Contemporary Indian Art

Contemporary Indian art exists in a cultural space that spans the rural and urban within the divides of the modern versus the post-modern. It is in constant flux, in the process of dynamic change both structurally and conceptually. These new dynamics have created cross-cultural encounters, interactions and collaborations.

In the past anything related to art was always expensive and exclusive. People would buy art more as an investment like silver, jewellery and so so on. It may have been because good artists were very rare to find but that’s all a thing of the past. Today we are fortunate as there are many talented artists, both established and upcoming. A lot of them, instead of pursuing art as a full-time career are taking art as their hobby having other means of supporting themselves, unlike in the past when it was so difficult to be an artist and manage a home.

Now when you go shopping for art you have a lot of variety and there is something to suit every pocket. Thus you see that even the common man, not just the ‘elite’, is opting for “wall dressing”. Galleries have also played a major role in making art available to one and all. They promote some of the upcoming artists by sponsoring them. Another concept catching on is that of established artists making a ‘pret collection’ to make their art available to everyone. Artists are being commissioned for various projects thus giving them exposure.

Artists today are more experimentative with their mediums. A traditional drawing saw oil on canvas or water colors. But now you see mixed media -painting on silk using charcoal, inks and crayons instead of paint -and also the use of recyclable materials. Themes have also undergone a major change from portraits and landscapes to abstracts and now there are even themes pertaining to work issues like science and environment. Religion is also a widely used theme.

Art has thus evolved, I would say, mostly for the better. One does miss the opulence and aura of the old but new tides and new concepts belong to our age and it is indeed a refreshing change.

Some new approaches

For charcoal on canvas, bits of charcoal are used to pencil out the main sketches; then a design effect is created by shading with charcoal and finally the sketches are outlined with black ink. They may not have great depth but they definitely have a dramatic impact at the first glance.

Instead of the traditional brush, for oil on canvas, palette knives, pieces of cloth, rope, etc. are used to create varied effects.

Palette knives are used to create a 3D look; when using ropes and cloth they are dipped in paint and dabbed on canvas to give a granular or a hazy look. Jute is another material used to paint and gives a very strong impact, as the strokes are bold and heavy. Landscapes with mountains and trees come out beautifully with this technique.

Another technique is the use of non-reflective glass instead of plain glass- the paintings look very natural and do not reflect light. Very elaborate framings-double framing, using borders and so on-are done for religious paintings to suit particular themes and concepts.

Traditional canvas has made way for silk fabrics; imported canvas (Spanish and Belgium) for glass; and texture-like paper is used for printing today.

Drawings on paper, old barks of trees, wood pieces, jute pieces (all treated) pasted on to canvas-anything that’s different and innovative seem to be today’s mantra.

Sculptors also are using various new materials like fiberglass, wood shavings, etc. in place of the traditional bronze, terracotta and marble. The new materials are lighter and cost-effective. They are sometimes painted to give the marble look.

Indian artists have extended support to many causes especially relevant in a developing country like ours. They have addressed social and political issues that affect us.

The commodity value of easel painting is being harnessed on a wider scale. The monetary value associated with visual art is believed to appreciate like stocks and shares: it is this business language that compels many patrons to invest in art.

The contemporary art scene in the country is vibrant and full of opportunities for artists and choices for connoisseurs.

Gita Malini