Explaining art to people through a ‘visual novel’

February 27th, 2009 - 11:14 am ICT by IANS  

Bangalore, Feb 27 (IANS) A ‘rebel’ artist, who was asked by police to leave an exhibition here after he objected to a minister’s comments on modern art, is coming out with a ‘visual novel’ to explain the finer aspects of art to people.

Titled “Drushya” (the Kannada word for visuals) the 150-page ‘novel’ is an attempt to tell stories though drawings, paintings, photographs and abstract artwork, all done by the artist M.S. Murthy.

Murthy last week stood up to Karnataka Medical Education Minister Ramachandra Gowda for his statement that pseudo-intellectuals and people practising modern art were distorting Indian art and culture.

“Modern art has become a convenient means for pseudo-intellectuals to insult and humiliate ancient Indian culture and heritage. I regret to say that some of the so-called connoisseurs of art take pride in running down the widely practised art in the name of modern art,” Gowda said during a function to inaugurate a branch of the National Gallery of Modern Art here Feb 18.

“I feel this is because of the distorted and perverted thinking that has crept into the minds of some of the self-proclaimed intellectuals who are lording over cultural and art institutions,” Gowda said, invoking the wrath of Murthy and several other artists.

Murthy, who was in the audience, hit back saying a person who did not understand art should not comment on it. He was supported by several artists and an enraged Gowda told the police present at the venue to take Murthy out.

The minister’s comment came in for severe condemnation from the artists community who staged a demonstration Feb 20. They are planning to haul Gowda to the court for defamation.

The ‘visual novel’ will hit the market in mid-March but Murthy said he was not bringing this out in response to Gowda’s “derogatory” remarks against modern art and artists.

“The very intention of the visual novel is to bring art closer to people and create a dialogue among one and all. Through my novel, I have attempted to tell stories through assorted visuals. Very little about art and creativity is known to the people. A lot of misconceptions and myths surrounds art and artists,” Murthy told IANS.

“Generally very few people visit galleries to enjoy art works. Thus the novel will be a kind of mobile exhibition, where people will be able to enjoy and understand art by flipping through the pages of the novel,” Murthy added.

“I plan to release three visual novels by 2011 and have been working on my project for last 15 years. Hopefully, through my effort I am able to make people aware about art and its various aspects,” he said.

The book will have a 15-page text by Murthy, explaining the various aspects of art.

Priced at Rs.600, the first edition will have a print run of 1,000 copies with Murthy himself spending the money to bring it out.

On the controversy over modern versus traditional art, the 49-year-old artist said: “I don’t want to distinguish between modern and traditional art. However, modern art is more a contemporary medium of free expression and one should not attempt to interpret it without looking at it in totality.

“First, understanding of the medium is necessary to make any kind of comments. It is not that I am against any form of criticism. I welcome criticism for my forthcoming novel also, but the person should have some knowledge about art before making any statement,” he added.

Till his stand-off with Gowda, Murthy was leading the life of a recluse, busy working on paintings, drawings, sculptures and murals in his own studio, Bhoomi (earth), at Kanakapura Road in the city.

Following the incident, he has emerged as a rallying point for the artists’ community in Bangalore to assert their right to freedom of expression.

Murthy hopes “self-realisation will dawn on him (Gowda) after going through the novel”.

(Maitreyee Boruah can be contacted at m.boruah@ians.in)

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