Given all this that I say above, it has been very wonderful indeed that Artscapes, a non-profit, non-government organization, is putting up another women show. This is an important step, of vast import. And I have faith that such endeavours will continue in the future. To have selected or established artists as well as those who work incognito is a brilliant idea of much insight into the workings of the human personality. It can change the tone and temper of our community life, lend sap to back–breaking home work and indeed humanize the whole working of the governmental machinery. I would go so far as to say that each of us should encourage such a move. This will be highly educative. Education of ourselves through art is the key to grooming our personalities, which these days are under much stress. I applaud Artscapes for such an initiative. Bravo!
In this laboriously put together exhibition, there are many entries, each of the works have some merit, though of course the seasoned artists like Manuk Prashar, Nutan Dhiman and Sunita Dinda, here represented, have a decided edge, for the good reason that they have put many more years. Since there is only a small space to discuss the works included, I will mention only a few as a sampling of what is to be expected in the event. This does not mean the others can be ignored not at all. Viewers must look at each included work with interest and not just those by the award winners. Those who, with much enthusiasm, have collected these are discerning and often marvelously perceptive.
As a human being, an artist can perhaps be most keenly conscious of the pulse-beat within himself because first and foremost he is the one who has enjoyed contemplating an object and atmosphere and also states of mind. Consumed with a passion to invent a symbol to communicate it, he or she proceeds to do so. It is important to realize that what the artist does is to invent the symbol, not state the elements of the thing symbolized. At least foremost artists in this show have done precisely that. You have several of them here and one who enlarge the grammar of able to wrest beauty of expression from the most unimpressive aspects of things. This is so because they are all after truth, not merely surface looks. They are energetic to discover life forms. Their works delight as well as make us meditate profitably. Their best images come from deep within the contemplating mind.
In contemporary art, works can be life-enhancing. So artists go on to express their spiritual powers. But then, there are the neo-naturalists, who celebrate form, texture, patterns, design quite in the way India’s famed woven fabrics do. There are still others, who explore the tribal hinterland of the human mind.
Several go for a meditation on man; a self-reflection which can be self-regenerating. As and when the underlying intellectual concept of these painters has the requisite visual energy their art is vital. The painters that are present in this show are not preachers, but their ethical impulses or their spiritual questioning can be pretty strong. Responding to imaginatively visualized normative experience they react sharply though without unbalancing themselves as craftswomen.
There can be, to offer brief notes on the work of some other artists here presented, a heart moving silence as in the figures of Mili Mishra. She gives us full-bodied intimations of the life of human beings. These are not exercise in mere form, but, rather, expressions through formal means of a dramatic human situation. Some of these artists are young still; their craft will surely find much further improvement. But, one may well claim, that within the means at their command they all the same bring us moving experiences, which stir our humanity.
There is, in my opinion, quite often a lot of good art but less of the urgent, pressing one, striking at the fibres of one’s being. Works like Varsha Badal appeal not to the aesthetics of ‘beauty’ or ecstasy alone but to the human spirit. This spirit is empathy or sympathy charged one. In the context intended, it stands not for the Faustian one, nor for divine restlessness or other noble impulses, but simply the power of identifying with the humble or the crushed of the earth. Compassion is the great quality in other works, the heart is touched by human suffering and especially for suffering which we bring upon our head. No nature’s calamities are as harrowing to these artists.
Then simple, but without sentimentalism, are the works by others. These artists make temple bells ring in our heads with a spontaneous authenticity and transfix us with such sweet feelings that they cause much joy. The distance that Indian painting has traveled will have now become evident, but without losing its personality. Some of the new artists are seen to remake their art with a seemingly total break with the past. In these there certainly appears a retreat from modernism, but it is really more a searching in the cultural layers of the past and present for material rather than a following in the steps of the already achieved old styles.
The impact of new psychic and social environment has changed the personality of several of the artists, which in turn has modified or remolded their expression. The life of the early painters was comparatively stable; it was, perhaps, an unquestioned world with little mental darkness or restlessness in evidence. The painter was then rarely his own subject. Then he expressed the form or face of the world carefully, delicately without anguish and as an anecdote. But in time, as with a number of painters here presented, they become thinkers. An inherent questing enigma in now attached to the venture. It is an epistemological doubt that nags them.
Thus some of them, for instance, make statements that irradiate and surprise. Some are fantastical, eccentric or mystical. At their core are presented interesting mental convulsions. In still others is expressed a straightforward faithfulness to modern experience. This is a massive enough personal quality, a kind of aesthetic uprightness. It is a subordination, at the same time, of the emotions, to the analytical intellect. Such artistic personality is precise and composed. These artists therefore observe the world coolly.
As a painter Nazima has tried to express her artistic awareness in terms of homely ecstasies. It is in this way she responds to a root reality. The work is often tempered by the meditative intellect to bring out the spirit within – with motifs as symbolize life and lyrical movement. Similarly, in their artistic assays, some others come to grips with the geometric or physical realities in their composite paintings. Their repertoire adumbrates our body’s sensorial richness to glowing experience.
Women artists love the movements of colour flapping flags of them, the imagery being always strong, vibrant and attractive; and our eyes lap it all up with pleasure. Their graphic lines boil and bubble. Some artists build up atmospheres that trap us in spells of delight, but of a discreet, unobtrusive kind. So their colours float an apparent calm ruling over their scenic vista. They like a hard, firm format.
Mitu Verma’s art flows from the springs of a rural heart; a spontaneous welling up of the earth, the Mother. The artist passionately responds with genuine feeling to make her work true and meaningful for us. Very simply she invokes the spirit of the forests. She crafts to create not photographic images but those commensurate with her own deeper responses to simple life. This way other pointers also come to grips with the deeper peace associated with nature, though without making any comments on the theme.
There are people who get very upset when it is said that paintings nowadays tend to be uniform, dull, and intentionally conformist – instead of being personal, local, individual and exciting. The reply to such charges is – if such a comment can be called a charge-that since it is possible to distinguish the work of one abstract painter and another, the international manner is not uniform. This exhibition is a testimony of that very truth. I must emphasis that a painting may be composed in a given moment but it does its work in time. It may be done in acute emotion yet drives toward precision and compression; the conscious intentionality of art is its way of discovering an emotive truth. Made in and from the material of ordinary life, art is continually wrestling with its own medium. This is what this all women show has tried do of its choicest last.