Monday, July 22, 2013

An artist who encapsulates the spirit of India

We need to peep in the past to understand Haku Shah's processes and philosophy. A new breed of sensitive and innovative Indian artists in the 1950s and early 1960s sought to integrate the traditional rich craft traditions of India with the then prevalent colonized art historical discourses and practices.

To put it in the words of Lewis Hyde, they were tricksters or ‘boundary crossers’! And some of them even created a boundary, or brought to the fore a totally new distinction or dimension. More than anything else, they were all skilled practitioners of deception. In this context, K.G. Subramanyan described the trickster in Haku Shah as one possessing disarming simplicity which was deceptive, lauding multiple talented and roles of the artist, historian and art scholar.

His artistic response to Nirgun poets, themselves considered ‘tricksters’ suggests this stimulating streak in his creative sojourn like their passionate poetry that was an outcome of the prevailing socio-political turmoil when rural culture gradually made way for urban culture. The period of transition was similar to the present one as reflected in the verses of Ramananda, Kabir, Krishna Chaitanya, Meera Bai, Sripadaraja, Vyasaraya, Namdeo, Amardas, Tulsidas, Surdas, and King Akbar himself. Haku Shah has responded to their verses and the everyday wisdom contained in them to paint captivating canvases.

Apart from publishing research-based books on Indian pottery, he has served as curator at the Museum for Tribal Cultures, Gujarat University, and as a consultant of NID. He has been associated with many prestigious institutions like the Tropical Museum, Amsterdam; the Mingi International Museum of World Folk Art, California; and the Museum of Mankind, London. He himself has collected exquisite and priceless art objects and has also documented their functional background, encouraging innovative forms of tribal art practice.

Summing up the essence of his practice and personality, a note mentions: “The most obvious personality trait of Haku Shah is his disarming simplicity. He is in this, quite the antithesis of the usual artist or art scholars who tend to carry their egos around them like enormous rigs, and, in their concern to keep them intact, lose touch with what is around. So, naturally his awareness of things and receptivity is larger.”

No comments:

Post a Comment