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Abstraction, figuration and Cambodian and Indonesian temples


A change of direction – seeking the line between abstract and figuration
KG Subramanyan Artist
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Before I sort of went to the United States, I was trying to decide of doing a certain kind of painting or even sculpture where I could sort of drive on a middle line between abstracts and figuration kind of a thing. In fact, I did an exhibition in Bombay just previous to my going to the United States, which more or less indicated what I was trying to do at that time. Then when I went to the United States, of course there was a lot of abstract painting going around, but an absolutely sort of an object-centred abstract painting did not appeal to me at all. I could see that they had interesting surfaces and things of that kind. They became a kind of an aesthetic object, but of course Aesthetic Object was the name of a book somebody wrote, isn’t it, or the whole scene. But then...

Actually, I think the name was The Anxious Object.

The Anxious... ?

The Anxious Object.

The Anxious Object. Anyway, the whole idea is that I wanted to put in a sort of a reference to the kind of life around in some way or the other, and really speaking, the kind of a thing that struck me at that time was something quite ancient as the Duccio’s panels in Italy where you had those various scenes put together. When you looked at it, it has a certain kind of an abstraction which ran through the whole thing, but each little panel, it was very descriptive. It sort of tried to represent a scene which could be read. Then it came also sort of brought it home to me that this is what has happened in the art of my own country. If you think in terms of a temple with all those reliefs and sculpture and all, from the distance it’s a sort of an abstract piece, and when you went nearer, it is like you were turning over one page after another of sort of a descriptive figuration.

KG Subramanyan (1924-2016) was an Indian artist. A graduate of the renowned art college of Kala Bhavana in Santiniketan, Subramanyan was both a theoretician and an art historian whose writings formed the basis for the study of contemporary Indian art. His own work, which broke down the barrier between artist and artisan, was executed in a wide range of media and drew upon myth and tradition for its inspiration.

Listeners: Timothy Hyman

Timothy Hyman is a graduate of Slade School of Fine Art, London, in which he has also taught. In 1980 and 1982, he was Visiting Professor in Baroda, India. Timothy Hyman has curated many significant art exhibitions and has published articles and monographs on both European and Indian artists.

Duration: 2 minutes, 53 seconds

Date story recorded: 2008

Date story went live: 10 September 2010