A week after five days in sylvan Kerala,in pursuit of theyyam performers and ritualistic practices in settings that comprised blue skies and flowing back-waters,reality does bite. But in Mumbai,it is business as usual as the city gears itself up for 2009.
The year opened on a great note with Osians Bachhanalia feast,that saw the Big B in fine form,conversing with Bhawana Somaya at the TATA theatre on Saturday last; the exhibition of vintage memorabilia was a treat in itself. In terms of trends in collecting,from photo cards and film posters to graphic novels; the idea of the collectible has already changed; thanks are due to the foresight of auctioneers with an eye on objects that blur the lines between art/craft/design.
With the publication of Amruta Patils Kari,the graphic novel was injected with a fresh dose of life. It added to the ranks of the other six Indian graphic novels,including Orijit Sens River of Stories (1994),Naseer Ahmed and Saurabh Singhs Kashmir Pending (2007) and Sarnath Bannerjees
Corridor (2004) and The Barn Owls Wondrous Capers (2007).
And while the debate on art,literature and the comic-book genre rages on,excerpts from the sketchpads of this new genre of art-makers are stepping cheekily past the hallowed portals of art galleries,mostly due to the shifting perspectives of risk-taking gallery owners and curators with crisp sensibilities.
But can a graphic designer be described as an artist?
Importantly,can comics and text based imagery (among other variations),be deemed art on the sheer strength of the fact that it is being shown in a gallery? Orijit Sen,a graphic
designer,was quoted recently as saying that,Comics combine elements of literature,painting and cinema. Be that it may,but the question still hangs uncertainly in the air,due to the fact that contemporary Indian art is still shaking off its rigidly held hierarchies and definitions about what constitutes visual art,as we know it.
The text-based work of Abhishek Hazra,Nina Pandolfos graffiti art made their presence felt last year. In the city this week,Chatterjee and Lal in collaboration with Thomas Erben,will present the work of New York based,Chitra Ganesh. Ganeshs work offers a whole new spin to the idea of heroes and others that all of us grew up with. Combining a strident and witty graphic sensibility,her workFarah Siddiquis FSCI showed a large work at its inaugural exhibition in 2008integrates image and text to arrive at alternative narratives.
Her show,The Ocean Beneath,includes works on paper,digital collage and a video piece. Zeenat Amans visage surfaces in lenticular prints. Making one muse on the fact that if contemporary artists can delve into the realms of cinema and literature for fodder,why cant graphic artists do the same with art. In the end,do we still need to continue to classify and box expressions the way,we do? Or should the emotive charge and the visual merit of a work be the deciding factor in terms of whether it is,within the purview of art or not?
On that uncertain but happy note,heres wishing that 2009 turns out to be the best year for Indian art,and not just from a market perspective.
(The columnist is an independent art consultant and writer)