Saturday, November 3, 2012

A 'global' artist connected to his roots

Akin to a fairytale, Haku Shah’s painted works transport us into a mythical, mystical landscape. His canvases though won’t easily pass off for sheer illustrations. His complex oeuvre on a closer inspection prompts a sort of simplified topogenesis, stirring their minds with mixed emotions. While he prefers to paint in oils, the artist has opted to quarantine its most dominant practices deliberately.

He carefully recovers traces of alternate history of painting formed by artists like Gaugin and Amrita Sher Gill, dexterously playing upon the painted surface- in one instance a smoothly fluid shape, a smooth silhouette in another. However, the defined line hardly moves and clearly establishes a vivacious visual symbol of an endless quest for another realm.

A painter of immense individuality, he is rightfully termed a 'global' artist laced with a simple rural touch, which is very much Indian, more specifically tribal art. His outwardly simple images incorporate complex thought processes behind them. He constantly tries to blur the fine lines between art and craft, indefatigably infusing the magnificent mix with new dimensions to our comprehension of the present and the past.

A renowned figurative painter who takes us into a mythical realm, Haku Shah is also an authority on India’s rich folk and tribal art traditions, trying to preserve, document and represent them in contemporary context. K. G. Subramanian has stated of him, “In you, lives the spirit of India and you awaken it and bring it to the life again and again in others, where it is dormant or overlooked.”

Forming an intriguing interface between urban practices and folk traditions, the village and the city, wisdom and knowledge, philosophy and storytelling, he strikes a deft balance among these bewildering binary opposites even while accommodating, resolving and refining them. According to him, rural and tribal art/craft traditions need to reach masses and also get the attention that it thoroughly deserves not only in India but also internationally.

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