If any school of art has been defined and re-defined, defended passionately as well as attacked with cynicism, it is perhaps what we loosely refer to as “abstract art”. It embraces a wide range of practices and art movements like Fauvism and Cubism. What’s more, abstraction and realism are not always mutually exclusive, often flowing seamlessly into one another. Figurative art has many abstract elements in it. It’s been agreed generally that accurate and perfect representation is next to impossible. Interestingly, Picasso said that there is no abstract art as such. “You must always start with something. Afterwards you can remove all traces of reality.”
While speaking to various practitioners of abstract art in the course of putting together this issue of artVarta, I discovered a fierce loyalty in those who practice abstract art – almost like members of a cult! Artists spoke at length and with palpable emotion, often comparing abstract art with poetry and music; quoting Pollock and Brancusi liberally (“That which they call abstract is the most realistic, because what is real is not the exterior but the idea, the essence of things”) to drive home its power; others aligned themselves with filmmakers like Tarkovsky.
Whether in depicting a state of mind or in embodying mysticism like Kandinsky, abstract artists claim that they try to delve deeper into the psyche and explore the essence of human reality. In today’s world of multiple parallel and layered realities, fraught with conflicts, abstract artists, no doubt, have a meaningful role to play. Manish Pushkale, who has collaborated with us to give shape to this issue, describes the job of the abstract artist as a “process to innovate the unknown.”
Since abstract art and abstraction in general has given rise to many discourses, we decided to invite scholar-writers from within as well as from outside the art fraternity to contribute to this issue. One such academic of eminence is Swapan Chakravorty. I am sure you will find it rewarding to read his article on abstract art and Tagore’s engagement with it. We are grateful to Nandini Ghosh and painter-teacher Samindranath Majumdar for their Overview pieces offering perspectives with interesting overlaps and deviations.
It was just a perfect co-incidence that Zarina Hashmi showed her works in New Delhi last winter which gave us the opportunity to review her latest works that were as astounding as always. We have also covered Jeram Patel’s solo show held in Kolkata which was mounted, luckily, while this issue was taking shape.
In the summer of 2011 artVarta representatives travelled to the Venice Biennale and we have a coverage of the exciting world-art show in which contemporary Indian artists participated for the first time in its history.
The Tagore exhibitions in Munich and Berlin to celebrate the poet-artist’s 150th birth anniversary were heady events for artists from Kolkata and Santiniketan and Akar Prakar facilitated the shows that caught the attention of art aficionados in the west.
For Book Review, we have given you a glimpse into the well-produced publication that has documented the life and works of Bengal’s own Shuvaprasanna who is today in the forefront of state affairs.
Perhaps the biggest surprise in this issue is better not disclosed. I will leave you with a hint though: find inside the artworks of an artist with strong political colours which sold like hot cakes this year; one who can make all the politicians in the country go green with envy!