Art News & Views


More than three decades ago, one of the pioneers of cultural studies, Fredric Jameson, in a seminal discourse, raised question about When was Modernism? (Our own art theorist, Geeta Kapur, in taking up the question for the title of her eponymous book missed the historicist underpinning of the question). The question itself had in it the implicit assumption that 'modernism' - even if it referred to a set of concepts transformed into linguistic signs specific to various cultural fields - had been caused by specific time-situation. The time-caused geneses of concepts (and ideas), ipso facto makes 'modernism' a historical noumenon. However, time - as the post-Einsteinian and post-Max Plankian natural sciences contend forms a continuum with space, and therefore, needs to taken as a causative factor along with space. The set of concepts and their objectified signs which are cognizable as 'modernism' -that is Jameson's matter of discourse (and of Geeta Kapur's also), unfortunately do not do justice to the second part of the continuum, even while giving due importance to the first part. If the spatio-temporal causative factors, operational in Europe from the mid-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century, gave rise to the set of concepts and signs forming the package termed 'modernism', in absence of similar package of spatio-temporal causative factors elsewhere, there is no reason why the 'modern' there would ingrain the similar sets of values and concepts and display similar sets of signs!

Insofar as the periodization of the political-economic and social history of Indo-Pak sub-continent is concerned, the disjuncture caused by the intervention of the British, in the polity economy and society, is taken as the starting point of India's move into the modern times. But cultural practices began to change only after the waning of the pre-contact system of patronage and the rise of new demand on one hand, and the institution of new educational system, on the other hand. This phase that began with the operation of the Cornwallis Code in Eastern India in the late eighteenth century, and increasingly gained complex character, especially in the second half of the nineteenth century, through rise in the subject-people, of awareness about the need for assertion of self-identity. Historians like Partha Chatterjee, call this as the period of colonial modernity. For a better understanding of the dynamics of cultural ^change, paradigm shifts within the phase need to be mapped and micro-periods with characteristic features of each have to be constructed.

In the development of Indian modern art, or to be less controversial -art in the modern period of India's history, closer looks at the paradigm shifts are necessary for construction of micro-periods, based on the problems, choices and solutions consciously and/or semi-consciously made by the practitioners, are called for. Bengal art of the phase provide a field for observation of the dynamics of modern culture, in a culturally rich heritage, with Western art of various periods acting as catalysts of change, along with other values, artetc: news & views, in two issues, is set to look at this dynamics of cultural change (in the non-performing visual arts of Bengal), through disjunctures and new choices. The first issue concentrates attention on reluctant disjunctions and hesitant choices - often impositions. Some of the disjunctions and choices causing the coming into being of new kind/school of art, as would be seen in the following pages, were resultant either of anonymous lead or of collective decision. Ipso facto, even though displaying individual talents, the art of these trends were essentially pre-individualist art. And, therefore, be termed as protomodern art. This issue, for that matter be called, as one on protomodern art of Bengal.

Pranabranjan Ray

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art etc. news & views is a monthly magazine published from India in order to promote art and culture. It intends to raise awareness about art all around India and the world. The magazine covers art exhibitions, auction highlights, market trends, art happenings besides Antique, Collectibles, Fashion, Jewellery, Vintage, Furniture, Film, Music and Culture.