Why Regional Artists do not get their Due from National Cultural Agencies?
|(Artist/ sculptor Kanayi Kunhiraman)|
Kanayi Kunhiraman is one of the most famous artists in Kerala. Even today, for many Keralites art means the art of Raja Ravi Varma and Kanayi Kunhiraman. Though we claim that Kochi-Muziris Biennale has brought a considerable change in the outlook of Kerala’s public towards art, a Malayali still believes that Kanayi is the ultimate modern artist. Had those oleographs of Ravi Varma brought art closer to people it was Kanayi’s public sculptures that brought people of Kerala to modern art. Through magazine illustrations Namboodiri and M.V.Devan became the peerless ‘painters’ of Kerala.
|(A sculpture by Kanayi - Yakshi at the Malambuzha dam site)|
In 1969, Kanayi did a sculpture called ‘Yakshi’ at the Malambuzha dam site which initially scandalized the morally driven aesthetics of Keralites and in due course of time it became a bench mark. Kanayi studied under the legendary K.C.S.Panicker in Madras College of Art, later supported by a British Scholarship he studied under Reg Butler at the Slade School of Art, London. When he came back and joined as a lecturer at the Trivndrum Fine Arts College, legends say that many students who came to study painting, influenced by the charismatic presence of Kanayi opted to study sculpture. Kanayi retired as the principal of Trivandrum Fine Arts College. He has held different positions in Lalitha Kala Akademy of Kerala and also is one of the prime movers of Kerala’s cultural policy. He writes articles and poems, and also involves in various cultural debates in Kerala. Yet, he is not known outside Kerala. In Delhi’s National Gallery of Modern Art, one could see a sculpture by Kanayi lying abandoned outside the main building. No efforts have been made to showcase Kanayi’s contributions to Modern Indian Art nor has anybody from the NGMA cared to think about a retrospective of this veteran artist.
|(A sculpture by Kanayi - Matsya Kanyaka at Shankumukham beach)|
Why, I have been asking this question for a long time. True that people differ in their opinion about Kanayi’s art. Some say he had shown potential to become a great artist of our country and some say he is just a decorative artist who has filled Kerala’s public spaces with atrocious sculptures. However, considering the ugliness of number of public sculptures and monumental statues and busts that are seen like mushrooms in street corners, squares, circles and the grounds of Kerala, Kanayi’s works still stand tall.
|(Sculptor K S Radhakrishnan)|
|(Kalapravaham sculpture by sculptor K S Radhakrishnan)|
Kottayam born, Santiniketan educated and Delhi based K.S.Radhakrishnan is the only sculptor who has intervened effectively in Kerala’s public aesthetic domain recently with his monumental sculpture, Kalapravaham (Time Tide) at the key Manachira Maidanam (Manachira Ground) in Kozhikode (Calicut) and this work has already shown a different stream of aesthetical approach. My aim in this editorial is not to make a comparison between Kanayi and K.S.Radhakrishnan. The question I want to raise is why several regionally prominent artists are overlooked by the national cultural agencies? Should we accuse bureaucratic apathy for such lack of acknowledgements and representations or should we see provincialism as a trap for these artists?
|(Artist K G Subramanyan)|
K.G.Subramanyan, illustrious artist, pedagogue, theorist and an egalitarian artist who has been guiding himself by keeping Tagorean ideals and Gandhian philosophy as his beacons, observes that the new international is ‘the’ local. While international agencies including the warmongers focus on the ‘local’ and territorialized operations, K.G.S’ words get an added meaning. Only through the exploration, experimentation, inspiration and documentation of local cultures today one could resist the homogenization of cultures, tastes and aesthetics effectively. To achieve this, our national agencies should be able acknowledge what is happening in the ‘ground’; ground means the regions and provinces. Proliferation of Biennales with emphasis on provincial tastes, needs and demands (Kochi-Muziris Biennale, Pune Biennale, a proposed ‘Kunale’ (in Kozhikode) as well as Bihar Biennale, and many other regional art fairs) shows this new internationalism with special attention on the economic development of those regions.
|(Kanayi's sculpture- Mukkola Perumal)|
However, moving of mega events from centre to the peripheries or provinces will not generate a meaningful cultural debate or its much needed continuities though it would help in the long run the economic prosperity of those places. The movement should be a two way process. There are hundreds of Kanayis in this country. Unless and until they are brought to the centre and reclaimed as national property, pride and cultural deposit, the efforts of national agencies to highlight our nation’s cultural pride possession/ property/ ethos/ aesthetics will go futile. If we take the example of the film industry in India, there are indications of addressing the local within the centre. It could be adopting a Malayalam hero into the Hindi mainstream or pairing up a North Indian heroine with a Tamil Hero (which in fact shows the reverse process occurred in Indian mainstream film industry recently).
Implicating national agencies for cultural callousness and apathy cannot be and should not be the prime motive of those people who demand changes. We should also look at the fact that many artists like Kanayi prefer to live within a comfort zone of their own regions, where a single language is spoken, common food is eaten, social and cultural gestures are shared, and above all an established visual language is accepted almost as granted. Culturally and socially speaking the choice of living in a particular comfort zone cannot be seen as a misplaced choice or a professional miscalculation. Also it should not be argued that only those people who have come out of their own comfort zones and fought it out elsewhere like the migrants who crave for integration through careful adoption and willing submission get a chance to be the national cultural fixed deposits.
A two way process should be started at once. First of all the national agencies should do a combing operation to bring out all those artists who have made immense contributions to the regional societies and hail them as national cultural icons. At the same time, these artists also should make efforts to build meaningful bridges between local bureaucracy and the central bureaucracy. A creative interaction between the cultural agencies in the regions and the cultural agencies in the centre would make all the difference. Private galleries could also play a pivotal role in generating policy wise outlook and let me warn you, that would happen only when one looks beyond the immediate monetary benefits through an artist’s works.
|(Writer Vaikom Muhammed Basheer)|
My concerns are large and wide; I am not overtly worried about Kanayi losing out in the race for national acceptance. But I am worried about those hoards of art graduates who choose to work from regions, produce good works, gain respectability in their own societies but never acknowledged by a larger audience or by the national agencies. In this porous world of information technology it is not necessary to be in the centre always. But the centre cannot build concrete walls around it to prevent the porosity of cultural osmosis. Granting a Padma award to those artists who are in their death beds will not make any difference. As once Vaikom Muhammed Basheer (world class story writer from Kerala) did, these awards could then be used only for scaring away the jackals that come to steal hens and lambs.
|(A photograph by Maureen Bisilliat)|
The Instituto Cervantes, New Delhi presents a solo show of photographs by photographer and documentary film maker Maureen Bisilliat. The show titled, ‘ Xingu: Spirit pictures from another world’, displays how the photographer explores the world of some of the indigenous tribes living on the banks of the tributary of the 2000km long Amazon river.
Chayakriti 2013 - A Photography Exhibition
|(A snapshot of the Chayakriti show)|
Indian Council for Cultural Relations, Hyderabad, presents an exhibition titled, ‘ Chayakriti 2013 - A Photography Exhibition’. The show is presented by the Twin Cities Photography Club, which is a platform for photographers of all levels of proficiency to network, work and learn from and with each other. The show is their annual photography exhibition displaying works of the members
|(Artist Ghayathri Desai with her works)|
Fired Up to Sculpt
|(A sculpture by Gopinath S)|
The show displays sculptures in ceramics and terra cotta exploring various techniques in sculpting including hand crafted ceramics. Along with primarily ceramic sculptures, the artists have chosen to mix it all up with stone ware, terra cotta, copper and mild steel. Most fot he works are three dimensional and some could be relief work which is displayed on walls.
(News reports by Sushma Sabnis)