And this art communicate powerful messages that are ingrained in the collective unconscious of the people that use them. We have records of such body art from ancient and modern tribes preserved in many formats including photographs, drawings, engravings, books, films, sculptures and paintings.
Body art is a way of signalling an individual’s place in society – whether it be permanent, like tattoos and scars or ornamental, like piercings or even temporary, as in the case of make-up, clothing and hairstyle. The same could be used to mark a special moment or commemorate an event like coming of age, or marking a transition in life. It could also be less remarkable – like the following of a fashion trend.
The Body Art of the 1960s and early 70s expressed the artists’ feelings about the commercialisation of art. They wanted to find new spaces for their art and to escape the system and the confines of a gallery. In so doing they were also debunking the trappings of exclusivity, snob value, luxury quotient and rarity that was associated with high art.
We shall see examples of this modern era of Body Art in our concluding section next week.
Pappu is a fresh young talent from the North-eastern state of Tripura. A product of the Govt College of Art and Craft, Agartala, under Tripura University.
Pappu earned his Bachelor in Visual Arts in 2015. He has picked up awards like that at the Annual Exhibition of GCAC in 2013 and in 2015; and at the Tripura Rabindra Parishad in 2014.
He has participated in significant exhibitions, namely:
• GROUP 13 Art Exhibition in City Centre Art Gallery, Agartala 2014
• Annual exhibition of GCAC, Agartala, Tripura 2011-2015
• SFI -organised Art Exhibition in City Centre Art Gallery 2011
• TRIPURA RABINDRA PARISHAD Art Exhibition 2014
Pappu’s 3D models and relief sculptures are to be seen at the Tripura State Museum.
ABOUT PAPPU DEBNATH’S WORK
Pappu Debnath likes to document contemporary life that he sees around him in his sculptures. He sees social events, large and small, and tries to express their significance through his work.
Among his major influences are Op Art and the works of Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg and also Rene Margritte. He also draws from the works of masters like Van Gogh and Munch. Closer to his time, he cites Bhupen Khakhar and the film-maker Rituporno Ghosh as his spiritual mentors.
Academy Of Fine Arts, 2, Cathedral Road, Near West Bengal Film Centre, Park Street, South, Kolkata
The Academy of Fine Arts presents a solo exhibition of paintings by Dewashish Das. The art work on display showcases works based on mythology, focusing on human figures and faces. Dewashish Das is a graduate from Purnea Art College in Bihar and has worked with eminent artist Shri Sukumay Mitra who was a student of student of Nandalal Bose. Most of Dewashish’s paintings are inspired from India’s rich tribal culture and heritage.
UNIQUE ART SPACES IN BANGALORE
Art can never be restricted by time, space and least of all conventions. As Bangalore boasts of a culture that is artistically rich and open-minded, the city dwellers easily warmed up to the idea of having unconventional spaces dedicated to art. These spaces are not part of art galleries or other commercial premises – they are simply spaces that display art for art’s sake!
We have been around this area before in our discussion of Art History. Still, this is a nomenclature that exists in Art History and therefore worthy of being shared with all of you.
Associated with Marcel Duchamp and the Dada movement, Anti-art has its origins around the year 1914. Artists like Duchamp rejected current definitions of art and created works that were outside of the traditional arts or popular art. While unconventional, Anti-art expanded people’s notions of what could be deemed art. While some artists associated with the movement abandoned traditional art forms altogether, others employed some traditional forms (i.e. painting, sculpture, etc…).
Art historians view Anti-art as more of an umbrella of various movements aimed at breaking with traditional forms and views of art. The Dada movement is regarded as the first of these movements. Dada theorists sought to create art that was opposite to the conventional definitions of art and this ideal is also part of the Anti-art aesthetic. However, Anti-art could also reflect the absence of art. An empty frame, for example, could be described as a work of Anti-art.
Anti-artists generally were opposed to high art as well as the art market itself. They strove to break with traditions as well as known art institutions. Aside from Dada, other well-known movements under the umbrella of Anti-art include Constructivism, Surrealism, Letterism, and Neo-Dadaism. Duchamp’s Ready-Mades are among early examples of Anti-art. His work Fountain (1917) features an upside down urinal. The work was controversial because it essentially premised that anything could be deemed art–even the presentation of a found object like a urinal.
Like Dadaists, many artists aligned with Anti-art movements rejected conformity of any kind. Many even rejected the artist’s association with a work of art and worked anonymously or collectively with other artists. After World War I, such movements rose to greater prominence as the ‘old world’ seemed lost after the horrors of war. Artists began to blur the boundaries of art increasingly more.
Many Anti-art movements were also associated with political movements of their era. For instance, many Dadaists, particularly Berliners, were aligned with radical Communism. Constructionists were associated with the early years after the Russian Revolution. Many Surrealists also identified with Communism.
In many ways, both art and politics merged to simply mean anti-establishment for artists who wanted to break with old forms of art and governance. Often deemed as radical, today Anti-art is generally embraced by the art community and even collected by museums. Anti-art movements existed well into the 1960s and 1970s. Moreover, many artists and the course of Modern Art itself have been integrally influenced by Anti-art theories, artists, and art works.
MRINAL DEY (b. 1979) is a Master’s in Painting from Kala Sangeet University, Khairagarh. He is the recipient of the 2010 Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant and the 2008 Canada Greenshields Foundation Grant. He has also been offered the China Government scholarship by the Ministry of HRD, Govt of India. Dey works in several idioms. The available body of his works displays a few oil pastel portraits and some drawings executed with a ball point pen. His portraits are drawn against a surface of polychromic texture.
ABOUT MRINAL DEY’S WORK
Mrinal Dey’s works appear jubilant, mournful, serene and contemplative all at the same time. The black sinuous lines help the image to emerge out of the void. The colour textures suggest both the raiment and the skin. Dark black hatchings create a visual unrest. On the other hand in the ‘Desire’ series, Dey creates a different sensation altogether. There is a duality at play. The sublime erotica functions through metaphors. The painstakingly created marks build the image. Desire becomes synonymous with affliction. Open wounds are cherished here. The sensual floral motif constantly refers to unspoken pleasures.
EMAMI CHISEL ART WALK
8th Annual Exhibition 2015
1st Aug – 20th Aug, 11:00am – 07:00pm
Emami Chisel Art Walk, Emami Tower, 687, 1st And 2nd Floor, Anandapur, In Emami Tower, E.M Bypass, East, Kolkata
Emami Chisel Art Walk brings to you the 8th Annual exhibition of paintings and sculptures by well-known artists from Bengal. The exhibition will not only display the art work of eminent artist but also will provide a platform for upcoming artist. The participating artist includes Jogen Chowdhury, Lalu Prasad Shaw, Bijon Chowdhury, Prakash Karmakar, Mohan Singh Shyam, Dr. Swapan Paul, Sandip Bajpai and Samir Aich, among others.
AHUJA MUSEUM FOR ARTS
Rare Collection: Art Exhibition
1st Aug – 30th Sep, 11:30am – 06:30pm
Ahuja Museum For Arts, 26, Ground Floor, Lee Road, Near Forum, Park Street, Central, Kolkata
Ahuja Museum For Arts presents Exhibition of a Rare Collection of signed prints, etchings, lithos and intaglio among others. Works by eminent artists such as by Paritosh Sen, Jagmohan Chopra, Dattatraya Apte, Suhas Hore, Jyoti Bhatt, Laxma Goud and others will be exhibited at the venue.
The subject of murals is so vast that we have spent the last two week talking about different aspects if this art form. This is the concluding week where we shall look at the significance of murals.
Significance of murals
Murals are public works of art and can happen over large surfaces which are seen by many people. Murals take art outside the preserve of galleries and into the open for all to see. Therefore murals tend to seen also by people who would not normally visit a gallery.
Many of the formal murals are commissioned by local authorities or a rich patron, but more and more murals are being painted with grants these days. Murals can beautify a city and raise the profile of a place by bringing it to immediate attention of the public.
Murals communicate directly and subliminally to passers-by and to the people who live or work in the areas that have murals. There is the aspect of aesthetic upliftment which is why many corporate houses also commission murals in their interior and exterior spaces.
Internationally famous murals in socially and ethnically divided communities function as a tool of communication and expression for these communities. Examples of this abound in Mexico, New York, Philadelphia, Derry, Belfast, Los Angeles, Nicaragua, Cuba and in India. Murals have been painted not only to communicate during conflict but also to constitute a dialogue between peoples.
Mural painting is of very ancient origins. The San Bartolo murals of the Maya civilization in Guatemala are the oldest example of this art in Mesoamerica and date back to 300BC. In the Indian state of Kerala, mural paintings on the walls of Hindu temples date back to the 9th century AD.
Many rural towns have begun using murals to create tourist attractions in order to boost economic income. Colquitt, Georgia is one such town. Colquitt was chosen to host the 2010 Global Mural Conference. The town has more than twelve murals completed, and will host the Conference along with Dothan, Alabama, and Blakely, Georgia. In the summer of 2010, Colquitt will begin work on their Icon Mural.
Murals and politics
Murals have been used as expressions of social emancipation. They have also displayed political goals. Irreverence has been espoused in murals in coffee houses and local bars – to create a mood and a context for the patrons. Often the visual effect is to attract the public. But the social message is inherent, in any case.
Totalitarian regimes use murals as propaganda. But it has been seen that despite the agenda-based nature of these works, some of them have great artistic value.
Mexico has had famous political murals created by artists who have become renowned for their work in this medium. The Mexican Mural Movement of the 1930s brought to prominence names like Diego Rivera, Jose Orozco and David Siqueiros. Rivera’s murals have also graced San Francisco, Detroit and New York City. It should be noted that during the terrible McCarthy years in the 1950s Rivera’s 27 murals entitled the ‘Detroit Industry’ was marked with sign placed in the courtyard the walls of which carried the murals. The sign praised the art while, at the same time, it called Rivera’s politics “detestable”.
Trouble torn Northern Ireland has some of the most well known political murals in the world. Nearly 2000 murals have come up there since the 1970s, when sectarian strife marked the land. Of late the murals are non-sectarian and deal with social issues like racism and the environment. Some of the murals are totally a-political and show scenes from everyday life.
Political murals and graffiti adorned the Western side of the infamous Berlin Wall before it came down in 1989. Several acclaimed artists painted on this wall just as many unknown ones did and this stretch of wall was once called the “world’s longest canvas”.
In India, one of the most recognizable murals is inside the Jawarharlal Nehru University campus. Here, the “Communism” wall painting is based on Picasso’s “Guernica”.
Subhradip Saha completed his Bachelor of Visual Art degree (BVA) in Painting in 2015, from the Government College of Art and Craft, Agartala, Tripura under Tripura University. He has also participated in exhibitions such as Group 13, in 2013 and Fresh Marks, in 2014-15.
Subhradip’s works have been shown at the Camlin Art Foundation (a regional painting exhibition) in 2013, SPA First State Art Exhibition in Agartala in 2014, Pragati – Birla Academy of Art and Culture in Calcutta in 2014, Barak National Art Fair at Silchar in 2015, the Annual Exhibition of Tripura Rabindra Parishad at Agartala in in 2012 and in ’13 and ’14, at the Annual Exhibition of the Govt College of Art and Craft in Agartala for 4 consecutive years up to 2015.
This young artist has already picked up a number of awards like that at the Annual Exhibition of the Govt College of Art and Craft, Agartala, in 2014, the SPA First State Art Exhibition in Tripura in 2014, the Barak National Art Fair in 2015 and the Ashish Majumdar Memorial Award in 2015.
ABOUT SUBHRADIP SAHA’S WORK
Subhradip is very conscious of the arbitrary nature of his context – set in India’s North East and in the sort of social milieu he found himself growing up in. Still experimenting with styles, this young painter is a keen observer of contemporary life around him particularly of people in the middle and lower middle classes. He admits to taking references for his works from photographs.
Features of Western Art like Pop Art, Conceptual Art, Photo Realism and Hyper Realism have influenced him. He cites the works of artists like Miro, Gopa Roy Jogen Chowdhury, Biplab Mahanta, Sujith NS, Mondrian, Nanda Das, and Kaji Nasir as having moved him deeply.
Hugo Weihe knows his art. Having been the International Director for Asian Art in Christie’s he has seen the art coming out of this vast continent for a number of years. Weihe has now taken over as the CEO of Saffronart – perhaps the biggest auction house for Indian artworks. In a recent interview, last month, he compared the Indian art market to the Chinese one.
Poster, tribal and contemporary art are the big buys of today, says Weihe. And a lot of this sort of art is selling online. On the online segment we have our Early Works Art Gallery which caters to the segment of buyers who want to buy early works of young artists and students – before they become famous, and the work of established artists from their early days. Saffronart’s online avatar is Story LTD and it has made rapid strides in promoting popular art and taking it to the masses. And there is a large mass of buyers out there.
Weihe feels that Indian antiques and miniature paintings are the biggest untapped potential – which has so long been safeguarded by Indian laws, from being taken out of the country. Since antiques have the weight of history behind them, they would be of special interest to buyers, says Weihe. While we are not sure if we would like our antiques to be sold, we could gain from the art travelling out of the country for exhibitions to create a context and background for India and Indian art in general.
When asked about a comparison with the China, Weihe said that the Indian art market matured a lot in the last fifteen years. China has, with great national pride, bought Chinese artworks from all parts of the world and have brought them back home. The Chinese government also actively promotes art by creating artists’ villages that nurture contemporary art. Similar steps should be taken in India, Weihe feels. The Kochi Biennale is a good start and more on the same lines have to be done. This sort of an event would also have spin offs for the tourism and economy of a place.
We all hope that this good beginning augurs well for a mature Indian art market.
THE CULTURAL HERITAGE OF HIMACHAL PRADESH
The state museum of Himachal Pradesh is all set to preserve and showcase the heritage and culture of the region, in their site in Shimla. A large, independent gallery is being set up to house contemporary art and crafts.
For a full report on this new step being taken by the Himachal Pradesh authorities, read: