‘Superficial form and style do not make abstract art’



Leading Indian art practitioners have contended that the tendency of modernism in art to focus on style and form does not represent the process of abstraction.


At a talk organised by the Raza Foundation on “Abstraction in Art” in the national capital on Sunday (July 2), noted filmmaker Kumar Sahani and animator and screenwriter Ayswarya Sankarnarayanan were on the panel with poet and film-writer Udayan Vajpeyi as the moderator.


The panelists maintained that the process of abstraction is the spiritual experience of an artist in search of deeper meaning to visible material objects, and their attempt to free the viewer’s mind from bias.


Ayswarya, who presented a paper on the idea of abstraction in art, noted that the very idea of creation involves abstraction.


“It is an attempt to extract sense from reality and non-reality,” she said.


How abstraction is expressed and perceived by people changes continuously as civilizations rise and fall but what has been common throughout the ages is the relation of abstraction to the spiritual — it is always a search for the unknown and it cannot die because of the constant quest of humans for meaning, she said.


“Abstraction in art cannot merely be in style. The tendency of modernism is to search for form. However, what is abstraction for one culture may be a faithful reproduction for another,” she added.


“Mere formalization does not amount to abstraction, no matter how successful they are. The function of abstraction is to free the mind from bias.”


The Art Dialogues is a monthly series of discussion on various aspects of art organised in partnership with the Civil Services Officers’ Institute.


“In art, you don’t start with an idea, you seek the truth. In India, all our traditions are in fact abstract. It becomes dangerous when you start to literalise traditions, you lose the truth,” said Udayan Vajpeyi.


He reminded the audience of poet Surdas, who wrote in the abstract form.


“His writings cannot be taken literally or we’ll never find the meaning in them,” he said.


Kumar Sahani, known for his avant-garde films like “Maya Darpan” (1972), “Tarang” (1984), “Khayal Gatha” (1989) and “Kasba” (1990), said there was no dichotomy between narrative and abstraction in cinema.


“They are not only capable of existing together, but in the epic form of art they are together. The experience of art in India is deeply connected to the joy of knowledge, it is in itself self-realization,” Sahani said.


Raza Foundation’s Art Dialogues features expert practitioners from the world of ideas, literature, visual arts, performing arts and various other disciplines.


The Foundation, set up by the late artist S.H. Raza, provides support and platform for various arts, publications and fellowships.