Thursday, 9 July 2009

Before its too late.....

There are very few significant art critics, art theoreticians and art historians in India today. Somehow we have not created a viable module of learning in the last two decades within the handful of art institutions that we boast of (!) to attract the right students who can fill this lacuna. As a fine arts student of the 70's and 80's in Baroda, I remember the bubbling energy of the art history department where scholars like Gulam Mohammed Sheikh brought alive subjects that took you back in time and honed your aesthetics to find your own placement as a practitioner within this history . These "lessons" did not conclude in the classroom but were carried and extended by contextualizing the present with the past, at all times, so that you came to know your cultural ancestry with intimacy. Whether we were aspiring artists or historians, we were all expected to comprehend the relevance of art history, theoretical discourse and art criticism as an essential axis within our individual studies.

Today I see young art students from different parts of the country poorly equipped in these areas of learning , which are imperative to the study of art, and completely unaware that they are in any way hampered or hindered by this huge deficit of information. In so far as young art writers go, we grasp at straws within the art community hoping for the best. What the reality is, is that we have only a few excellent scholars who stretch themselves thin...... and then mediocrity! In discussions on this troubling issue there seems a lot of defensiveness of late regarding the reasons that attribute to this sorry state. Excuses abound aplenty, but in truth there is little concern evidenced to repair the situation and create a better art educational system in its place. It is common knowledge that the art history department of the fine arts faculty in Baroda leave much to be desired in recent years. Those who are qualified scholars have been ousted through political vendettas and so today this historic department stands in shambles.

It is considered by the younger generation to be a sure sign of senility if comparisons of the present with the past are made too frequently in conversations. But I genuinely hope that these youngsters stop to consider the future they are accepting for themselves. To allow important areas of study to be eroded at because there is no fight to call attention to its break down due to the negligence of a failing system, is to only short change yourselves. Mores the pity if you do so knowingly.

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