Saturday, September 26, 2009

Delving into ‘The aesthetics of the erotic’

With help of some visually stimulating slides, Dr. Alka Pande threw light on the sensual side of art through the ages to the contemporary times in a seminar, ‘The aesthetics of the erotic’, on the second day at AEI. Following are some of her key observations on the ‘erotic’ element in Indian art – past and present.

• From earliest times that one can think of, Indian art and Literature has not only been preoccupied with, but also in many ways obsessed with the element of erotica. Imagery both direct and indirect to the sensual and the erotic dots the canvas of Indian art, particularly the ancient and the medieval.

• ‘Rasa’ is the basis of the aesthetic appreciation of Indian art - be it the visual or the performing arts. The ‘shringara’ or the erotic is also the ‘rasaraja’ or the king of the sentiments.

• A rich collection of works exist in which ‘shringara’ or erotica attains a high level of visibility, not only in painting and sculpture - of which Konarak and Khajurhao are brilliant examples of the erotic sentiment in the visual arts - but also in texts like the Kama Sutra.

• Indian Temple Architecture was one of the most important vehicles for the celebration of Indian erotica. In fact, the architecture of the temple speaks of the correspondences with the human coital union.

• The tantric philosophy spilled over into the Indian miniature tradition of painting, be it Rajasthani or the Pahari miniature schools.

• Later, artists like Souza focused on the aesthetics of the ugly, as she put it, in the aspects of harmony, proportion, looks etc. The legendary artist depicted the naked body from an altogether different perspective.

• The contemporary Indian artists tend to deal with erotica in a completely different way. Though linked with the spirit of traditional Indian folk and tribal paintings, the visual language of the modern Indian artist has changed. It witnesses a near-complete break with the visuality of traditional Indian painting and sculpture even while retaining some kind of a link with the metaphysical concepts of Indian Erotica.

Veteran artist Anjolie Ela Menon and renowned legal expert Satish Maneshinde also formed part of this interesting debate on the intriguing aesthetics of the erotic in Indian art tradition.

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