The past two days have been a delight for the artist within. I have spent a whole day walking through Tate Britain‘s collection of art works from 1500s until present day and another day with looking at works of modern art from across Europe and the americas in Tate Modern. The experience in both places have been wonderful. These galleries hold huge collections of arts of the periods and the regions they are dedicated to. You love art or not, everyone loves beautiful sights. One must to go to these museums just to experience that sight of those beauty from centuries. And the best part about these museums is the guided tour around the place provided by the volunteers. That helps one understand the context, the reasons and the times when these museums were initiated and the times the art works were made.
The walks and time spent in the galleries of these museums is not enough for me. There were many comparisons, thoughts , observations going on within. A thought and a marvel that recurred as I walked from one gallery to another was about photography, its advent and its contribution to fine arts.
Photography is classified as one of the fine arts along with drawing, painting, sculpting etc. But the entire scene of fine arts have gone through a revolution with the invention of cameras. Life of photography and the techniques- to capture light and capture images from chemical mediums to digital mediums is another fascinating journey. But its undeniable what this field of arts have done to the others. Its contribution to others is enormous. If you look at the collections in Tate Britain and Tate Modern there is stark change in the style of paintings and expressions. There seems to be a sudden shift in how an artist expressed himself. And to me that sudden shift in expression was made possible by photography.
Before photographic techniques were found, artists mostly painted scenes, portraits and situations to document stories. If you look at the collection of 1500s in Tate Britain, every painting has a story to tell. Every detail of a painting had a reason – what dress a person is wearing, the number of rings they wore in their hands portrayed etc, all of it was trying to say something of those times. Many art works commissioned were to tell those stories in one single frame. The art works of Turner, Constable and others of those times are so important in that respect. They helped us see what it would be like in their times.
With the carrival of photography, the responsibility of documentation to a great extent was lifted off from the artist. This provided the kind of freedom that artists in the past did not have. The sublime art of Turner’s times now gave way to the abstract art of the modern times. In a way, my journey as an artist have been like that of classical art to that of modern art. I did not have a camera of my own until I was 19 years old. I had basic training in classical painting and drawing techniques- water colors, oil on canvas etc. I used tomake landscapes with oil on canvas and portraits of faces with pencil or charcoal on paper. After the point when I had a camera of my own, I started to experiment with color, papers and different medias simply expressing what I felt on those papers. The need to document and capture moments of importance is now taken care of by my camera. Photography bestowed me with that mental freedom.
I have always been able to relate to Pablo Piccaso’s or Jacksonn Pollocks work without knowing why. And lately my interaction with colors look like the way Gerhard Richter’s play with colors. In an interview Richter says ( i paraphrase it here) – colors are so beautiful to simply be with, i simply play with them until I feel satisfied. The rage and agony Piccaso must have felt painting the weeping woman, or the surging emotions that Pollock felt while slapping and dripping colors on his canvas or the delight of playing with colors that Richter felt is what I could connect with. This to me was a contribution of photography to fine art.