Contemporary Indian Art – An Overview

What started as a movement to revive and regenerate the Indian cultural scene some decades back – contemporary Indian art has now caught the attention of art critics and enthusiasts all over the world. There is a strong Indian presence in art galleries, exhibitions and auction houses globally.

Young artists from all over the country are experimenting with new styles and forms of art, shedding the clichéd and taking an altogether different approach on the contemporary, as opposed to the one conceived during the pre-colonial and pre- nationalist era. There is a huge boom in the art market across the sub-continent. This is evident from art galleries and exhibitions mushrooming all across the country.

Contemporary art in India takes a different trajectory from the West – gathering varied trends from all over the country spread across multiple regional schools of art. It is a mix of the radical and the provocative, with new artists experimenting with multiple and immersive forms of expression.

Many Indian artists have also immigrated towards the West and have started incorporating new forms of expression in their works, thereby creating artworks with a fine balance of their past in India and their new-found experiences in the west.

A striking feature which engages young artists from different regions of the country is the adherence to the medium of easel painting. Today, when more technologically advanced forms of art like new media, installations or photo performance are taking over, the decision to stick to the two dimensional surface of the canvas by young artists is, in itself, unique and a distinctive feature of  contemporary Indian art.

The return to more conventional mediums of art, viz. easel painting, and not entirely embracing the advanced technological approaches to art, is an indication of a developing avant-garde movement in the country spearheaded by young artists in the country. Their assertion to represent a contemporary experience, cutting across a wide variety of art styles and forms, within the constraints of a two dimensional surface is laudable.

The return of easel painting is reminiscent of an erstwhile prevailing trend in the 1980s in Europe and the United States when dialectical discourses on the choice between the figurative and the abstract were hugely debated.

However, the point of contention among contemporary Indian artists revolves around reconsidering the prospects of easel painting as opposed to the radical alternatives of Minimalism and Conceptualism.

The art scene in the country is a far cry from imitative representation; the conflict in modernist art in India emerges from within the figurative modes of art representation themselves. The conflict is not within the historical and the contemporary, but the medium itself.

Contemporary Indian art is highly vibrant and integrated. Artists have intricately impressed on layered contemporary art canvasses with ground-breaking and innovative art works transcending across cultural barriers. One can notice the fine blend between the traditional and the modern in the works of these artists, while leaving no stone unturned to preserve the rich legacy left by their worthy predecessors.