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    A three-day conference will signify Venkatappa’s dominant position in Indian art history

    Indian history is marred by the North versus South bias. India’s past records have focused on the North of India, while the South has frequently been ignored. This absurd dichotomy has significantly influenced chronicles of art history as well. The sparse records on K Venkatappa’s contribution to modern realistic art is enough validation of this unfairness — a reason that nudged artist Pushpamala N to organise an international conference that celebrates the artist and his contribution to modern art in India.
    The Mysore Modernity, Artistic Nationalism and the Art of
    K Venkatappa — a three-day conference, will attempt to throw light on lesser-known facets of Venkatappa’s life, in the context of the progressive Mysore government’s policies and their patronage of art.

    Life and times
    “It’s the right time to talk about Venkatappa, particularly now, because of the open-ended tussle between the government and the
    artists community, on whether the
    K Venkatappa Art Gallery should be privatised or not,” says Pushpamala. Though Venkatappa has written 48 diaries recording his life, not much is known about him, and Pushpamala is striving to showcase the influential art practitioner and his critical
    contribution. “He was a kind of an eccentric. Though he wrote about himself, he was averse to socialising. Yet, he was a national-level artist who easily navigated between the Bengal school of art (he was Abanindranath Tagore’s student) and modern realism.”
    While a major chunk of history records the nationalistic art contributions from other parts of India, Karnataka finds mention only in the latter part of the century,
    during the 1980s. This conference aims to bring Karnataka’s modern art contribution to the fore, with a focus on Venkatappa. “He hasn’t been given his due nationally, though his work is archetypal of Karnataka’s art,” says artist and art historian, Suresh Jayaram.

    Looking back
    “Mysore was a modern state that emphasised on progressive and self-conscious art and Venkatappa was a perfect fit in that context,” says Jayaram. “His connection with the Bengal revivalist school of art and his later work that evokes nationalism in the regional context is important, and that’s why he is a seminal figure,” he adds. Jayaram will present a paper on Venkatappa’s use of line in his work. Apart from Jayaram and Pushpamala, 10 other speakers — Partha Mitter (Professor Emeritus, Sussex University, UK) and RH Kulkarni (Professor of
    Art History, Chitrakala Parishath) among others will present
    various papers on the historical context of Venkatappa’s art and his relevance today.
    The conference will open with a performance by artist Abhishek Hazra. “Abhishek will lead the audience through the Venkatappa Art Gallery, narrating pieces from the life of the artist. Some of these stories were shared by Venkatappa’s neighbours who still reside in Malleswaram,” says Sumana Chandrashekhar,
    programme executive at the India Foundation for the Arts, who are funding the event.
    Entry free. Today, 5.30 pm. At Venkatappa Art Gallery, Kasturba Road. To register for the conference (held at NGMA, Vasanthnagar) send an email to somberikatte96@gmail.com

    — Ayesha Tabassum

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