Tuesday, November 27, 2012

‘Figuration in the Bengal School’

New-York AICON Gallery is hosting an interesting show, entitled ‘Jamini Roy & Somnath Hore - Figuration in the Bengal School’. It explores the sort of extremes of visual representation as well as artistic vision within Bengal School of Art. Formed during the early 19th century in Santiniketan and an avant-garde originally plus nationalist movement in response to the then academic styles, this particular School of Art was led by artist Abanindranath Tagore (1871-1951). It tried to modernize Rajput and Moghul styles so as to counter the Western art traditions’ influence.

Along with Gaganendranath Tagore (1867-1938) and Nandalal Bose (1882-1966), he represented India’s early modernists. The Bengal School was associated with Swadeshi or Indian nationalism. It found support from certain British art institutions as well as under the Indian Society of Oriental Art’s epithet (formed by the Tagore brothers in 1907). From the 1920s onward, many prominent artists of the Bengal School embarked on divergent, albeit often aesthetically polarized sojourns and styles.

Figuration though, remained a focus and binding link for those associated with the movement’s distinct modernist evolution. Some of them embraced visuals of myth and mysticism, tranquility and nature, and folk scenes during the prevalent turbulent sociopolitical situation, whereas a few others portrayed the rather darker forces, exploring famine, violent conflict, and spiritual torment.

Somnath Hore and Jamini Roy are perhaps the most prominent representatives of these diverse aesthetic forces, both leaving an indelible mark upon the further discourse of modern Indian art. The latter's rejection of the dominant modern style of painting and also his strong foray into Bengali folk painting’s realm marked a fresh beginning in Indian modern art’s history.

The mother and child, Radha as well as animals were painted in basic two-dimensional forms, with an emphasis on the lines and flat color application. The protagonists were quite often enclosed within deft decorative borders, pushing motifs to the background. The Christ figure was also one of his common subjects.

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