top of page

Learning the history of art is more important as learning to paint

We in Romartika have felt since long that in India, there is no dearth of highly talented and skilled artists but the insight of the contemporary artworld is absent in a major way. We dare say that such absence is not only among the art lovers but also among artists.

The gap between Indian interpretation of art and the contemporary art-view is due to the following reasons.

There are two categories of artists and largely one kind of art lover in India.

First category consists of artists trained through formal academics of art colleges. Of course, several of them make it a spectacular success in due course but then there is a large segment who fail to make an impact. As for making an impact, we mean, launching a unique style or a unique message. The handicap comes from the fact that most of them emerge as specialists or experts. And experts in any field are often the victims of the syndrome called Expert-blindness. Being house-trained prohibits one to see beyond conventional boundaries. Most such artists pick up one of the existing styles or traditions and stick to it. They find buyers too because of the familiarity of the buyers with such style. Once again, this not a generalization.

The other challenge often faced by such formally trained artists is the disinterest in other aspects of life and society. This too is an aftereffect of living way too long in the atmosphere of art and its nuances shielded from other aspects of life and society. But lack of curiosity or interest in the other side of life blinds them to the cornucopia of resources to enrich their expression.

As for the other category of artists who are termed as self-taught, a different challenge exists. Most often, such artists grow obsessed with skill. Being conscious of the absence of the formal knowledge about the nitty-gritties of making a painting or sculpture, they focus their entire effort in perfecting their skill. Also, this is due to the fact that they do not live among art aficionados but among people who are not particularly admirers of art. In such situation, appreciation comes only when a painted rose looks exactly like a real rose. To gain acceptance from such outsider-eyes, they employ humongous efforts in producing beautiful pieces. Because it is counter-intuitive for the masses that a real piece of Art may not necessarily be beautiful in conventional sense. Trying to produce what is admired by the surrounding crowd, they end up in realism or photorealism. Of course, in Indian context, bulls, cows or gods and demigods are always beautiful by compulsion in any case. Can anybody in India, in today's context, dare say that the image of Ganesha looks ugly even if it is painted very badly? Nah! It is beautiful even before it is painted. The same is valid for cows and bulls. When there are dozens of bull-men-artists rolling out mass produced commodities and making decent money, then it may be worth honing the skill of drawing Ganesha or cows or bulls.

Many self-taught artists toe the line of the living examples of the commercially successful painters and end up walking the roads of photo-realism or religious depictions. Of course, these two pathways may be still in vogue in India but will soon wind up in dead ends. It is like jumping onto the wagon of a dying fashion.

This blindness can end only if there is an awareness of modern and contemporary art. Once a passionate and sincere self-taught artist opens her eyes to the horizon of the contemporary art-world across the globe, they will know that they are wasting their energy in reinventive the wheel.

Of course, skill is necessary but skill is the not the end of the world. Skill is just the beginning. The world had gone far beyond skill. In fact, in the west, the word is de-skilling. But to appreciate and understand this, the self-taught artist must dedicate some passion to be acquainted with the history of art. What made sense yesterday may not make sense today. Art is like poetry in a way that both are highly context specific. Take the context away and a poem will be a scrap of incoherent babble. Similarly, the tapestry of art hangs from the peg of context.

Regarding art lovers in India, beauty is the only defining factor for most. But art has gone beyond beauty almost a hundred years ago. People look for familiar objects and forms to decide if a piece of art is good or not. In absence of conventional beauty, an average onlooker thinks that a piece of art is way too complex to appreciate. And they believe that artists are men and women living in some utopian world bursting with inexplicable passion and emotion. It is better to stay away from both, art and artist!

Only way to advance the cause of art in India, is to create awareness among people. And besides awareness, it is also important to shatter the myth that art is meant for brains of extra-ordinary intellect. More and more people must learn to see art with ease and draw pleasure from its nuances.

For this, we in Romartika, initially considered starting art awareness session but finally we decided to launch a podcast on the history of art - ART BEYOND CANVAS - WHY THEY PAINTED WHAT THEY PAINTED.

This podcast is by Saikat Baksi. He is a best-selling author of English fictions and an art critique. One episode will be released every week and will be available in all the main-stream platforms like SPOTIFY, AMAZON AUDIBLE, AMAZON MUSIC, APPLE PODCAST, GOOGLE PODCAST, RADIPPUBLIC.

Here we are embedding a couple of episodes for you to enjoy.

9 views0 comments


bottom of page