Critical art writing has to be accessible: ExpertsJanuary 27th, 2012 - 2:19 pm ICT by IANS
New Delhi, Jan 27 (IANS) Does art writing need to change to suit the fickle intellectual attention span of the audience in an age of multi-cultural and multi-dimensional media?
“New art writing should be in a language that people understand. A good art writer has to be a storyteller to connect to the emerging audience and context articles in the social, historical and political perspectives. That is how society is now, it is political,” said Bina Sarkar-Ellias, art curator and founder of the Mumbai-based global art magazine, International Gallerie.
“I have a problem with intellectual writing. It does not reach outside,” Sarkar-Ellias said.
She was speaking at a discussion, “Art Writing and Indo-French Cultural Relations”, an academic session of the ongoing India Art Fair Jan 25-29 in the capital addressed by four speakers from India and France at Alliance Francaise late Thursday.
The role of art criticism is now strong in the Western world after a loss of clout in the years when the markets came to power, said Iranian-French art writer Roxana Azimi, the deputy editor of an arts daily, Quotidien de l’Art.
Azimi said: “The newspapers have realised the power of the internet as the future.” Consequently, bulk of art writing is on the web.
The contention that there is no audience for art writing, and that people want to see art to be able to live the beauty of it is at least four decades old.
It began in the 1960s when the mainline media decided that art was an experiential reality rather than an academic pursuit - coinciding with the age of increased international connectivity and foreign travel.
However, in the 1970s, Pritish Nandy, the then editor of the Illustrated Weekly, brought Indian art writing back to the mainstream.
The 1990s saw a fresh wave of media indifference to writing on core aesthetic, appreciation and criticism, when art came to be viewed as a lucrative investment option. And the corporates trooped in to buy topline Indian art, giving a new edge to the already booming business of art. The media became more business centric in their approach to art.
It was also around this time that the country witnessed press censorship in art, with M.F. Husain becoming a target of Hindu rightwing groups.
The challenge to contemporary art writing lies in the intelligent deconstruction of Eurocentric understanding of art and on the defence of freedom of critical discourse, hinging on significant experiences and geopolitical and social contexts that shaped art writing.
A second objective of the new art writing leans towards synergising research and a wide readership, the speakers said.
The early breed of Indian art writers were mostly World War refugees of European origin like Walter Langhammer, E. Shclesinger and Rudi von Leyden, who mostly worked out of Mumbai, encouraging the first generation of Indian progressive artists like Ara, S.H. Raza, F.M. Souza and M.F. Husain to paint in their own idiom, buying their work and helping them mount exhibitions.
“It was said that von Leyden would cycle to his office at the Times of India and would write his review of an exhibition that very day…The importance of art criticism in India did not come from the art colleges - but from the presence of Europeans in India during the 1940-1950,” noted art critic Yashodhara Dalmia said.
France had an important part to play in the growth of an Indian language in both art and critical art writing. Avant garde artists like Braque, Picasso and Leger had a profound but rather strange influence on the early Indian modernists.
The very artists and writers who looked to France and Europe for inspiration allowed their exposure to shape their nationalist sensibilities - voting for an indigenous idiom after independence.
Sarkar-Ellias said: “Indians can be quite hypocritical. We have (erotic) temple art which has no censorship, but at the same time we censored Husain and more recently Salman Rushdie (in literature). In India, we don’t really have criticisms anymore.”
“But India needs more art publications, more exchanges and more art education even at the primary school level. You need enlightened teachers who can enlighten children. We are still very blinkered in the way we look at art.”
- Encounters with Husain, Pyne, Bawa...An art critic remembers (With Image) - Feb 19, 2012
- Indian art 2.0: Rise of the Young Turks - Sep 08, 2011
- Connecting to roots, homelands with art (Feature) - Jul 25, 2011
- At long last, Husain comes to Delhi (Feature, With Image) - Aug 06, 2011
- 65 years on, young artists spearhead Indian creativity - Aug 14, 2011
- Shameful that Husain couldn't be in homeland: Twitterati - Jun 09, 2011
- Mapping 300 years of Indian landscape art with 385 art works (With Images) - Aug 09, 2012
- New art installation at Nizamuddin railway station - Feb 02, 2012
- Melange of colours at India Art Festival - Nov 19, 2011
- M.F. Husain 'Through The Eyes Of A Painter' (Chronology) - Jun 09, 2011
- Competitions, calendar release on Husain's birth anniversary - Sep 16, 2011
- Four private Indian art archives from US on sale at Sotheby's - Aug 09, 2012
- India has lost an iconic artist: PM (Lead) - Jun 09, 2011
- Intellectuals speak up for M.F. Husain, Arundhati Roy - Jan 01, 2011
- Four Indian galleries, Husain tribute at Art Dubai 2012 (With Image) - Jan 17, 2012
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