Contemporary Art: A Result of Emerging Cultures

Contemporary Art: A Result of Emerging Cultures

Art and its definition are always a matter of individuals’ insight. Its diversity has empowered it to possess multiple understanding and potential to influence culture, politics, and economy. Moreover, the dictionary defines art, “the conscious use of skill and creative imagination especially in the production of aesthetic objects.” (Merriam-Webster) Although every epoch has its distinctiveness as a significant crowd-puller, some artists could feed energy from everyday objects around them and inspire them with novel power and meaning. One of those is penned by this famous Russian novelist, which says, “Art is the activity by which a person, having experienced an emotion, intentionally transmits it to others” – Leo Tolstoy.

But no matter what the definition would be, it has been around us for as long as humans have existed in the form of cave paintings, hieroglyphics, painting or sculpture, to name a few. Ever wonder what the term for today’s art form is? Well, it is known as Contemporary Art and usually found it misunderstood with Modern Art. As per the English language, ‘modern’ and ‘contemporary’ are synonyms. Unfortunately, these two terms present two different times of creation, approaches, and their functionality in the art world. Here is a gist of the difference between Contemporary Art and Modern Art in India.

Modern Art in India is a little different than in the West. Modern Art in the West refers to a period between the latter half of the 19th century and the mid-20th century. It consists of a range of art movements and philosophy and literature, such as Symbolism, Futurism, Surrealism, Expressionism, Pop Art and others. And the development of industrialisation and globally interaction of economic and political activities cultivated a modern urbanisation culture. A critic of the twentieth century, Clement Greenberg, has talked about the core of Modernism in his essay Modernist Painting. He says, “the core of Modernism lies in the usage of representative ideas of a certain discipline to criticise that particular discipline itself.” He also says how Realistic and Illusionist art used “art to conceal art” while Modernism uses “art to call attention to art”. Modern Art consists of many psychologies, theories of time and space, politics and communist principles, and several other factors in its work. Modern Art was the representation of thoughts of the era.

However, Modern Art in India took root under the British Raj. A deep longing for freedom and independence had become the ideas of the early Modernist paintings in India. Before the political struggles, Raja Ravi Verma, Father of Modern Indian Art, depicted Indian subjects in an academic painting style. His artwork demanded the knowledge of the context, and his portrayal of Indian issues, especially women, in a realistic fashion that was nearly photographic, were new to the Indian subcontinent. After that, Nandalal Bose, Abanindranath and Rabindranath Tagore, and a few, created artworks with the essence of Modern Indian Art. Modern Art in India is also region-specific because of its illustration with many movements like the Bengal School, the Progressive Artists Group, the Madras Art Movement, and many more.

At the surface level, Contemporary Art and Modern Art in India appear similar. But the critical difference is that early Contemporary artists generally lived in the post-colonial era and did not find the requirement for a uniquely Indian identity. Indeed, globalisation, digitalisation and liberalisation have given access to new technologies, outlooks on art, media, and even better apparatus and materials to make art. While this idea of newness is Modern, it does extend to Contemporary Art in this way.

Another significant feature of Contemporary Art is the importance to space and the viewer. Contemporary Art is a conversation among viewers, artists and space. Whereas, Modern art was restricted to just the artist and the viewer in a conventional gallery or museum. The usage of public spaces flourishes in Contemporary Art; for example, the use of warehouses in the Kochi-Muziris Biennale or the use of train stations for the Chennai Photo Biennale. Another public space art form is Street art, a powerful platform for reaching the public that motivates street artists in multiple ways. Some of the most exciting street art around Bangalore creates narratives between Cubbon Park, MG Road, and Majestic Metro Stations and the areas around them, for example, Mural inside the Cubbon Park Metro Station by Artez.

Let’s admire some of the Indian Contemporary artists and their artworks which have captured people’s imaginations.

Atul Dodiya

Mumbai born Atul Dodiya is one of the most popular contemporary Indian artists. His work is hunted after by art enthusiasts. Dodiya’s paintings are in the same vendues as some of the most important and famous modernists like Tyeb Mehta and Francis Newton Souza, whose artworks have become promptly recognisable among art fanatics. Dodiya’s paintings are influenced by these artists and many others with the re-interpretation of their traditional style through a contemporary perspective. His artwork engages with both Indian political and art history in such a way that will last in the memory of its viewers.

Bharti Kher

London-born Bharti Kher became domiciled in New Delhi to commit to her role as a contemporary artist fully. Her work has seen her got one of the most popular Contemporary Indian artists. It features an amalgamation of painting, sculpturing and installation. She frequently integrates bindis, the popular forehead decoration worn by Indian women, into her work. They are mainly of animals and nature. Her work has acknowledged success at global auctions. She has displayed a strong relationship with the body, its narratives, and the spirit of things. Inspired by a wide range of sources, she employs the readymade in the wide arc of meaning and transformation. Hence, her works move through time, using reference as a counterpoint and challenge as a visual tool.

Jitish Kallat

The well-established contemporary artist follows Jitish Kallat’s art formats to creates paintings, sculptures and photography, to name a few. Many of his work is based on his encounters with the multi-sensory environment of Mumbai as well as the events which have contributed to its making. His style emphasizes his concern for the socio-political history of the city. He has also suggested the ironies of migrant worker’s lives and labourers in the cities of India, and addressed the problem of painting in an age dominated by mass media, writes art dealer and collector, Amrita Jhaveri, in A Guide to 101 Modern & Contemporary Indian Artists.

Shilo Shiv Suleman

Shilo Shiv Suleman, a Bangalore-based Contemporary artist who created an impression at the Burning Man festival in 2014 with her unique, interactive installation, created a Fearless Collective mural inside KR Market in Bangalore’s oldest flower market. She practices the intersection of magical realism, art for social change and technology. She has created a street art near Jyoti Nivas College in Koramangala, part of the Fearless Collective, which has moulded in response to the Delhi gang rape in 2012. She uses art to speak out against gender violence. Take a turn into 1st A crossroads to admire the vibrant piece.

Satish Acharya

Pop art set the cartoon's place within contemporary art, but comics had also begun to intrude on artists’ practices outside of pop art. Satish Acharya is an Indian cartoonist from Kundapura, Karnataka. He was introduced on "United Sketches" as a professional cartoonist from India and included in the "24 Intellectuals" list by Forbes India in 2015. He got his gig as a political cartoonist with Mumbai-based English tabloid Midday in 2013 and contributed to the daily cartoon column for nine years. His work on the Charlie Hebdo Massacre was regarded as one of the most potent cartoons on the tragedy by the foreign media. It was published in newspapers, including The Wall Street Journal, The Times, and The Guardian. While India is famed for traditional artwork, a new generation of artists are creating their identity.

Nevertheless, art increasingly fills our everyday spaces and makes them come alive in brilliant and unique ways. It is a considerable part of one's culture, which shapes ideas and provides one with a deeper understanding of emotions, self-awareness, and more. We're in that time where the significance of the creative economy is growing. Art is becoming fundamental to closely all industries and innovation in the art ecosystem. The contemporary art world paves the way for a greater understanding of the subject, a peaceful yet captivating climate to work in, and a victorious inclination to end with.