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Monday, August 13, 2007

The painted sea

With a distinct identity and works marked by freshness, Goan art could be the next big thing.

Anoop Kamath�s �Kokum Dreams� at Gallerie Nvya in Delhi: a brilliant mosaic of flat colours � red for sand, green for the vegetable markets, blue for the ocean � contrasts with the stark black and white portraits of Goan people.

In Mumbai, at Gallery Beyond, �Yellow from the sun, blue from the sea� features Goan artists Subodh Kerkar, Swatee Nair, Chaitali Morajkar, Santosh Morajkar, Suhas Shilker, Praveen Naik and Francis d�Souza.

Back in Delhi, gallerist Tripat Kalra of Nvya says her next show is by Goan artist Viraj Naik. Other shows by Rajan Fullari and Subodh Kerkar are in planning, and curator Alka Pande is discussing a Goan retrospective in 2008.

Suddenly, Goan art is all the buzz. It may not be recognised as an independent school yet, but Goa could be the next big thing with young talent gaining both recognition and patronage in generous measure.

It wasn�t always this easy. �Living in Goa and making it big has always proved tough for artists,� says Subodh Kerkar, one of the few who decided to stay on in the state and not migrate to more lucrative art destinations. A doctor-turned-artist, Kerkar set up a gallery (Kerkar Art Complex) to make his presence known.

Artist Style/strength Average price
Anoop Kamath Realistic; acrylic on canvas Rs 1 lakh
Viraj Naik Surreal; paperwork Rs 75,000-1 lakh
Rajan Fulari Surreal; etchings Rs 1.5 lakh
Subodh Kerkar Realist; installations/mixed media Rs 1-1.5 lakh
Pradeep Naik Realism; acrylic on canvas Rs 75,000 onwards
Suhas Shilker Abstract; oils and acrylic on canvas Rs 35,000-1.5 lakh
Swatee Nair Abstract; acrylic on Canvas Rs 30,000-1 lakh

�There are no big collectors here,� laments Kerkar. �It�s a tourist haven and tourists buy only souvenirs, not art.� Earlier, those who chose to move on included among them F N Souza, Angelo de Fonseca, Antonio Xavier Trinidade, V Gaitonde and Laxman Pai.

Collectively, they represent Goa, but is there a well-defined Goan style, or has each artist grown in an individual space? �Culturally and historically, Goa has been very different from any other state,� says Swatee Nair.

�Its Portuguese past has granted it a separate identity which percolates down to its people. Therefore, the artists have enjoyed freedom of thought and a folklorish quality in their expression.� It isn�t something that translated into market dynamics and could be a possible explanation of why the masters shunned their native identities.

Today, Souza and Gaitonde are better known as Progressives from Mumbai, Fonseca for his Santiniketan leanings (till he switched back to painting his own land and people), and even Laxman Pai who headed the Goa school of art for a while, left it for personal pursuits.

�But isn�t that true of any place outside a metro? Look at artists from Surat � they too migrate to the metros for the saleability factor. And why not? Goan artists moved out when the market here did not allow them space for growth,� says Nair.

Or could it be the lack of a common thread that binds this �non-school�, as Suhas Shilker defines it. �Till Laxman Pai was principal of the art school, the students looked upon him as a father figure. But that was before he decided to move on. Today, youngsters serious about art attach themselves to the JJ School of Art or the art schools in Baroda, Santiniketan and, of late, Hyderabad.� Apparently, Hyderabad�s Laxma Goud is a major influence on younger Goan artists and art students.

Not everyone disagrees with the lack of a cohesive Goan school of art. �The distinctive, individual styles single out artists in the market today,� says Nair.

�What the Goan artists considered their disadvantage has actually proved to be their biggest blessing,� Shilker says. �Back in the �80s, at the end of an exhibition we would exchange unsold paintings,� he laughs, �but today it is all about churning art to meet demand.�

These winds of change have only been felt in the past four years. And newer artists from Goa have rapidly catered to the emerging market with works marked by freshness � among them Baiju Parthan, Rajshree Thakker and Hanuman Kambli. �That the appeal of art is universal and the world is a global market has manifested itself very strongly in the last few years,� agrees Naik.

�Art is no longer regional. Though Goa will always remain in our subconscious, it�s never all-consuming as art,� he says. Fullari adds, �Tradition is deeply rooted in our subconscious and it reflects somewhere in the works in the form of imagery or even the use of bright colours or the influence of the ocean for the theme � it�s there.�

They may be cynical about the lack of art education or promotion within the state, but there�s no escaping the rise of hope: �The buying culture is developing at a very nascent stage. It is definitely better than before. People are suddenly more open to us. But for how long this boom lasts is the big question,� says Shilker. Whatever the state of the market, the artists � whether Goan or of the Goan school � can only hope the trend is not short-lived.

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