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Broad canvas: reinterpreting art

art and culture Updated: Dec 20, 2013 15:43 IST
Ankita Ganguli
Ankita Ganguli
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What happens when High Art meets Low Art? A vibrant and vivid art exhibition that forces you to question your preconceived notions and thought processes.

Some of the famous and world renowned artists like Anita Dube, Anjolie Ela Menon, Chandra Bhattacharya, Jagannath Panda, Jogen Chowdhury, Paresh Maity, Pushpmala N, Raghu Rai, Ram Rahman, Sunil Gawde and Waswo X Waswo have contributed to this show which has been aptly named "When High Art And Low Art Meet".

The exhibition ran at the Lalit Kala Academy from November 26 till December 2. The art exhibition will continue at Art Alive Gurgaon till February 28.

The unique exhibition takes inspiration from Raja Ravi Varma – the man given the credit for ‘modern’ iconography in Indian art. The show is a fusion of the ‘low’ art of Raja Ravi Varma’s oleographs and the personalised ‘high’ art of contemporary artists.

The aim of the art exhibition is to present a new creative and innovative expression and imagery for the connoisseurs. There are many ways in which contemporary artist’s sensibility will respond to Varma’s oleographs. “I haven’t taken anything from Ravi Varma’s paintings. I am taking a critical role from a contemporary context. This is a realistic and representational type of a work. This art piece is reminiscent of my first year at the art college. I feel like asking him that after becoming such a mentor, how he could do away with tiny detailing,” says artist Sunil Gawde.

Given the title of the show, one is curious about what high and low art is. Artist Ram Rahman says, “I don’t actually make a distinction between high and low art. I think any creative art form is where visual arts or performing arts have their own place and space. In a lot of popular art or street art, especially as a photographer, one sees the richness of the popular expression. I find popular art much more exciting than what we call high art.”

The exhibition gives art lovers a chance to explore the combination of different artistic flavours. On this, artist Waswo says, “I don’t really think you can come up with a sort of a hybrid. All of my work is a mixture of tradition and contemporary entities, I don’t think one loses tradition or dilute something that is contemporary. It makes something that’s actually more powerful if you club them together.”

What become popular are things that give you joy and pleasure. This is what is happening with Raja Ravi Varma’s oleographs. The paintings on show go beyond exploring contemporary themes. It celebrates the importance of the moment which is contemporary.

Even though the artists have taken inspiration from Ravi Varma’s oleographs the issues they are addressing are quite related to the current times be it political or social, says the curator of the exhibition Rupika Chawla.

Julius Caesar vs Bugs Bunny, string quarters vs hip hop music, Alfred Hitchcock vs Karan Johar – such contrasts indicate a very strong familiar cultural divide highlighting the distinction between high art and low art.

Ranking art forms was a common activity of the Renaissance thinkers but how can any form be ‘higher’ than the other? The contemporary artists faded the dichotomy between the two art forms with their creative and colourful artistic imagination.