Journal of Arts & Ideas, no. 16 (Jan-Mar 1988) p. 73.

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Livine the Tradition

D Ashish Rajadhyaksha

K.G. Subramanyan, The Living Tradition: Perspectives On Modem Indian Art, Seagull Books, Calcutta, 1987, 96 pp., Rs. 150. Geeta Kapur, K.G. Subramanyan, Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi, 1987, 52 pp., Rs. 120.


As I write this, the Journal of Arts and Ideas is geanng up for a seminar: a critique of contemporary culture. It is a response to a steadily worsening political situation, marked over the past two years by some of the most violent power struggles since independence, over what would constitute the ruling norms of culture. An area that has, unfortunately and not always with justification, been the bete noir of the Indian left, looms in the immediate, bristling with an urgency helping to understand it. I anticipate with some trepidation debate on areas that we are simply not used to discussing except in small groups, as we make our vulnerability public.

These books arrive before us a time when we do not feel confident of our inheritance. They are, in many ways, voices from afar. Their coming together is a bit of a coincidence, but it has served to put K.G. Subramanyan, veteran controversial artist, craftsman, art-educationist and writer, possibly the single embodiment of those notions of valid orthodox art-practice that are today under the greatest threat, once again squarely at the cross-hairs of debate on Indian art. This would not be a new experience to the old man: the individual K.G. Subramanyan has, as much by example as through teaching, nurtured two generations of some of India's finest artists. At the Faculty of Fine Arts, Baroda, where he taught for thirty years, it is almost impossible to distinguish the traditions of that institution from the man. Although such an elevation of the individual to institutional dimensions has been, traditionally, one of the more useful systems of dissemination and training, it is by no means an unproblematic formulation today. Last year, a self-consciously radical group of painters and sculptors exhibiting on the Faculty premises at Baroda,

Many of the ideas expressed here emerged m conversation with Anup Smgh I feel deeply grateful to him

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