Monday, November 26, 2012

A historical perspective of the PAG

Many upcoming and talented artists from the country during the post-Independence phase were looking to break into new vistas of expression, keen to share their socio-political concerns in a new idiom, which was their very own. The formation of the Progressive Artists Group in the city of Bombay (now known as Mumbai) was a milestone event in the history of Indian art.

Apparently apolitical, their grouping together in the year of country’s Independence was purely coincidental. What the members of the group were more exercised and concerned about was the fact that art as practised till that point in the country had to change. Their collective manifesto called for a break with the past traditions and its stultifying cultural and artistic constraints.

K. H. Ara, M.F. Husain, S. H. Gade, Sadanand Bakre, F. N. Souza and S. H. Raza were all determined to fashion an art entirely Indian, albeit modern. Their work comprised the latter two elements, though the modernism, in the spirit of the peculiar Nehruvian internationalism, largely relied on Parisian abstract Expressionism and post-Impressionism.

The group members were joined for a brief while, in the fifties, by artists like Mohan Samant, Krishen Khanna, V. S. Gaitonde, Akbar Padamsee, Ram Kumar, Tyeb Mehta and Bal Chabda. The group made a major contribution to India’s contemporary art movement by seeking a new form that could describe the reality around post- independence.

The likes of Ara, Husain, S. H. Gade, Sadanand Bakre, Souza, Raza have greatly influenced the Indian art individually and collectively through PAG. A religiously and culturally diverse cast of eccentric characters, all these artists were all enveloped by the highly charged political climate and cataclysmic conditions of cosmopolitan Mumbai in the 1940s. Each one had his unique approach though they were bound by a common thread of eccentricity and propensity to experiment.

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