Shoeshine man adds lustre to image of Kashmiris
the simple story of a man can tell the complex story of an entire
people. And that is perhaps so with shoeshine man Shafi Sheikh who
has watched events unfold over the decades from his perch at the
famed Lal Chowk
New Delhi: The modern
art movement in Jammu and Kashmir is once again on the move after
a period of stagnation during the years of insurgency. The new
artistic interpretations emerging from the troubled state speak of
contemporary social realities like terrorism, youth unrest,
nostalgia among migrants and the changing lifestyle in the valley.
An exhibition of Modern and Contemporary Art from Kashmir
featuring works by 24 artists at the Indian Council for Cultural
Relations (ICCR) here has brought to light the new movement in
contemporary art in Jammu and Kashmir - the cradle of India's
historic Pahadi miniature art traditions.
Artists like Masood Hussain, Shafi Chaman, Arshad Sualeh and
Naushad Gayoor speak of the trauma brought by the orgy of blood
and terror in the state.
Masood Hussain, a teacher at the J&K Academy of Art, Culture and
Language, portrays the isolation of individuals, the sagas of
lonely deaths with a canvas of severed human heads, while artist Gokul Dambi evokes the longing of Hindu migrants to return to the
Kashmir Valley with a bridge linking mind space to his wooded
homeland in Srinagar.
"Jammu and Kashmir has a very vibrant contemporary and modern art
movement and the J&K academy is still the hub," president of
Indian Council for Cultural Relations Karan Singh told IANS.
"The growth of modern art in the state can be traced back to 50
years with pioneers like G.R. Santosh and Kishori Kaul," said
Karan Singh, who is the son of erstwhile Maharaja of Kashmir Hari
Santosh took Kashmiri contemporary art to the globe in the 1950s.
Dina Nath Walli is another pioneer who captured the sights of
everyday Kashmir in water colours.
Karan Singh, a Rajya Sabha MP, was one of the pioneers who helped
steer the course of modern art in the state with the creation of
the J&K academy in 1958 during his tenure as the "sadre-e-riasat"
- the head of state.
The academy, which now has branches in summer capital Srinagar and
Jammu, trains young artists in painting, sculpture and applied or
"But the culture galleries and exhibitions are yet to catch on in
the state," the ICCR president said.
Karan Singh's family also owns the private Amar Mahal Museum in
the state, built by Raja Amar Singh in 1890.
"The museum has a world famous collection of Kangra paintings from
Himachal Pradesh," he said. A rich repository of ancient and
contemporary art, the palace with French colonial style
architecture is maintained by the Hari-Tara Trust.
The Durbar Hall of the museum has a rich collection of sculptures,
paintings and art work collected during the Dogra reign, including
a 120-kg gold throne built by Hari Singh.
"Jammu is home to ancient Pahadi art like the Basholi school of
painting and the Guler school belonging to the Dogri traditions.
Ladakh is known for its exquisite Buddhist art," Singh said.
The 300-year-old Basholi school of devotional Pahadi miniature
painting traces its origin to the Basholi region of Kashmir.
According Kamal Sharma, a scholar of art history from the J&K
academy, young artists in the valley are making installations,
sculptures and experimenting with mixed and new media.
"But absence of art in school curriculum prevented the spread of
awareness about the subject. For instance, modern and contemporary
art has not yet made wide inroads into the artistic space in
Ladakh. The scene is dominated by religious Buddhist art. But
Ladakh is a popular venue for art camps," Sharma told IANS.
Another problem was "the influx of students from other states to
"As we do not draw the requisite number of students every year,
students from outside the state fill the seats. We spend
Rs.500,000 on an average to train each artist," he said. The
academy hosts an annual exhibition in the capital every year.
Ghulam Mohiuddin of the Srinagar chapter of the J&K academy, also
the in-charge of the ICCR exposition, said: "Srinagar has no
gallery. It is difficult for artists to exhibit their work and
make a living from art. Most of them either move out of the state
or work elsewhere if they do not get a job at the academy."
(Madhusree Chatterjee can be contacted at email@example.com)