Initially, there were limitations on the artistic creativity owing to the standards of fine arts. Painters and sculptors only created the impression of beauty as they saw and not how they perceived it. One needs to read between the lines and in the same way, the impression of reality needed to get depicted through the eyes of a painter. Some of them thought of the famous abstract art as blasphemy against the religion of art, a satanic distortion. But, the art had metamorphosed into a moth that was constantly being drawn toward enlightenment.
As the name implicates, abstract form of art is not a deviation from reality, as is widely understood. Rather, it is the style of portraying the reality existing at the basic level of existence. It is an attempt to re-imagine things by intermixing their form with the musings of an artist. There are limitations to concrete reality too. A naked eye cannot see through a minuscule grain of sand. But, an artist’s mind can only try to conjecture the divine pattern which is being weaved into it and for that we will have to deviate from the conventional terms of painting. This aspect of abstract art has earned it the name- Non-Representative Art.
The Brooding Phase of Abstraction in India
After the night of 14 August 1947, a lot had changed. The world witnessed the birth of two young nations, one of them was India, the largest democracy of the world being led by the Indian National Congress. The most important task at hand after attaining sovereignty was to define the type of nation India would become. The constitution was framed after much deliberation and in that process, we came to know how our culture was diversified. The art is a reflection of society.
So, the artists had shunned the glorification of the religion which was the primary feeder of art. They identified themselves with more modern and liberals ideas of secularism. This political upheaval had divided the world of art into sections that followed traditional techniques or those who had embraced the European style. Some of them painted for acknowledgment of their identity and others were immersed in hammering the actual shortcoming at hand.
How some of the famous abstract artists were made?
The decades of the 1930s and 1940s had witnessed the infusion of communist’s ideas among the advocates of cultural identity. Artists from different genres of art like scriptwriters, theatre actors, visual artists, and literary intellectuals had come under the umbrella association and followed the ideology of Karl Marx. They called themselves- Progressives.
Bombay’s Progressive Artists Group
Francis Newton Souza and M.F. Hussain along with S. K. Bakre, ManishiDey, K. H. Ara, Ram Kumar, Akbar Padamsee, S. H. Raza, Tyeb Mehta formed the Bombay Progressive Artists Group. They incorporated the modern art styles into their paintings as against the nationalist principles of the Bengal School of Art. Fame and recognition kissed Souza owing to his valiant efforts to paint on subject matters that are often trodden upon by others like eroticism and religion. He experimented with various forms of abstract style like cubism, expressionism, surrealism, etc. He was often called Indian Picasso, Birth- the famous abstract painting being his highest-grossing artwork.
Husain was known for his abstract paintings and love for paintings horses. He had an international influence on his work. Through this group, he came in contact with talented European artists like Emil Nolde and Oscar Kokoschka. He managed to create his own painting style by retaining traditional Indian styles and mixing them with modern techniques. He was a prolific painter and once he painted all the paintings in one night that were to go on display the next day for exhibition.
The Indian Brigade of Abstract Painters
Abstract paintings made by Indian painters are a little different from the ones made by their international counterparts. It seems as if indigenous methods and spiritualism had made them more evocative, although the effect is not prominent. NatvarBhavsar’s abstractions are one of a kind. They trace the syzygy of ethereality. He loves nature as anyone else and insists his paintings be seen in natural light. According to him,” I believe nature is real. There is a new revelation every minute. Any person with cognizance to learn will see how giving yourself to nature will constantly deepen your desire to receive. It requires the antenna of a child. You need to be voracious. My works are light sensitive. Every time you’ll see a different light. My inspiration is light and there are a million shades in the range of light.”
However, it is said that Indian abstract art can’t compete at the international level but, artworks of V. S. Gaitonde, F. N. Souza and M. F. Hussain at international auction houses like Sotheby’s and Christie’s has proved this contention wrong. Still, there is a long way to go!