Art News & Views

North-East Opsis

Mapping the contemporary art discourse

The contemporary art scene of the North-East India has indeed been throbbing effervescently with hundreds of artists engaged in the pursuits of arts in its various formal, lingual and conceptual manifestations. “North-East” a loaded expression for many a people carries in itself the burden of homogenisation of an uneven trajectory of multiple cultures, multiple histories and multiple narratives. This uneven trajectory encompasses the art historical developments too, with Assam and Manipur having almost eight-nine decades of modern art practice, compared to states like Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram with two-three decades of modern art history. Even then, this geopolitical /economic space, complex and dynamic, with a interconnected network of intersecting culture, tradition, history, politics and currents/crosscurrents of violence and violations, migrations and militant aggression now springs up as a monolith in the nation's imagination. In order to map the art scene in this “monolith”, Lalit Kala Akademi, organised a seminar, “Contemporary art practice of North-East” on 12th July in Hotel Polo Towers, Shillong, Meghalaya. In the presence of an august gathering and the coordinating members of LKA, Mr Dilip Tripathy and Mr U S Tiwari, Patricia Mukhim, a scholar-writer-Journalist inaugurated the show. The speakers of the seminars were Jebin Ghosh Dastidar, Rajkumar Majimder, Dilip Tamuli, Raphael Warji, Benedict Hynniewta and Moushumi Kandali. Jebin Ghosh Dasidar took up few significant artists of North-East such as Shobha Brahma, Swapan Nandi, Matilal Kalai and others and discussed their individual style of rendering with the slide projection of their work. Benedict Hynniewta, a practicing artist talked about his own endeavour along with the works of some other artists from Meghalaya. He commented that one cannot forget one's root and cultural identity and therefore he attempts to imbibe myth, folklore, traditional beliefs and narratives with the modern issues and ideas. He also commented that one does not have to necessarily practice the new media arts in order to be contemporary. Rapheal Warji, another artist discussed about the infrastructural inadequacies like lack of art market, art galleries and institutions in the region and appealed LKA to take necessary actions. Dilip Tamuli gave a slide presentation about the art scene of Majuli of Assam and attempted to draw a line of continuity from traditional art forms to the modern. RajKumar Mazimder made a presentation on the contemporary art works of a Baroda based painter from Assam named Nikhileswar Baruah. He made a mapping of the artistic endeavour since his initial phase to the present with various art critical perspectives of analysis. He commented that,”it will be a blunder to presume the sombre and dismal ambience predominant in Nikhileswar Baruah's pictures, as pessimistic but surprisingly these preoccupations with dreary geometrical, elongated rectangular cuboids, inevitably the sky scrapers with the overtones of lugubrious monochrome, are actually daring pictorial/ spatial transcription of the oppressive human predicament and an outright resistance to withstand obvious emotional vulnerability. The single and tiny human figure in the vast overpowering concrete jungle is the statement of esoteric intensity and possibility within the inconspicuous organism amid the rapid crude concretization along with the deforestation on the pretext of urbanization.'' Moushumi Kandali presented a paper on the holistic art historical analysis of the contemporary trends of North-East discussing the various stylistic, lingual and thematic manifestations. She discussed about the new media works, and the eclectic, figurative narrative trends along with the visible traits of indegenist awareness, Identity concerns and the political reflexivity expressed in the art- practices, thereby also focusing on the overlapping interpenetration, and a kind of juxtaposition of the modern and post modern in the art-scene of North-East. As she commented, the contemporary is indeed a vast theatre of contradictions and ironies. The political and economical offers globalization, trans-national capitalism, and aspires for a uniformity of the lived qualitative experience .The cultural and social paradigms speak of multiculturalism and differentiations. This normative process of paradigmatic mutation in and through time encompasses the contemporary art discourses also, with the emergence of new categories in art (gender-subaltern, environmental, etc.) proliferation of new images/materials (material as metaphor) in the artistic practice, and translation of the cultural and artistic context/ parameters defined as national / modern into post colonial/post-modern. Embedded within a situation as this, along with their own realities in a geo-political space like North-East, the artists today encounter newer challenges to evolve and explore new artistic ways for mediation and transgression. In spite of multiplying socio-cultural complexities, globalization has offered new avenues in the field of art as well, since new vistas of connectivity through cyber, satellite and other technologies open up. Though the North-East encounters a spectrum of problems like infrastructural inadequacies lack of art market and patronage, lack of adequate critical discourse, proper research, documentation & cataloguing, promotional activities, exposure and public awareness, the young artists of this region, engaged in contemporary art practice are striving zealously to script new narratives and innovate novel idioms to claim their rightful place in the art historical discourse of modern Indian art.

Carrying on the legacy

The Gauhati Artist Guild of Assam celebrated its 34th anniversary on 10th and 11th of July at its premise in Chandmari, guwahati. 10th July saw an interdisciplinary workshop of music, visual art and poetry while in the next day the 30th issue of Cihna, the quarterly art magazine of GAG edited by Rajkumar Mazinder was inaugurated by poet- art critic Nilomoni Phukan. Artist Biren Sinha, the Recipient of Bishnu Rabha Award, 2010 and Altaf Mazid, the recipient of Rajat Kamal Award 2010, for his film “ Baliya Pitair sahaki sotal”, were also felicitated. Later on the film was screened in front of the August gathering. The president Aminul Haque and general secretary Kishor Kumar Das of GAG, proclaimed to carry on the legacy to usher in vibrancy and momentum in the state with various art activities The Gauhati Artists' Guild was initiated in the year 1976 by a group of like minded creative people under the leading enthusiast founder Benu Misra. The institution is among the fore runners in the field of Art & Culture in North east India. The GAG as it is warmly addressed has emerged as a leading premier platform to promote Art of North East. The Gauhati Artists' Guild has presently over 75 practising artists as members both Executive and Associate members and an enormous list of students. The alumni has a good number of versatile talented youngsters who has taken the art scene with confidence and has moved into the world of Art to make their own space.

   - Moushumi Kandali   



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