Contemporary art to the rescue, as always

Written by Suneet Chopra | Updated: Feb 17 2002, 05:30am hrs
It is with a sense of pride that I look back on the month of January in the art world in our country. After the gruesome goings on we saw from September 11 onwards and the attack on the Indian Parliament on December 13, in which two security personnel, who were unarmed, lost their lives, when POTO was in force in Delhi and VIP security at its obnoxious best, there was little to be grateful for. Things looked worse when all the Central government could think of was to pass another draconian law in the name of securing the Indian people.

That was when the Art Alive gallery and I decided to see what resources our artists could muster together to remind us that life was still worth living. So we sent off about a hundred letters all over the country and got a good response.

We chose the works of 84 artists from Shabbir Qazi, Dharmendra Rathore, Kiran Murdia and Meenakshi Bharti in Rajasthan to Samarendra Singh of Manipur and Benedict Skhemlang Hynniewta of Meghalaya. If there were Kishori Kaul, Veer Munshi and Neeraj Bakshi from Kashmir, there were Shyo Jacob and K S Radhakrishnan from Kerala. Bengal was well represented by Sunit Das, Shuvaprasanna, Shipra Bhattacharya, Biman Das, Archana Das, Paresh Roy and Debabrata De, even if we count Niren Sen, Dhiraj Choudhury, Jagadish De, Subrata and Nupur Kundu and Sudip Roy as based in Delhi.

Puynjab was represented by K Jasjit Singh, Ved Nayar, Arpana Caur, Sidhartha and Ranbir Singh Kaleka, Himachal Pradesh by Gogi Saroj Pal, Atul Sinha and Anil Choudhury, Tamil Nadu by Muralidharan, Andhra Pradesh by Gouri Vemula, Maharashtra by Suhas Nimbalkar, and Gujarat by C D Mistry and Virendra Shah. And, of course, well-known Delhi artists such as Nand Katyal, Gouri Pant, Shamshad Husain, Bulbul Sharma, Kavita Nayar, Kanchan Chander, Nirmal Kapoor, Jagadish Chander and Mohan Singh to name only a few, were also there.

But what intrigued me was how the Eastern influence emerged as an important element of the show, especially in the works of Beohar Ram Manohar Sinha, Vineet Kumar, Tan Chameli Ramachandran and Yuriko Lochan.

Their works formed an important part of the show and stood out among the rest as the suppressed element in our art history of late. That is why the works of Roop Krishna, Ram Lal Katyal and Anil Karanjai are also important asthey reflect important trends that do not surface easily in our popular discourse on art.

What was better, other exhibitions built up the tempo, such as Jai Zharotia and Sidharth at Art Today, Kishori Kaul at Art Heritage, Swapan Kumar Palley at Art Pilgrim, Shubika Lal at Arpana Gallery, and so many others at the Lalit Kala and AIFACS.

The New Year thus reminds us that the only way to survive the present is to tap our own resources. Outside help is not worth much if the experience of the Afghans and of Yugoslavia of help from the international community is anything to go by. We have more feet than the millipede to stand on. Let us be grateful for that.