‘Superficial form and style do not make abstract art; it is a spiritual process’

Raza Foundation’s Art Dialogue series discusses Abstraction in Art


New Delhi, July3:The tendency of modernism in art to focus on style and form does not represent the process of abstraction, which is the spiritual experience ofan artist in search of deeper meaning to visible material objects, and their attempt to free the viewer’s mind from bias, art practitioners at a talk organized by the RazaFoundation said.

The Foundation’s Art Dialogues, a monthly series of discussion on various aspects of art organized in partnership with the Civil Services Officers' Institute, addressed ‘Abstraction in Art’ in its fourth edition organized last evening.It featured noted filmmaker Kumar Sahani and animator and illustrator and screenwriter AyswaryaSankarnarayanan on the panel, with poet and film-writer UdayanVajpeyi as the moderator.

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

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

The poet Surdas, for example, wrote in the abstract; 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)KhayalGatha (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, he said.

The experience of art in India is deeply connected to the joy of knowledge; it is in itself self-realization, he 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, especially intended for the youth.

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