Monday, August 22, 2011

My first post @ Hyperallergic

It’s been quite some time that I’ve been following ‘Hyperallergic’, an enthusiastic art forum published from Brooklyn, NYC by Veken Gueyikian and Hrag Vartanian. Now, it is my privilege to become the first contributor from India. I’ve recently written a post for Hyperallergic, discussing my views on the iconic ‘HOPE’ poster from 2008 US elections. Please check this out here.

I’m hugely excited and looking forward to be a regular contributor @ Hyperallergic!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

V.S. Gaitonde: Triumph of the solitude

This post is dedicated to the greatest ‘non-objective’ artist from post independence India, Vasudev S. Gaitonde (1924-2001), popularly referred to as just ‘Gaitonde’. His positioning and influence on Indian contemporary art can be compared to that of Agnes Martin, Clyfford Still and Mark Rothko’s. (This is my take on Gaitonde and I don’t think that I’m exaggerating :-) )

It is frequently written about him that he insisted on not being categorized as an ‘abstract’ painter, but a ‘non-objective’ one instead. It is a topic of debate whether non-objectivity is a form to be recognized separately or if it is a subset of abstraction in the broader sense. But in Gaitonde’s context, I think I can understand why he insisted on the differentiation. The answer lies in the modern history of abstract art in India. Abstract painting in India was dominated by gestural figurative abstraction, and the common practice of ornamenting the ideas with ethnic references and cultural motifs. In such times, Gaitonde’s richly evolved forms and luminous colors must have appeared ‘outsiders’ to some, and it is no wonder why Gaitonde himself must have preferred to remain detached from the established school of abstraction.

It was just not only about established practices, but he also remained aloof from people. ‘Gaitonde enjoyed solitude and spent hours philosophizing about art while his beloved Indian classical music or Beethoven or Mozart played in the background’, mentions well-known Indian artist Prabhakar Kolte in his essay about Gaitonde.

Gaitonde graduated from the renowned Sir J.J. School of art of Mumbai in 1948. As a very original and talented young artist, he was invited to join the ‘Progressive artist group of Bombay’, then. Although this influential group was short-lived for various reasons, all the artists from the group created their own successful careers later. Gaitonde chose a path which was different from that of his peers at that time. His interests in linguistics and ancient scripts, his deep study of Japanese Zen philosophy, and his tremendous artistic capacities led him to create his own original understanding and style. His forms are supremely balanced, robust and most importantly they do not carry any forced baggage of the cultural metaphors. Gaitonde’s colors vary from mystic grays to shimmering reds, but they remain in separate peripheries within the painting space. Why I strongly associate his works with Agnes Martin, Clyfford Still and Rothko is for these vary reasons.

When it comes to exploring form, he is more like Agnes, but makes a stronger statement with colors. At the same time he does not seem as keen in exploring interactive possibilities of colors as Rothko. Gaitonde takes a middle path (and here I find a similarity with Clyfford Still) and indulges into form and color relationship. What is common in all these artists is their ability to project coherent relationship of forms, colors and emotions. There they share a same universal platform and create a phenomenal art.

Like his contemporaries mentioned above, Gaitonde had a long lasting impact on the process of understanding the emotional complexity that resides underneath the artistic rendition. Many artists (even today!) tried imitating him, some succeeded in creating lookalike imagery, but none could achieve what Gaitonde did. His innate spiritual temperament and studies of philosophy are also misinterpreted by many by saying that that was a ‘subject’ of his works. Perhaps it sounds more intellectual to quote something around spirituality rather than his painterly process. The fact is that he was an explorer of forms and colors with meditative qualities deep inside. As a technique, Gaitonde used rollers and brushes, and he used oil paints to create multiple layers of varying viscosities, and all of this assimilated on his canvas to bring out a pure experience of sublime quality.

Here ends my post. It should be treated as a brief introduction to this great artist, and needless to say don’t miss his work if you ever get an opportunity. It leaves a lasting impact on the mind!

(Click on the image for the larger view)

Acknowledgment for images: Glenbarra art museum and Saffron Art.