Saturday, April 6, 2013

Blending contemporary and the traditional

Talented exponent of folk forms like Jangarh Singh Shyam and Jivya Soma Mashe have started getting recognition at global auctions like the one by Sotheby’s South Asian Art sales in New York in 2009-10. Tracking the trend, Anindita Ghose of The Mint had pointed out in an insightful essay how it’s now ‘the youngest star’ of India’s contemporary art scene, mentioning: “The raison d’être of tribal art is that in an age of digital imaging and virtual installations, they seem handmade. They’re the farmers’ market equivalent of cling-wrapped fruit.”

Artistic ‘adivasis’, undoubtedly an integral part of India’s rich socio-cultural fabric, are influenced and inspired by centuries-old traditions, festivals and religious rituals. They seek inspiration and imagination from centuries-old traditions, festivals, auspicious occasions and religious rituals. Their practice invariably incorporates images drawn from life around them, myths, gods and goddesses and fantasies.

Their art is finally getting the recognition, market attention and valuation it deserves. Quoting renowned curator Yashodhara Dalmia, the writer underlined the fact that folk & tribal artists aren’t the ones perhaps slow in catching us; in fact, probably other way round, as we’ve been a tad slow in recognizing them.

Those like Lekha Poddar though, well understand their intrinsic quality. The savvy collectors noticed a young and talented tribal artist from Madhya Pradesh more than a decade ago. Impressed by Ramesh Tekam’s peculiar animals and tree of life works done on paper, the astute art lover got him canvas and oil paints, for enlarging one of those strange animal forms. She realized the work was as ‘contemporary’ as those already there in her collection. Since then there has been a ‘tribal invasion’ of sorts in the arty abode of Lekha and her son Anupam Poddar.

Incidentally, Jackfruit Research and Design, a Bangalore-based arts consultancy, curated a show of works from their collection and some newly commissioned works as well by artists often categorized as makers of folk, tribal and traditional art. It tried to foreground the diversity and contemporary relevance of vernacular artists’ ideas, concerns and personas, through some truly ambitious projects.

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