Unskilled Art Will Not Stand The Test Of Time

Written by Suneet Chopra | Updated: May 9 2004, 05:30am hrs
Today I notice that a number of galleries are trying to avoid the difficult task of finding good artists and projecting them and replacing them with gimmickry that has overtaken western art completely or going in for decorative works that go with ones decor. Both these trends spell doom for art as investment and divest our art of the future it normally ought to have in the market.

This is not an unconscious effort. Our intellectual and creative development today is a good deal better than that of the US and a number of European countries. As such, there is a demand for Indian contemporary art, folk art and artifacts, Indian music, Indian books and even personnel at all levels of research and development, especially in science and medicine. We must not overlook this and become unimaginative copy cats of the process of trivialization of culture that is going on around us today. It will harm us if we do not look out. Art is a skill. Unskilled clever things may be conversation pieces, but they seldom stand the test of time.

That is why I am constantly on the look-out for artists developing slowly but steadily, like Gurdeep Singh, who has just exhibited at the Alliance Francaise in Delhi and has been concentrating on Sufi themes for nearly a decade now.

Of course, there are works that resemble icons, beautifully executed with a fine blend of colour and texture, but what I found new this time was his works that go beyond the formal representation of saints and the like to the understanding of coexistence of different forms of life in nature, of cooperation and harmony. These works, built up on the basis of well-chosen brush-strokes and colours, are some of the best available in the market at Rs 40,000 each. Gallery owners taking works abroad ought to consider including his work in group shows.

Another artist, who few equal in sophistication, is Shakti Maira who has just exhibited scrolls and other works on the theme of seeds at Sridharani Gallery. While it reminds us of a similar theme that has been the preoccupation of another excellent artist, Shobha Broota, Mairas meticulous approach based on Zen expression, awakens in us our close proximity to the great cultures of East Asia: China and Japan. His work has an importance for the progress of a future art of independent India. This is because the West seems to be degenerating into a new period of barbarism with its Rambo-like activities.

A Sufi expression in oil-on-canvas by Gurdeep Singh
The Arab world is in chaos, so the only ray of hope one can see is in a coalition of the powers of the East to restore a sense of humanity and creativity to the world once more. Never before has the vision of that great Japanese aesthetician, Kakuzo, Okakura who came to India as a guest of the Tagores been more relevant to us than it is today. At between Rs 12,000 and Rs 40,000, each Mairas works ought not to be overlooked by collectors looking for art with a future.

An artist whose work blends images and thoughts with a remarkable facility is Salil Sahani who exhibited recently at the Art Heritage. This artist, born in a village in Midnapur in West Bengal, uses the print medium effectively to create stream of consciousness works that reflect not only the passage of time but the overlay of events that create new patterns out of the residue that perseveres. This is very much the art of our times.

Finally, there is Saffronarts online auction on May 4-5. While it is bang in the middle of the elections, and they do have an effect on buying and selling art, there is a wide range of artists works available. Collectors are advised to study the website and bid for the really interesting works.

Of the works I found interesting on the Saffronart website were Akbar Padamsees digital prints at Rs 12,000 each; Sripathy Acharyas Gandhi (ref no 1,025) at Rs 1,025; Adivrekars stories of Miracles on water (ref no 5,457) at Rs 12,700; as well as works of TM Aziz, Yusuf Arakkal, Laxman Aelay, Amitava Das, KH Ara, FN Souza, MF Husain and Tyeb Mehta. This website is well worth accessing and browsing in to pick up good works.

One must, however, satisfy oneself with the authenticity and quality of works of well-known artists which one cannot judge from a website alone. With this proviso, one should do well enough to pick up works on the web.