Art is a result of the human tendency for constant innovation: Eminent art historian Prof Shivaji K Panikkar

RONO HILLS, Mar 18: Eminent art historian and former Dean of the School of Culture & Expression, Ambedkar University, Delhi, Prof Shivaji K Panikkar is on a two-day visit to Rajiv Gandhi University’s Department of Fine Arts & Music, beginning March the 16.

While interacting with the BFA students of the department, Prof Panikkar had a long insightful discussion with the students about their works and shared his views on contemporary aesthetics in visual art trends, colour symbolism and ‘ways of seeing’. 

The next day he delivered a lecture on ‘Basic Categories of Art History and Its Relevance for Visual Art Practice’, which was also attended by Prof Simon John, Coordinator of the Deptt of Fine Arts & Music, and Kompi Riba, General Secretary, Arunachal Akademi of Fine Arts (AAFA).

The resource person started his lecture with an open question on the relevance of Art History for practising artists, especially for fine arts students, and the discourses on various concepts and ideologies. Prof Panikkar first emphasized on the definition of fine arts and lalit kala according to the 19th-century British and Indian schools respectively. Defining ‘art’ as a human faculty, he remarked that art is a result of the human tendency for constant innovation, for instance, creating a stone tool from the Paleolithic period to handling technology, from weaving, and cooking to solving any social, cognitive issue as per requirement. However, he also said that “the modern understanding of ‘art’ is strictly institutional depending upon the modes of making art practices at various geographic locations and periods.”

Following this, the resource person moved towards the question of the purpose of Art History for future artists in the making, whether it’s for its own sake or it has a significant role in moulding the present art practices and trends. According to him, the answer lies in the ‘inheritance of art’, the long time frame of the history of art making which can only be found on the pages of Art History. Then he briefed about various mediums and methods artists have been using throughout history and how they transformed from traditional methods like painting, sculpting, drawing, and sketching to collage, assemblage, found objects, new/multimedia, web art, performances, etc.

Afterwards, he moved towards the distinctions between varied ideas in art starting from arts and crafts, craft and folk/popular arts, fine arts and visual arts, and distinctions between ancient and pre-modern art aesthetics to modern and contemporary aesthetics and ideology. Then he went on to define how art is impacted by time, quality, style, category according to ideology, icons, narratives and geographical spaces, religious orientation, and social growth from time to time.

Prof Panikkar concluded his lecture with various chronologies of art progressions, and roles played by allied disciplines like Archaeology, Museology, Art Criticism, etc. He signed off with an Indian miniature painting displaying the narrative of Radha-Krishna and how the pre-modern artists used two-dimensional spaces to show various times, emotions and events at a time, and urged the young artists to take the liberty to tell their own stories in their unique ways.      

The lecture was followed by an intriguing Q&A session with the fine arts students of the department. They asked the resource person about visual language, stylistic developments and their creative journeys in the contemporary art world.

The programme was hosted by Prof Punyo Chobin, HoD (i/c), Fine Arts & Music.