REVOLUTIONARY ART FROM THE INDIAN SUB CONTINENT. RABINDRANATH TAGORE(1861-1941) AND RASHEED ARAEEN (1935- PRESENT) TWO ARTISTS WHO REFLECTED DIFFERENT VIEWS OF ART BY LAURENCE HUMPHRIES

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Tagore and Araeen are artists born in the Indian Sub Continent. Tagore was born in India and helped lead the Independence movement during the 1920′ , he was greatly influenced by the Expressionist Art movement in Germany in the 1930’s and he met both Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky. They both represented Art in the from the Global South and represented Art that was not Eurocentric but represented art from other cultures primarily the Global South. Araeen born in Karachi in 1935 is very much a modern artist reflecting very much an Anti Imperialist and political approach to art. He has been very involved in Sculpture and responded in his own way to artists like David Smith , Anthony Caro and the American  minimalists who were part of the Modernist movement in the 1960’s in the USA.

  “Tagore started painting in 1928 when he was 67 and produced over 200 paintings before his death in 1941”.  [1].

Tagore used ink on paper and there is a rhymthic  quality to most of his work.  “There seems to be an emphasis on different textures , subtle shading and linear perspectival constructions”.  [2].

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Tagore’s art has a dreamy flowing sense in his drawings . He was influenced by nature and there are many of his pencil and ink drawings of Birds or different animals reflected. “He could perhaps be regarded as the first Indian painter to have been aware of the qualities of primitive art”. [3].

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Travelling to Europe to present his work in several exhibitions. He visited the Bauhaus and met with Klee and Kandindisky. “He was able to see the work of artists who used this method such as Paul Klee. On his invitation  the Bauhaus group mounted an exhibition in Calcutta in 1922 where paintings by Wassily Kandinsky (creation) and Paul Klee(Passing through and open door) were displayed”.  [4].

I would argue than many European art historians have ignored art from the Global south and believed that only art from a euro centric view could be adopted. Many Imperialist and racist views have reinforced this position. They fail to see the huge contribution of artists like Tagore and Araeen.

 “Tagore could be regarded as a Modern artist because he adopted many European modernist Ideas incorporating them into his own work. he played stress on the autonomy of Art and used models analogous to those of some European modernists such as the surrealists”. [5].

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Tagore was well versed in writing , teaching aware of other cultures but because of this euro centrism and the influence of Racists attitudes in Art amongst artists in the Western world there has been very little appreciation of artists like Tagore and others.  “Rabindranath in 1926 urged in the new meaning of art that a new Indian Painting should be invented not transposed from past Models”. [6].

Rasheed Araeen has written extenstively about what he calls ‘ The post Colonial subject’. He has some very apt and correct statements on the role of  Euro centric Art and how they have subjugated and exploited art from the Global south. “Liberation from colonialism presupposes liberation from a past that was defined by colonialism and its views of History. it was therefore important for the Liberated people to seize the dynamic of History again”.  [7]. This is what Araeen has done , in his Art whether it be drawings or his very modernism approach to  Video and Tele visual constructions Araeen has attempted to make sense of his past and chart a revolutionary course in his approach. He takes the subject and shows how Imperialism and Racism have used the Global south and denied them a proper Historical role in the Art world.

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Araeen in his contribution to art is quite critical of how Art Historians with their euro centric views have completely ignored the major contribution of not just artists from Pakistan and India , but China Latin American Artists and artists from Africa.  “Why are Art institutions in the west even today closing their eyes to the fact that the post colonial  artist has intervened in the genealogy of post war developments in Modern Art and has thus contributed to these developments”. [8].

Araeen’s understanding of History shows that as an artist from the Global South he has recognised the importance of Dialectics and History.  “The dialectics of Liberation from colonialism whether political or economic demand that both the coloniser and the colonised liberate themselves at the same time”. [9].

Araeen continues to pose a critical position with some artists who have integrated themselves in the Western Art world without taking a critical position. “However I maintain that the post colonial subject has a historical responsibility to present a critical position with regard to Imperialist assumptions”. [10].

Much of Araeens artistic work was influenced by artists working in the late 20th Century and his work as what he calls a Asymetrical arrangement.  “The work of European artists working in the 20th Century such as Picasso, Georges Braque, (Cubism) Henri Matisse (Fauvism) Marc Shagall and Paul Klee(expressionism) was the inspiration for most of my contemporaries in Karachi and also provided the criteria by which modern art in Pakistan was and is still been evaluated”. [11].

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Araeen shows how he devised some of his structures and the reasons for their portrayal . “My own work on the other hand was conceived around an idea of Symetry which thus rejected and challenged the idea of the Hierarchical view of things”. [12].

  Araeen explains his role as a political activists when he moved to London and experienced the racist and pro imperialist attitudes to Black and colonial peoples.  “I became a political activist with a belief that radical political activity was more effective than art in dealing with such a situation. I returned to artistic activity realising that there was an important struggle to be waged within Art”. [13]

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Araeen reflects on how after he left the Black Panthers and his fight against Racism Araeen has continued to reflect his art in an overt political direction.  “I was in Karachi when the Gulf war began I began to realise the growing power of globally expanding information technology”. [14].

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In  conclusion I would argue that Both Tagore and Araeen have presented a different view of art that is not Euro centric but a Different view of art represented by Art that developed from the Global south.  I will leave the last comments to Rashheed Araeen who for me has Revolutionised art and represents a very political and direct attack on the Institutional practices of Imperialism and Racism in the Art world.  “My work has developed and lived in opposition to an Institutional position, but this is a paradox whose dialectic can bring about a profound change in our perception of Modernism in Art and its history  .We  may now come to  see that Modernism is no longer a Monopoly or creation of the West and its White People”[15].

FOOTNOTES

1)   VIEWS OF DIFFERENCE DIFFERENT VIEWS OF ART OPEN UNIVERSITYPG.180

2)                 DITTO   PG.183

3)         DITTO PG.185

4)    DITTO PG.186.

5)    DITTO PG.194.

6)     DITTO PG.196

7)  DITTO PG.179.

8)    DITTO PG.192.

9)     DITTO.PG.231

10)  DITTOPG.232

11)    DITTO. PG.234.

12)    DITTO.PG. 237

13)          DITTO. PG.240.

14)         DITTO.PG.245.

15)            DITTTO.PG.255.

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