Idea of Nationalism and Modernism in the Context of Folk Art-I & II

Idea of Nationalism and Modernism in the Context of Folk Art-I & II


in this second half of the second module uh
we will discuss these three very important aspects together that is the relevance of
the art practice in reference to nationalism and modernism as ideas for a nation building
to make it simplified we need to understand how the visionaries behaved like activists
and they perceived that folk and minor art has a prime role to play in the cultural politics
of our country and specially in the colonial india it became much more relevant because
that was a time when the country men were uh in search of a new idiom of expression
that is of their own so in search of that indigenous uh expression uh they tried to
understand and realize quite a few factors that has uh acted as a operational factor
in the colonial and of course in the pre colonial post colonial era and we are going to talk
about the vision and the visionaries who realized that modernism and nationalism has some connection
uh and that [builded/built] built up the importance of folk and minor art practice in india to
a large extent so in these three lectures we are going to
understand through examples and texts that how it has shaped up and how it got executed
in that particular time and what is the relevance of this particular activity in today’s context
so although being instinctive and primitive by nature has never been counted as a demerit
for modern art folk art of india but it holds the potential to fall under a different subgroup
which is perhaps still unnamed so in the beginning of the lecture when we talked about this misleading
terms folk art itself is not a very clear term or when we say some art to be minor then
what is the major stream that remains the question when we say is tribal art then who
are the tribes and who are not the tribes so this is perhaps the question that we must
hold and try to understand and answer that through the journey that we are taking up
and for me as a instructor of the course i am trying to gather as many information as
possible and i am going to connect them uh in reference to the context of the importance
of nationalism and modernism the concept of modernism that has come via europe but the
nationalism and modernism had the similar fiber all over in the world so let us see
how they were interpreted and how we look at them we can neither call it primitive if
we associate primitivism in western european avant garde principle of modernity nor can
any academic sophistication in its technique that transports it to the mainstream the avant
garde artists in the west included revived primitivism to defy classicism they set the
appreciative parameters for modern expression to overrule the illusion of space and confronted
a new mode of idealism conforming to the basic simplicity similar to primitive and prehistoric
culture in colonial and post independent india primitivism was rather associated with nationalistic
spirit by the activists who initiated the revival of indigenous art during this time
the revivalist scholars realized the importance of folk art that was regional religious and
also vernacular in nature for a long time the folk aesthetics have confronted doubts
whether the paintings are worth of any serious discourse or not but eventually with the endorsement
of nationalism context of folk art drew thoughtful attention as a newly found alternative aesthetics
for our country w g archer found the tradition to be of some importance due to its primitive
connection in the light of the pioneering avant garde movement in the europe where as
ananda k coomaraswamy and e b havell study between the years nineteen hundred nine to
nineteen hundred thirty five on indian art practice outside the mainstream mughal court
painting placed the regional art form on the higher pedestal in their opinion on the potential
of painting to contribute in a rise of modern indian art under nationalistic spirit e b
havell noticed the tradition as a turning point to revive indigenous style of visual
expression abanindranath tagore nandalal bose and other nationalists from bengal school
commented over the explored possibility of including the style and aesthetic principles
of folk painting in their own artworks in recent times art historians namely partha
mitter debashish banerji and r siva kumar are amongst the writers to access the significance
of these experiments in their recent writings so from here we would like to understand how
we invited modernism in the country’s cultural history with the help of folk and minor art
that was existing for a very long time without notice it was something that was not really
taken into a serious account for a very long time but the practice nevertheless went on
and on and on in the writing of partha mitter’s uh the triumph of modernism india’s artists
and the avant garde nineteen twenty two to nineteen forty seven partha mitter highlighted
on some lesser known aspects of indian art focusing at the turbulent aimed at the british
colonial era when the dawn of modernism offered indian artists of early twentieth century
with a commanding device of colonial confrontation he particularly mentioned two artists namely
sunayani devi and jamini roy’s their works to reiterate folk components that was discussed
thoroughly in partha mitter’s writing the devices of colonial confrontation that we
try to understand in this particular context was more like a codification in this direction
where bahaus exhibition in nineteen hundred twenty two in kolkata marked an entrance of
european modernism in india to potentially intervene and mingle with indian nationalism
the decline of oriental art changing nature of imperial patronage rise of feminist voices
realization of primitive elements for independent artistic expression marked the modern india
so it no longer followed the western way of looking at things when we say western we generalize
it but by saying western we mean the european culture that dates back to uh sixteenth century
renaissance where the scientific perspective and the illusion of depth that was created
in a ground was considered to be the highest level of beauty they set up a parameter in
fact into the indian mind to go by that and that was known to be the ideal condition for
them that was also some kind of a idealism that is related to realism so the nationalistic
notions came much later in european modern art but with that we should not also ignore
a new possibility of the aesthetic quality that was provided by the primitive expressions
of the prehistoric art in our country it was surviving in the form of folk and minor art
with that the book of partha mitter it unveils another very important component that unveils
inventing the indian peasant to access the primitive reception in modern art as a partial
dissolution and ostentation it was not only the western intake for indian art but stella
kramrisch introduced the modernity of style in urban folk painting of kali ghat pata and
katha embroidered images of rural bengal to european avant garde stella kramrisch was
the one who used to come and collect the uh almost unrealized tradition of embroidery
that was done on the katha surface and she was the great collector of that many of her
collections are still preserved in gurusaday museum kolkata and if you look at them you
feel that how that particular tradition has also evolved but it was very very significant
and great realization from the part of this visionary uh activist stella kramrisch that
she established the fact of the realization of the importance of the indigenous culture
and where we should place them how we must realize them and get benefitted by it
so recognizing the aesthetic perspective of all those things were also uh very crucial
for that particular uh moment until about fifty years ago the researchers involved in
the study of regional folklore and anthropology did not count on the potential of self expression
and aesthetic value of folk paintings the paintings were made in the pilgrimage and
sold to temple visitors as souvenirs they were valued for the rituals that they were
associated with so it had a social purpose of course but it was never realized as a artistic
expression that this can also be uh potentially a very meaningful and effective expression
of ones thought emotions as an artist so it was the beginning of twentieth century
that handful of scholars started recognizing the aesthetic perspective of the regional
artist’s artistry and threw light on them through their writings and speeches so in
nineteen hundred sixteen it was ananda coomaraswamy who made visit to the western india north
western india in particular to see the practice of pahari miniature of rajasthan and the northern
region to realize how indigenous they are in their practice and before that or uh almost
in the same time it was a confusion for many that miniature painting is only uh confined
to the mughal court mughal miniature was popular to some extent and people also developed some
bit of an appreciation for that particular tradition and they had been collectors for
mughal miniatures at that time but nobody realized the importance of pahari miniatures
namely the miniature practices that was there in bundi kota and all those regions also partially
the kangra valley miniature in himachal pradesh that also had the significant impact in the
indian culture the only thing is they had variation in style but that was very difficult
to realize unless somebody brought it into the open uh daylight and he was one who collected
and wrote about those traditions in a great detail and through whom we got another exposure
to a great tradition that was already there surviving for a very long time it came with
a much larger realization that it is not only the persian influence that gave birth the
miniature tradition in our country but there had been parallel traditions which was going
on and it got amalgamated and it got eclectic characteristic uh with the culmination of
the great tradition of mughal miniature painting so that added more dimension to the mughal
miniature painting as well it was coomaraswamy to rehabilitate all forms of indian art regardless
of academic or non academic style to the european audiences his writing enabled the viewers
to grasp the aesthetics of rural and vernacular term of artistic expression
in nineteen hundred when it was a time when the contemporary art scenario of europe was
experiencing a dynamic shift uh with the idea of modernism painters from germany and france
showed significant zing to vitalize and reshuffle the existing norms of political expression
through the pictorial term every now and then they dared to rebuke the classical norms of
image making to engage themselves into the new experiments with the new aesthetics that
was connected to primitivism and that took birth to a new aesthetic of modernism which
is much more simplified and devoid of many traditional rules for a very long time cultural
enthusiasm of folk art was confined to bengal in india the exponents of bengali region could
sense the mode of european modern art that has corresponded to a liberated style that
encouraged distortion arbitrary qualities symbolism and real space to achieve a rudimentary
simplicity similar to folk art in our country in europe the changes were caused by the newly
beholden ventures of african art and also the tradition of japanese ukiyo e trends uh
that they traded from japan at that time and that was all about the print making of the
wood cut prints of uh japan the artworks of sharaku hokusai that came in through that
trade route and they also got exposure to the two dimensional quality of persian carpet
through the trade route and through those aesthetic qualities the flat color the overlapping
images it is a different perspective that was very very far eastern where the diagonal
lines never got recession and it never converged into a particular uh vanishing point unlike
the renaissance compositions rather they had a very different perspective that is known
as far eastern perspective where all the diagonal lines were parallel to each other and that
made the back side the background of the painting in the same scale with the foreground to make
it more revealing and it just gives a very different type of perspective alongside they
used the normal usual perspective also by overlapping vertical location and many other
devices that are working a general rule for all these kind of prints so through those
images which were also having a very strong impact some of the painters in europe they
realized that there is a possibility to get a better aesthetics ah at least as an alternative
uh that can come through persia from the decorative and flat color combinations of the persian
carpets as well as the ukiyo e prints from japan
the educated and visionary art lovers and art collectors of bengal could identify the
unique virtue of indian folk paintings in non academic category they threw light on
the archaic yet bold expression which is fresh spontaneous confident it is also very simple
and made out of the simplicity of means and the very distinctive style of folk art that
is also various it has tremendous variety and impact art critic ajit ghose and artist
mukul de in nineteen hundred twenties were amongst the pioneers who began to collect
the collect and preserve the living folk art works of their time in nineteen thirties gurusaday
dutta an indian civil service official travelled the remote villages of bengal and made a large
collection of folk art of the great significance slowly more centers of folk paintings were
located all over the country i will quote uh very ah comprehensive and
ah clear writing from jagdish mittal jagdish mittal writes the term folk painting here
encompasses pictures made in indian villages by both men and women for ornamentation of
their abodes portrayal of their gods and for their various rituals and by local professional
painters or artisans for use of the local people the term also includes pictures made
in the bazaars by hereditary painters to cater to the needs of the urban population and those
made at centers of pilgrimage by traditional professional painter families all these paintings
were produced in a varieties of styles and themes history sociology and geography infused
the painting of each region with local flavor to some extent their style and quality depended
on the materials available in the place in which they were executed these very factors
help us to identify them region wise and yet through all the apparent diversity there runs
an underlying unity which makes them indian gurusaday dutta’s contribution to the folk
art of bengal is counted as superior to all he took interest in folk art to strengthen
the social culture at large as the colonial administrator of british india during his
tenure as the district magistrate of birbhum in bengal he initiated the first exhibition
of patua art in nineteen thirty two which is very significant by collecting numerous
scroll paintings and songs associated to them the collected papers in torn condition are
now preserved in gurusaday dutta museum in covered cases with restricted access they
reveal useful literature on folk arts and crafts of bengal
gurusaday dutta divided human activities into three departments respectively uh two reason
imagination and emotion to realize that a distinctive characteristic of a particular
is not conditioned to any race or nation according to him the cultural contacts between the races
and the nation although alarming must not be restricted to enable enrichment in the
existing cultural wealth gurusaday dutta writes the importance of folk art is realized as
a fountain for renewal of national inspiration and for the resuscitation of national culture
for the folk art of a nation is the sincerest and most spontaneous collective expression
of its essential philosophy of and outlook on life and of the distinctive moral and spiritual
ideas of the race of its simple joys and sorrows as well as of its highest aims and aspirations
expressed through an art language specially suited to its race genius and embodying the
imagery turn of expression tonality and rhythm peculiar to it and evolved through countless
centuries by operation of the physical environment and spiritual and cultural values this is
from his writing the importance of folk art and its relation to national culture page
four source gurusaday dutta museum kolkata according to another scholar another very
significant scholar of our time k g subramanyan k g subramanyan in his book living tradition
raised a very crucial point on cultural inheritance that neither should be counted as indisputable
nor as obsolete it is rather the question of originality that is also not free from
preconceived notions and antecedents he says that if we hypothetically take a person as
the most original one and the purely original one uh in the context the person still may
carry certain things in his gene that will make him less original so there is nothing
called purely original and nobody can be completely original and that is another uh problem when
we think of an idea like nationalism where we feel that we are showing something which
is something completely of our own it belongs to a nation devoid of all kind of possible
influences from any other places it is very difficult to perceive or ah formulate that
kind of an idea at the first place so he said that the traditional practice and contemporary
content is based on how the artist as a creator combines his personal contribution to a tradition
in sync with the former precedents to maintain the life that is irresistible according to
him it is a circuit it is almost like a creative circuit that makes the creative individual
to contribute to its growth and receive a contribution in to his own personal growth
as well in his view the rationale of creativity in traditional art forms is operated by collective
identities but validity lies on their agreement to the needs and values of time the collectiveness
comprises of factors like ethnicity regional identity of nationalistic obligations that
led people once to identify the characteristic features of indigenous art traditions of india
it was unfair for the ruling governance of colonial india to undermine the unbroken tradition
of existing regional art and craft which contributed and continued unbreakably for years
other than e b havell and ananda coomaraswamy there were okakura kakuzo to pledge ah pan
asian indigenism sister nivedita george birdwood who tried to look at the tradition to boost
nationalism on the contrary in twentieth century europe artists like pablo picasso matisse
modigliani paul klee they welcomed modern expression in light of world’s traditional
culture they drew great impetus for the likeminded artists and art lovers of india ravindranath
tagore abanindranath tagore and nandalal bose realized the need of an exposure to folk art
from the language to broaden the sensibilities of modern art practitioners nandalal bose
worked with the patuas of bengal and his haripura posters are the apt examples of the success
we are going to discuss it shortly by seeing the images right now let us concentrate on
the concept and realize their importance and slowly we will also see the examples and try
to understand it once again afresh gurusaday dutta indicated two folded process
with example from european nationalist ideologies one is to hold into their folk art to rejuvenate
patriotic feelings and the other is to reinvestigate primitive spirit to reintroduce simplicity
with the realization he ventured to save the folk art of bengal with utter promptness that
resulted in inspiring many to gurusaday dutta’s opinion unlike the cultivated arts of the
sophisticated stages of society in all countries often marred by the complicated formality
and artificiality an excessive elegance and an over refinement of mannerism broadening
on efficiency the folk art of every nation has primitive purity directness vitality and
robustness which serve as a perennial fountain for the rejuvenation and strengthening of
national life and art form art from age to age this is based on the lecture delivered
at the post graduate department in arts university of calcutta on seventh april nineteen thirty
two and published in prabuddha bharata october nineteen thirty two gurusaday dutta strongly
stated let every child born of bengali parents be placed from the earliest years in possession
of all those things which are the distinctive products of the bengali race and he will to
echo the words of cecil sharp thereby know and understand his country and countrymen
far better than he does as at present and knowing and understanding them he will love
them the more realize that he is united to them by subtle bond of blood and kinship and
become in the highest sense of the world a better citizen and a true patriot this is
written by gurusaday dutta folk art and craft of bengal the collective papers folk art and
its relation to national culture page ten source gurusaday dutta museum kolkata it is
clear from the statement that was made by gurusaday dutta that there had been the immediacy
to inject the nationalistic spirit in to the common mind in that time so we will try to
realize or re realize that particular uh statement and the sense that was evocative of the mind
building of the newborns and those who are uh influenced by the nationalistic ideologies
as a intrinsic part of their upbringing how they interpreted it at that time and we will
try to realize it in reference to a more recent quote from k g subramanyan which he wrote
in nineteen eighty seven in the context of cultural inheritance a similar spirit with
more hardheaded term each human being inherits when he is born
into a society of any sophistication a large inheritance of culture that feeds nourishes
and give direction to his growth and to him the society assumes a parental status to his
reaction to it is filial in a sort it is torn between a feeling of affection and gratitude
on one side and of resentment and rebellion on the other fundamentally however a tradition
is based on a complex of situational factors of what we may call a work circuit the motivation
and rationale of the activity its conceptual and technological components its emotional
undercurrents from these emerges its formal characteristics when these factors hold constant
one can safely expect continuity in these characteristics and when they change expect
a corresponding change it is evident therefore from the fact that
revival of folk art principle aided the nationalistic movement in our country during the pre independence
era and even long after the independence when nationalism lost its immediate significance
folk art did not lose its relevance that marks the core of creation folk art practice implies
the fundamental questions of inheriting the eventually contributing to the tradition steering
its growth further folk paintings being deeply rooted to life and living crosses the initial
paradigm of spiritual foundation to respond to the real happenings and thereby constantly
shuffles its creative modality pertaining morality adjusting to the values of contemporary
society with traditional value system it faces the challenge of constantly balancing between
modern sensibility promptly responses to the current happenings and the responsibility
as a inheritance of an age old ethical foundation so to uh conclude the topic of classification
and connections and the traditional roots which is more like a literature survey that
we have had for the past few lectures as the second module of our discussion it is more
like reading understanding the different sayings of different people we will try to conclude
this particular uh discussion by realizing the relevance of art practice uh so let’s
jot down the points that we have discussed so far in
a connected manner

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