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May 2007

art gallery
New Delhi

Curated by
Johny ML


Art Gallery
Grosvenor vadehra, London
The Guild Art
USA Inc.
& Lal

Essay - Making of ‘visual behaviors’ in print

Making of ‘visual behaviors’ in print - Contd...
Pictures of a modern (cordial) world:

An ever diffusive reading class was the proclaimed dream and a ‘reality’ grafted by many editors at the early stages.  Literacy, the knowledge of reading and writing was supposed to give birth to new category - ‘individual’ as ‘a writer’ and as ‘a reader’ both with an enlightening vision of the world wherein social changes and related public sphere of dialogues and objects constituted subjects for this individual’s ‘enlighted glance’.

Cover of ‘Sanjayan’ by M.bhaskaran, 1936

‘A sheet of paper’ or ‘an open book’ became an important element in page setting in the beginning.

A design motif in ‘KeralaChintamani’

These motifs were also creating another stage-space within the periodical page. Flowers hinted at nature. But flowers were often set in a vase that hinted more on ‘culture’. Flower vases could be placed in the grand corners or table tops of modern life style. As different from Bengal, in Keralam, there is no particular society of folk artists and their idioms that could adapt print and commerce into their own practices. No sufficient social mobility to adapt feudal imageries and aesthetico-religious practices (like mural paintings or wood carving iconography) to modern situations, either. So these stray pictorial elements procured by the publishers could have been attractive ways for a ‘reader-novice’ to grasp the changing object world. 
Legendary poet in Malayalam, Vallathol Narayana Menon edited a magazine called ‘Athmaposhini’.

It had an interesting cover picture that repeated in many issues. It is like this: a sheet of paper like a royal decree, not fully scrolled down. In the space of the sheet, the contents in the magazine are given. near the paper image, there are two people wearing turban and ankles identifying them as bureaucrats. One gestures to the other as he is speaking pointing at this sheet of paper. Top of the page, there are two winged cubs who shows out a set of sheets with issue number and volume number written on it. These paper motifs are informants of the spiritually nutritious (means ‘atmaposhini’) ideas. The readers can identify their enthusiasm with that of the bureaucrats too.

‘Nature’ in the language of ‘culture’

In the European magazines of 19th century ‘nature’ is cultured as a distinctive pictorial genre. In the art critical discourses developed at these contexts had already given an importance to the ‘picturesque’ and ‘sublime’ tastes supposed to be created by nature. Oil paintings on canvas depicting landscapes were regarded as a great aesthetic source of ‘beauty’. So the extension of this ‘aesthetic genre’ into illustrated magazines also carried this taste. In the context of a colonized Indian region, still held as a terrain of feudal states, Ravi Varma remained an isolated phenomenon. The definitive world of academic art practices was not taken up as a considerable professional activity with any institutional support. It can be assumed that some privileged youngsters were just not unaware of oil medium. Apart from the ‘fine art’ lessons available in the industrial schools, the whole genre of landscape, still-life etc were made prevalent through their presence in periodicals as a uniquely graphic world of ideas and information that were supposed to help readers to compensate their daily life with a ‘courteous and gentle’ modern individual.

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