My Engagement with Archives and Art during Nationalistic Movement – Part 1

 Mughal School 19th CenturyThe inspiration for Excavation came from my own fragmented objects, which have been present in my life for many years now. I chose to interact with these objects through the medium of power tools, and at times I use burn marks to erase the traces of the past.

What exactly is this process? It might be the idea of excavating my own artistic journey, which possesses its own time, history and memory. This is in no way an attempt to stop or to stand still, but rather, to push myself further in present time. History and archaeology do not and cannot remain in the past; my work is an attempt to bring them to life in the present.   As an artist I feel that is a need for consciousness regarding archives in India. Otherwise we would fail to understand the present and move away from the past as well. As can be seen, the modern art of Bengal has not been evaluated properly. As a result, contemporary art has failed to follow the proper direction and at present seems to exist within the periphery of a borrowed culture. I have tried to give some information which might lead to new thoughts and explain clearly why archives are necessary. I have also tried to explain how contemporary art may be understood based on the movement regarding ancient art. However this article is just a small wave in the vast sea.

  The history of the colonization of India is quite long and complicated and so it has not been an easy task to conserve the relevant deeds and documents – this has had an effect on the arts as well. As a result a mixture of different styles has been observed at different points of time. Different styles have mingled to give rise to a new style over and over again. The effect of the mixed style that was felt in those times is still very important and one ought to be familiar with those details even now. There is enough documentation of this fact in our country, but not in a very organized state. People in the western countries are much more aware of their archives and their deeds and documents and this is why our contemporary art is easily influenced by the western style – we accept them readily because of their easy access. What we have failed to accept is their rigorous attitude. The archives have a close connection to the past present and future which helps to create e new path for the arts in the future. And this is what is responsible for the long-standing nature of art. The research scholar should be conscious of the political significance as well as the implication of the synthesis of the collection of an archive. It is important to know how much of the collection is being displayed for the scholars. Above all, the source of an archive is the result of the contribution of a few people. It is obvious that the collection would be influenced by the likes, dislikes and the mentality of those few people.

 Articles regarding the critical appreciation of art have been found in India since a long time. However, there is some continuity in this direction from the beginning of the 20th century. These include contributions from archaeologists, artists, historians of art and others who belong to India and to other countries. A tendency to evaluate Indian art from the indigenous as well as the international perspective has been observed. Attempts to highlight modern Indian art in the eyes of the world were marked in the 30’s and 40’s of the last century. There are quite a few articles on ancient Indian art, some of which were written by foreign art critics. There are a few main points regarding I am always confused .

 1) Indian art in the eyes of the foreign art critic. 2) The opinions of both the Indian and foreign critics on the basis of an Indian outlook. 3) The strangest fact is that of an Indian critic expressing his views from the standpoint of a western expert. This influence is rather pronounced in the present day. So the question remains, have we been able to evaluate our art in the proper way!

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