The changing fortunes of the Faculty of Fine Arts at MSU in Baroda, one of India’s premier art institutions

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Artist Vivan Sundaram clearly remembers the excitement before taking office. Art fair In 1961 at the Faculty of Fine Arts (FFA) at Maharajasaya Jirao University (MSU) in Baroda. When the first edition of the fair was held, he was pursuing a bachelor’s degree in painting. .. “Students from different faculties have come together. We were asked to be as innovative as possible in our work for public viewing. It was a wonderful learning process.” Sundaram, 79, says.

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The legendary fair was initiated at the request of artist KG Subramanyan and Santiniketan alumni Sankho Chaudhuri, with the aim of bringing a larger community into contact with art.Designed with the popular Art Mela as a model SantiniketanIt consisted of performances and workshops, and a funding drive from the sale of faculty and student works, including printed matter portfolios, sculptures, paintings along with toys, postcards, practical objects and masks. Pricing remained modest to ensure affordability. “The pendulum of exposure shook between traditions of past art practices and new ideas, introducing forms of folk art and craft into the learning repertoire,” said artist Rekha Rodwittiya, 63, who graduated from FFA in 1981. ) Says. ..

However, the radical ideas and intellectual dissents that the department once encouraged now appear to be under threat. Earlier this month, MSU Syndicate announced Kundan Yadav, a student in the sculpture department. Right wing group On campus earlier this month. The work, considered derogatory, was in the form of gods and goddess clippings, with newspaper clippings of violent crimes against women, including rape. Teachers and students claimed that the work was not for public use because it was part of the classified process, not from the batch in which the student left. But that wasn’t enough to prevent vandalism and rust. The incident happened just 15 years after another student, Chandra Mohan, was suspended from art school and arrested for portraying Jesus and the goddess Durga in an “obscene way.” He still has a bachelor’s degree.

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The curriculum and spirit of Baroda’s Faculty of Arts, founded in 1950 based on the recommendations of the Hansa Meta Committee’s report on Bombay Presidency’s education policy, was defined by the first Dean Markand Bhatt and the powerful NS Bendr and Chaudhuri. I did. Born in independent India, without colonial baggage, existing techniques and traditional Indian art form, classic style, Art history And aesthetics. Discussions at the FFA spread from classrooms to studios and artists’ homes. The well-stocked library was home to some of the best art books and international journals. At study tours in locations such as Ajanta Ellora, Udaipur and Mahabalipuram, teachers cooked for students and traveled together in second-class compartments. Artist Jyoti Bhatt, a student of the first batch, recalls an unconventional teaching method. “Like Professor Bendre and Professor Chauduri, Manida (Subrahmanyan) also taught me how to draw and compose on paper, but he often painted on the floor of the painting department. Some of us later copied these drawings, “says Bhatt, 88.

Draw a new world: Photographing a student’s play at FFA in 1980 (Source: Jyoti Bhatt Archive, Asia Art Archive)

In a cheerful atmosphere, the dialogue between teachers and students was not limited to scholars. “Teachers were the epicenter and it was one big family,” says Bhatt. The son of an educator in Bhavnagar, he couldn’t afford to stay in Markand for a long time as a student. Hostel accommodation.. Gulmammohammed Sheikh arrived in Baroda in 1955 and received a Saurashtra government scholarship of 50 rupees per month.He supplemented irregular scholarships with income from consignment Portrait, Read poetry on the radio and write assignments. He still had a master’s degree when Bendre invited him as a temporary tutor in art history in 1960 with a monthly salary of 250 rupees. Coming from Bhavnagar, I remember how Baroda opened a new world for him. “The pioneers visualized an artist with literacy and education, a new citizen of modern India, in line with the independence of the country. It is a small institution with a teacher-to-student ratio of 1. It was 10 or 1:15. The studio was huge, like a warehouse, open day and night. For someone like me from a small town, learn from the teacher who worked with you That was a great experience, “says Sheikh, 85.

In an attempt to establish a narrative vocabulary, for the first few years the artist responded to the concepts of cubism and abstraction, portraying the surroundings, and then turned to a figurative narrative style. Baroda in 1956, on the advice of Bendre Artist The Baroda Group has been formed, including GR Santosh, Ratan Parimoo, Subramanyan, Shanti Dave, Bendr, Bhatt, Ramesh Pandya and more. From the mid-1950s to the mid-1960s, they were exhibited in cities such as Bombay, Ahmedabad and Srinagar, and their work was highly acclaimed. The showcase portrayed their common concerns and their clear artistic choices. In 1969, Bhupen Khakhar and Sheikh journaled to express the opinions of artists, share their work, and raise relevant questions, including a campaign to reform Lalit Kara Academi in the early 70’s. Launched Vrishchik.

In his dissertation, “Contributing to the Trends in Contemporary Art at Baroda School,” Art Historian and former FFA Dean Parimu wrote: Baroda had no rebelsRather, everyone is a rebel in his own way. In this dialectical way, all conflicting avant-garde perspectives work side by side and cannot be reconciled with each other, but are open to the potential for development. “

With its formidable reputation for developing talent and having multiple influences, FFA has begun to attract the attention of artists from all over India. Midfielder Hussain demonstrated to students in the late 1950s. In 1971, Krishen Kanna organized an exhibition of his work. In the 60’s and 70’s, some members of the Baroda Faculty received top-notch scholarships — if Paris Mu studied at the Courtauld Gallery in London. Federal He received a scholarship in 1960, and the following year, Bert received an Italian government scholarship to study at the Belarti Academy and Fulbright in Naples in 1964.

From 1963 to 1966, Sheikh received a federal scholarship from the Royal College of Arts in London. Veer Munshi, an artist who graduated from painting at FFA from 1976 to 1981, remembers that the classroom was full of students from India and around the world. “Nasreen (Mohamedi) asked me to clean the studio and clean the ground before I started working. I didn’t know why, but I knew how it got closer to nature. She encouraged us to draw what we found. We made hundreds of sketches a day and visited many places, including the train station, “says Munshi.

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Schools range from Doyen such as Joti Bat and Joti Bat to modern times such as Nilima, Gramohammed Sheikh, Geram Patel, Himmat Shah, Haku Shah, LN Taruru, N Pushpamara, Sheila Gouda, and Murinarini Mukelzi. Even artists continue to produce prestigious artists across generations. , Nikhil Chopra, Prabhakar Pachpute, Abir Karmakar, Shreyas Karle.

An art fair that has attracted people from all over the world for many years Gujarat Rarely since then, the annual MSU final year student exhibition attracts the crowd. As the price of Indian art soared, it also became a gallerist hunting ground for finding potential stars of tomorrow and predicting trends. “The Baroda environment has always encouraged individualistic thinking. Some of the artists I work with are from undergraduates and always visit the studio when traveling to the city. 2 again this year. “We have registered a young artist,” said Bhavna Kakar, director of the Latitude 28 Gallery in Delhi, who received a master’s degree in art history from MSU from 2000 to 2002.

Draw me a new world: Artist Nasreen Mohamedi with her students in 1975 (Source: Jyoti Bhatt Archive, Asia Art Archive)

As the circle of close artists who call Baroda their hometown grew, ecosystems developed around them. The city may not yet boast many art galleries, but equidistant locations between Delhi and Mumbai’s art centers ensure opportunities. Several studio groups have also grown rapidly to provide young artists with an environment that helps them practice.

The reputation that its founder has built up continues, but there have also been many changes. As the market became the driving force of students, the focus shifted from learning and experimentation to finding monetization potential. “When I was studying hard at Baroda, I found it difficult to separate different cultural expressions. Writers, musicians, traditional folk artists I’m coming to talk to us. This is what makes Baroda special. So when we were teaching, we tried to adopt those approaches. I wanted to have a chain, but I don’t know what it will be like in the next few years, “says Vasudevan Akkitham, 64, a teacher of painting from 1990 to 2020. The syllabus does not change if the teaching method changes over time. On the other hand, bureaucratic norms that require a required PhD to teach at university discourage practical artists from applying for jobs. “When it comes to appointing teachers, a PhD is not the only standard for practical subjects. When KG Subramanyan was teaching, he was a traditional craftsman in Gyarsilal Varma to teach us. If the teacher has only a PhD based on theory, he may not be able to provide practical education in the classroom, “says Akkitham. “But despite controversy and unfair publicity about the institution, they still receive about 300 applications for each of the 14 master’s seats and the 25 undergraduate seats in painting,” he said. say.

The very corridor, which once saw a fascinating debate, is now neglected. Increasing censorship of national art marked the end of bohemian conversation and creative experimentation. The studio is now on timing, and nude research, once an important part of scholars, has been discontinued. After the 2007 Chandra Mohan incident, a resolution was passed to check and approve all works in the annual exhibition before the museum opens. “Artists are an interesting chronista of the spirit of their time … If we interfere with this process through intimidation and self-defense, we will undoubtedly perpetuate only the dominant major views of history. Create a distorted story that makes you … The climate of fear and oppression has been infused into a society where young creative people are wary of expressing their ideas freely, “says Rodwittiya. “The damage we suffered in 2007 and this year is probably irreparable,” says Bat.

Perhaps one of the most prominent examples of self-censorship is that Sundaram hesitates to showcase some of his retrospective exhibitions in Delhi from 1965 to 1966 in 2018. “It was a painting with a particular iconography that I was free to display in the 1960s, but given the times I wouldn’t want to show it now,” says Sundaram.

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