Group 1890 art collective


It is difficult to believe in magic today. But when rusty iron twisted into suggestive shapes, and charred wood board charm and one looks with wonder at emblems of embossed brass buried under paint or can stare at calligraphy and design that is even more elaborate and functional than the textures and shapes of anthills, one has to admit that there is a method in all this madness. The madness borders on the imponderable, memory then starts making its own magic. - Sham La

Artists who are not from the west are constantly required to define their art according to ‘where they are from’. For instance, people seldom approach artists from Norway to solicit an answer as to how and why Norwegian culture has or has not influenced their work. However, Asian and African artists are constantly asked this question.

Anyway, I digress. I spent last night at the Group 1890 exhibition in Hauz Khas, New Dehli. The Group 1890 was an art collective of Indian artists charting the struggle of Indian modernism with evolving identities and ways to voice those identities - indigenous modernization.

The classic theory of modernism and post modernism is in the context of Europe, mainly in relation to the renaissance. This means that most ‘contemporary art’ is judged according to western standards which are devoid of context and nuance, stripping the art of its identity and its ability to exist in its own right.

Indigenous modernism (the focus of last night's exhibition) is not to be confused with earlier ideas of modern Indigenous art, though they do to some extent pre-empt it. Indigenous modernization does not emulate western ideas of modernization. It explores alternative theories of multiple modernities.

A few artists whose work fill this space include painter, writer and art critic Gulammohammed Sheikh and pioneer of abstract art in India Jeram Patel. 

Language betrays our implicit biases. How we speak about art from different parts of the world; its comparative nature to the west, ideas of normality, standards and the mainstream all reveal the extent to which our minds are still colonized. Art movements like the Group 1890 are critical in questioning and disrupting how we view ‘contemporary’ vs ‘indigenous or traditional’ art. This is a critical contribution to the decoloniality project.

Looking at this period not only through the post colonial lense but also reimagining our realities and allowing artists the space to create free from constructs & limitations.

Nkgopoleng MoloiComment