Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Early influences on J. Swaminathan's art and life

After studying graphic art in Warsaw and coming back to India, J. Swaminathan joined a magazine. The Link was among India’s first news weeklies. It was founded by Aruna Asaf Ali along with Edathatta Narayanan. Swaminathan would report on developments in South and South-east Asia, also designing both the cover as well as writing on art.

During 1960-65, the artist widely exhibited his artworks in several solo as well as group shows. Along with  11 other artists, he formed In 1962 the Group called 1890 in the state of Gujarat. Their first and probably only exhibition was held in 1963 when it was graced by poet Octavio Paz, the then Mexican ambassador. It was in fact, inaugurated by Jawaharlal Nehru, the then prime minister, at the Lalit Kala Akademi’s LKA) newly opened Rabindra Bhawan Galleries.

The artist rejected all derivate or prevailing fashionable ‘isms’, especially the shadow of the ecole de Paris on realm of the modern Indian art. As an ex-Marxist could only do, right from the manifesto of Group 1890, J. Swaminathan argued:
  • Art for us is not born out of a preoccupation with the human condition. We do not sing of man, nor are we his messiahs.
  • The function of art is not to interpret and annotate, comprehend or guide. Such attitudenising may seem heroic in an age when man, caught up in the mesh of his own civilization, hungers for vindication.
  • Essentially, this self-glorification to us is but the perpetuation of the death wish, of the state of un-freedom of man. Art is neither conformity of reality nor a flight from it. 
  • It is reality itself, a whole new world of experience, the threshold for the passage into the state of freedom. 
From his initial ‘cave painting’ (canvases done in the early 1960s) he graduated to wall paintings of fascinating folk and mystifying Tantric art. Through the mystical symbol of the sperm, the yoni and the lingam he sought to explore what Philip Rawson, a British critic, termed the ‘Traditional Numen’.

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