North East Opsis
March – April 2011
by Moushumi Kandali
The last few days really saw some significant happenings in the art field in the North East, each of which calls for critical analysis and review. If the “Installation art camp” was a mosaic of some thought provoking works, the “New media” camp also equally showcased diverse talents and artistic sensibilities. The first Seminar to be held on art writing of North-East also demands a comprehensive deliberation upon the important subject. But this time we stick to “Art news” part of this section, rather than going for the “Art re-views”- keeping it open for future possibilities on two thematic expositions, such as --the new media works of north eastern artists and problems and prospects of art writing in north-east entailing an art historical mapping of the developments in this context.
New Media Camps
It is the matter of a positive development that within the span of three months two workshops which mainly focussed on the new media and mediumistic innovations were held in the North East that can be really termed as a new initiative. A “New Media” Workshop was organised by Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi in collaboration with the Department of Fine Arts, Assam University, in Silchar from 26th March to 30th, The Programme was inaugurated by Prof Goutam Biswas, Pro- Vice Chancellor, Assam University, Silchar in the presence of Mrs. Mary Baby, the assistant secretary, Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi, Debabrata Deb, Registrar, Assam University Silchar, Mr Nirmal Kanti Roy, Head, Department of Fine Arts, Assam University, Silchar. After the inauguration a lecture on “New Media Art of North East" was delivered by Dr Meghali Goswami, Assistant Professor, Departmentof Fine Arts. The artists participated in the workshop were Babu Eswar Prasad (Bangalore), Pratul Das (Delhi). Uma Shankar Pathak (Delhi), Birendra Pani (Delhi) Dorendra Singh (Manipur). Kishore Kumar Das (Guwahati) Rabijita Gogoi (Guwahati,)Baharul Islam Laskar (Silchar)and. Nirmal Kanti Roy (Silchar) The participants worked on different media like Video Art, Photography, Performance art etc. Along with the new media works, there were also discussions and symposiums for the artists. Artists were seen engaged in different issues and ideas in different idiomatic expression rendered through the “new media”. The other “Installation Art Camp”, also organised by Lalit Kala Academi was held in Shillong from 14th February for five days where the Participating artists were: Pratik Bhattacharya- Santiniketan, Debasish Chakraborty- Assam, Mukulendu Pathak- Tripura, Joel Dexter Kharrdwgor- Meghalaya, Dipankar Sinha- Meghalaya, Nikhileswar Baruah- Baroda, Raj Kumar Mazinder- Assam, M Maningou Singh- Manipur, L Sotis Singh- Manipur, Noni Barpujari- Assam, and Dilip Tamuly of Assam. Along with writer critic Prayag Shukla, the deputy secretary of Delhi LKA, Mr Binay Kumar and regional secretary U S Tiwary, other dignitaries like Noni Borpujari were also present in the inaugural function which was later followed by a one day seminar on the art writings of North-East, a first of its kind to discuss about art writings in specific. The participants were Dr Prayag Shukla, Dr Meghali Goswami, Moushumi Kandali, Jayanta Bhattacharya, Pranamita Borgohain, Rikimi Madhukailya and Rituraj Sharma. The seminar was conducted by Dr Meghali Goswami. In her key note address she opined “The issues are just not about selecting and converge; they are developed on the more vexed question of what we designed as the “true”/authentic evolution of the making of an art through our writing about it. Both art practices and writings have revolved around a twin concern with beauty and appreciation. The challenge is to recover a scene of the “truth” on one hand as a significant new art critics and on the other hand as a powerful ideological and aesthetic category.”
A New Art Gallery
In 11th July of 1976, a meeting was held in the living room of Scholar-folklorist Prof Birendranath Datta, to form an organization which came to be known as Guwahati Artist guild or GAG. The time was conducive. Artists trained at various art institutions of India had returned with new ideas and thoughts bringing in a new momentum. Under the leadership of Benu Mishra, artists gathered with the objective to find a platform, to look for sponsorship and other financial aid along with creating a conducive environment to address various issues and problems under the umbrella of the new organisation. In the next year, GAG opened a school with the two yearly art course & curriculum for children and other aspirants. It was also decided to publish an art journal called 'Chihna'. In 1978, GAG organized its first group exhibition in the premise of North Eastern Hill University of Shillong. Art discussions, seminars, exhibitions along with many other activities became a regular feature. In 1983, they published two albums of art works by eminent artists Asu Dev and Late Rajen Hazarika. In a rented space of GAG, artists would gather, work, discuss their works, argue on issues about art, literature, cinema and other things in life… during the day time they would join in the collective venture of raising funds for GAG by working in various commissioned works, painting Signboard, hoardings, designing book covers and other commercial works and when evening descended, they would go out to the open spaces outside the studio to work. New people came up, once students in the art school of GAG, now they became the responsible members and thus it continued its relentless struggle for years to fulfil the mission .After two decades of “rented” existence, GAG at present has a premise of its own, class room for the art school, studio, seminar space and an office. To add another feather to it an air conditioned art gallery built with Numaligarh Oil Refinery was inaugurated on 13th march with a group exhibition of esteemed artists of the country along with the members of GAG. Rendered in diverse stylistic expression and media, the exhibition unfolded a colourful mosaic with the added lustre of artistic rendering by Jyoti Bhatt Babu Eswar Prashad, Parth Pratim Deb, Samir Aich, Neelpawan Baruah and many other young generation artists.
Two Books on Art
Black & White, a Vadodara based foundation for promotion of art in collaboration with Parampara Prabah, a Guwahati based cultural group organised an invited lecture cum book release function on 6th March, 2011 at Vivekananda Kendra, Guwahati. Two books on art authored by Moushumi Kandali were released and a lecture on Meaning and Meaningless in art was delivered by Prof Deepak Kannal, Former Dean. Faculty of fine arts, MS University of Baroda. Padmashree Nilamani Phukan, the renowned poet and acclaimed art critic graced the occasion as the chief guest. Ganesh Gohain, a well known sculptor in the contemporary Indian art scene and Dharmesh Panchal, art connoisseur were also present as executive members of Black & White. It is worth mentioning that of the two books released in the function, Black & White published Asomar Adhunik Silpakala, a book on the modern art scenario of Assam. Releasing the books, Prof Deepak Kannal and Nilamani Phukan congratulated the author and expressed happiness that two books on art were released simultaneously in a peripheral region like Assam. The book Bishoy Kala is a collection of ten research based essays on diverse topics ranging from world art to contemporary Indian art scene and including three meta critical pieces on the aesthetics sensibilities of Jyoti Prasad Agarwala, Bishnu Rabha and Nilamani Phukan, the trio poet aestheticians of Assam. The other essays comprise issues like artistic subjectivity and dilemma of authorship, the 'Political' In Religious, a study with specific reference to the sculptural reliefs of Srihati Sattra, a vaishnavite monastery focusing the colonial impressions on Vaishnavite Arts Forms of Assam, the developments in Romanticism and art along with some deliberations on other artistic issues and ideas. The other book Asomor Adhunic Silpakala is a holistic mapping of the modern art scenario of Assam touching upon various issues such as the politics of identity, feminist concern: women artists and gender issues, political consciousness, trait of abstractions etc as manifested in the modern or contemporary art of Assam. There are also nine essays with critical analysis about the artistic oeuvre of nine veteran artists and pioneers who had ushered in the modernist vibes in art in Assam also playing role in art promotion and awareness. As reviewed by the art writers, this book is the first comprehensive book on the modern art of Assam. It is worth-mentioning herein that a combined form of the two books in English discussing all the aspects of modern art in Assam is in the process of publication.