Art News & Views

Articulating the Abstract voice from Madhya Pradesh


Art can never be static, there are always changes or transformations rather evolution in any form of art. There is always an urge in an artist to explore the unexplored, to see the unseen, to feel the unfelt, to rise above/beyond the boundaries of what is apparent and corporeal. This bold departure from the time-bound realities is seen in abstract art, art that defies all the established norms and parameters, breaks all the boundaries of time, space, perception, reason and presumption. Where motivational urges do not rely on the visible world, they are stirred by the resonances of an introverted vision. The vision might seem uncanny to a viewer, but to the artist, it is the expression of his intimate and personal experiences indefinable in terms of any representational or recognisable shapes and forms.

From where then these forms and shapes come? To my understanding, every individual has his own individual constitution shaped by the aggregation of his vital spiritual, physical and mental qualities and capabilities that are quite evidently visible in his chosen approach and reflects his state of 'being' with his art and life. If we look at any abstract art in affirmation to this view, we can not only apprehend the individuality of an artist but can also decode his personal experiences manifested in his art. Perhaps this enduring interest to explore 'the self' is the driving force behind the emergence of abstract tendencies and trends already existing in our thoughts and philosophies.

In Madhya Pradesh, when artists were still preoccupied in figurative, there were few artists like Yusuf who had already entered in the abstract phase and hence can be called the trailblazer of this trend. Born in Gwalior, Yusuf moved to Bhopal when J. Swaminathan asked him to join Bharat Bhawan. Gradually he became an important part of the Graphic department. My first encounter with his painting, rather drawing was in the year 2000, in the Roopankar gallery of Bharat Bhawan. I was completely mesmerised by the magic of his lines. There was certain mystery in it. In these lines one can sense undercurrent of a procreative force. His linear language has a rare sensibility akin to music notations still unborn. Regarding his preoccupation with lines as a primary element in his art practice, yusuf reveals, “Everything in this universe while taking birth is micro, when it evolves further, it becomes macro.” His approach is the same. His line takes birth from a dot which when propagates, stretches into infinity. He believes line as the most abstract and linear element which others might use till the point from where it converts into an object or form. While his lines remain ending all the other possibilities, capable of being taken anywhere. They can be extended simultaneously in opposite directions, traveling back and forth. His deliberation in drawing lines horizontally (not vertically) lies in his belief that people have a common attitude to view things that fall within the periphery of their own vision.

Like his lines, his space is also linear, generated between the two lines. Lines create an integral relation with the space that does not change, as he believes that space is a phenomenal reality and the relation between things keeps changing while space itself does not change. Space has 'extra-mental' reality however it is our sensibility that we experience things in space. Like his lines, his forms are the living units of his drawings. His pure elemental forms evoke a sense of liberation from the confinements of the external world. Initially his palette was limited to black and white. Gradually, naturally colours slithered in. This change came as a natural process. His fine strokes with very subtle use of colours enhance the visual sensitivity of his works. Though sometimes bright, his colours are never loud, they make their own space, never disturb his drawing. He believes that colours do come from within. “If they don't come from within, it is as if they have been slapped on." His comprehensive understanding of colours, forms and lines gives his art a living quality; both emotive and sensitive.

For him art is inspired by our faith and belief. It is not governed by any principles or laws as they stagnate people, make them rigid. Our knowledge of one thing cannot reject the knowledge of other things. Reason and belief can not co-exist. Art is about creation, not reproduction. While a scientist has to reject the previous theories to establish his own, the job of an artist is not to break the old doors but to open the new ones.

Another significant name in abstract art emerged from Madhya Pradesh is Akhilesh. Born in Indore, a son of an artist and art teacher, Akhilesh always wanted to keep himself off the beaten track, while the other children in his family were attracted to brush and paint (easily accessible to them at home), Akhilesh as a child felt a certain repulsion for it. He as always, had no fascination for walking on the known paths. During his studying days in the Indore school of art, he was asked to copy the European masters as a part of their academic training. He simply refused to do so and when he was insisted upon, he agreed to copy only the Indian miniature painting. This incident reveals his deep sense of belonging to his roots, but now as a painter he feels himself connected to the painters like Leonardo to Picasso, as he believes boundaries are just political need of a person.

As we cannot bind art in any boundaries, we can't also confine it in words. He believes it is difficult to define abstract, rather any art as even in non-abstract art we can see abstract elements capable of invoking emotions in us. It is this abstract element that makes Mona Lisa immortal. Like music it does not need any inspiration, has the most abstract language and can create a deep effect upon the listeners. His act of painting is not born out of any inspiration, it comes from within. For him it is like being with the self.

Akhilesh always feels colours are the most important part of his painting. He always finds a certain obsession with colours. He uses colours with a degree of highest accomplishment, has a rare proficiency in creating tonality of colours within colours. For him it's like a hide and seek game. The imagery of light and shadow presides over his whole canvas. His masterly strokes in making several layers of colours deepen the effect of sensation, capable of vibrating our occipital lobes with full intensity. Even the minutest details are invested with full ardour of passion. His forms as multiple patterns are modulated into a meshwork of images that re-enforces his poetic faith. His imagery of sensation has no culmination point where shapes get multiplied with a regenerating force and united into one complete whole. His pictorial vocabulary appeals to a mind that always aspires for perfection.

“I believe, art evolves from the awareness that its language is visual and deserves our visual response. It is much more than mere articulation of the experiences of our exterior world. Language is not a barrier.” Seema Ghurayya's pictorial language reinforces this point of view. Originally from a small village near Gwalior, now living and working in Bhopal, Seema still holds on to her rusticity. She might know no sophistications of the modern world, might not express herself in words, her art has a unique sophistication, her visual language is eloquently vocal. In her works one can see a complete release from the chaos of the material world outside. Her minimal use of colours is remarkably unique, not only as it reveals their subtlety but underlying it is an emotive force.

Her colour perception gives a profound sense of some divine presence. She herself believes that her paintings are like her prayers to God. "I do pray everyday but it is only sometimes that I feel my prayers have been answered." She refrains herself from using bright or vibrant colours, for she finds it painful to use any colour other than grey, blue, yellow and white. Bright colours really disturb her. At a cursory look, these mixes of earthy and rust colours may look murky, as if she is recollecting some past memories somewhere from a dim verge but at the closer look one can sense their tonal modulations. At first glance her abstract imagery might look faint and obscure, but slowly our eyes learn to appreciate its quality of translucency. Her use of casual and erratic lines gives a profound sense of musicality. Somewhere these lines balance the demand of colours also.

In art there can also be seen a quest for self-introspection in which an artist sometimes trespasses the boundaries and enters into a forbidden territory. He liberates himself from the world where one can never dare to move away from the rationalities of the real world, where binary opposites can never embrace each other. Shridhar Iyer dares to cross these unsurpassable barriers. In his art one can hear sounds both shrill and sweet, can encounter both organic and inorganic, spiritual and physical, endurance and anguish together. For him art is beyond any physical laws where two and two can be five, where even a tiniest object takes a gigantic form or vice versa. Nothing ever remains the same, shapes keep changing, and so does the perception. The game of visibility and invisibility, sound and silence keeps going. There is a ceaseless motion generating immense energies in everything. His lines and forms are infused with same energy. They never get weary of dancing, turning, twisting. Their energy keeps growing with every movement.

His lines are alive with this kinetic energy which can take any shape, can run parallel, can take a sudden turn, can slip and glide. They are mysterious and unfathomable, provoking a masculine strength. His painterly strokes also create the same whirling effect capable of creating multiple dimensions in his work. In his more recent works, he has used a bold palette of red, yellow, gold and green– all vibrant and fresh.

Though Shridhar is preoccupied with painting and drawing, he also feels attracted to the other forms of art like cinema, installation and sculpture, as he believes any art is simply the means to reach the 'Ultimate'. He always feels a certain pull towards this infinite energy. In fact his artistry stems from his childhood act of picking flowers and making garlands for his father's puja who was a priest. He feels his act of painting is not different from his childhood act of sitting on the floor and putting flowers together into garland. For him his act of drawing is like a ritual.

For Shridhar art is a journey, both introvert and ceaseless, journey of colours, lines, and forms it carries with it a magic, the joy of knowing the unknown. In his 'Jatra' (journey) series Shridhar unfolds and explores the unknown, the limitless. It's been a long 'Jatra' for the artist, but he believes in the end he would have etched out all the shapes of the limitless being.

Born in Khairagarh now living and working in Bhilai, Yogendra Tripathi seems to contemplate over the inevitable decaying nature of things. He attempts to perceive the overtones of inorganic in organic. He seems to capture in paint all those objects and places once bustling with life now forsaken by their inmates. Over the years under the effects of varying patterns of season they lose their real identities and merge with nature, grass and weeds creep in quietly.

In his textures and colours we witness this disintegration and decay. There are no defined boundaries of forms, a dab of colour can itself take any shape and be dissolved the very next moment. There is a complete homogeneity in his lines, colours, images; even the artist seems to be a part of it. His colours are predominantly earthy; with textures they give certain rawness to his canvas. The varying tones of colours impart a sombre and serene grace to his art.

Sanju Jain's aestheticism has the same overtones of inorganic objectivity, but with a difference. As born in a village near Narmada River, her childhood memories have all the hues of nature and her rural life. She has spent her childhood playing around the mud houses. Perhaps this was her first experience of texture, still flitting somewhere in her sub-conscious. Her exuberance in delineation of her experience is founded on her mastery over her medium, technique and her understanding of nature's aesthetics. But even without this knowledge one can appreciate her art simply for its quality of attraction that summons our attention to turn it again.

She does not rely on the ready-made material. Whether it is the use of medium, technique or colour, she believes in her own state-of-the-art. Her technique is painstaking. She uses paper pulp, clay and gum Arabic to make a paste for giving textures on her canvas. In this way she prepares a new space for herself where creases, folds and crimps come naturally. These layers and foldings create an illusion of depth. Through these epicenters one can make a spiral journey into an unknown world. Like her textures, her use of colours is quite arresting and has a quality of persistence. The major attraction of her paintings are the colour which remind us of the Indian folk culture where colours are used in traditional rites and rituals. Her palette is quite pregnant with all natural and traditional colours. (Like ones used in 'Rangoli') Her virtuosity in handling varying colours and textures is quite captivating. As art and artist are not two separate entities, her art is a reflection of her own personality– a feminine charm and attraction that commands our attention.

While she paints, she finds solace, a release from her mundane life. Whenever she moves away from her canvas she feels an unnamed emptiness as if she has been deprived of everything. Her restlessness ends only when she reverts to her canvas where she feels calm and at peace with herself.

Art is something eternal, running perennially from the beginning of our lives. It does not have any beginning nor does it have any end. It is boundless. It is only our consciousness that comes as awareness through our experience of it. Until things are beyond our consciousness, until we have not given them any name, they are non-existing for us. The moment we are awakened to this consciousness, creativity starts. These are the views of Faiza Huma about abstract art. For her it is the language of feelings, experiences, intuitions and realisation of something beyond our common senses. From here, the outer appearances become nullified and the visual journey starts from 'The basic/The essential'. From here, begins the visual experiences of an artist where he gets focused, goes into a meditative realm, where all other things dissolve. What remain are the acceptance and acknowledgement. This is like the realisation of a mystic who turns away from everything only to get centered at the 'Ultimate'.

From this 'Ultimate', a new journey starts, a new experience starts in a free space. This is living, it breathes and it holds everything in it. From here, begins a deep relation between the 'Two'. Just like the celestial bodies in the vast cosmos have a rare balance, as any imbalance can cause destruction. In art it is visual destruction. In Faiza Huma's works we can sense this rare relationship. She feels that to create a complete and meaningful visual space, forms, composition and colours, all should be in one harmonised tune; very essential for the breath of art.

She does not believe in imposing anything deliberately on her canvas, but she can read the unsaid and unheard when she descends deep into it, to seek the truth that nestles inside. For her it is like a flight that continues in the vast open sky of her canvas. Her colour palette is sober and placid. Colours have their own language, she says. They can speak, they can stir you however the language of colours is abstract. Her immaculate white, off-white canvas gives us a pristine feeling. There is something that can be called sacred. She has a great felicity in her use of black and white colour. They have an evocative power but at the same time they envelop us in a strange bliss that touches like a passing breeze. Her impeccably executed fine brush strokes are unmistakable in achieving a stark sharpness, clarity, accuracy and precision. This mirrors her own sense of straightforwardness and simplicity. Her sensitivity as a matured artist is quite visible in her skillful and sensitive handling of her lines, colours and forms, giving a sheer sense of elegance. Her black form is like an energy centre, while the linear form cleaves apart this energy centre to let the light come through.

Her works can be called a mystic's statement that can not be read, can only be experienced through meditation. She seems to be completely unperturbed by the commotion of her present world. To achieve this rare simplicity one needs the courage to overpower all the other pursuits/impediments that can inflict one's forced energies – a process both complex and painful. (Just like the process of procreation). It is like training our mind to embark on a mystical quest.

By Saba Gulraiz   





Post a comment
( Max 250 words)

Your Ad Here
art etc. news & views is a monthly magazine published from India in order to promote art and culture. It intends to raise awareness about art all around India and the world. The magazine covers art exhibitions, auction highlights, market trends, art happenings besides Antique, Collectibles, Fashion, Jewellery, Vintage, Furniture, Film, Music and Culture.