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Kavita Singh

By Marjorie Husain
Foundation for the Museum of Modern Art, Karachi, 2005, pp. 214, Rs. 950.00 Pk

By Aditi De
Rupa & Co., New Delhi, 2004, pp. 319, Rs. 495.00

VOLUME XXIX NUMBER 12 December 2005

Both of the books under review are compilations of newspaper pieces by senior critics. Artviews: Encounters with Artists in Pakistan brings together Marjorie Husain’s articles written for newspapers and magazines in Pakistan over the last ten years or so. Articulation: Voices from Contemporary Indian Visual Art by Aditi De similarly assembles interviews with major Indian painters and a few sculptors, which were published in Indian newspapers over the last twenty years.      Both authors are good writers. Marjorie Husain is immediate, vivid and lucid, quickly drawing the reader into a small circle that includes the artist, reader and herself. With sensitivity and empathy, she describes the artist’s life and tribulations. Aditi De’s style is more poetic, even florid at times, but her pieces are all introductions to long interviews in which we are to hear the artists speaking for themselves.       Being first charmed by each of the books, and then frustrated and a little bored by them, I am left to wonder quite what to make of each. Husain’s first: she has little pieces on a huge spectrum of Pakistani artists, from a forgotten generation, to the grand old men of Pakistani art, to the new stars. One picks up interesting things: that Fyzee Rahamin, for instance, was a Bombay based artist who had once studied under John Singer Sargent in London and that he executed the murals in the Imperial Secretariat (North Block?) in New Delhi. Or that Pakistan’s foremost postage-stamp designer is Adil Salahuddin, who trained as a miniature painter in the now-famous miniature painting department at the National College of Art, Lahore.      But Husain’s pieces which begin well and with great immediacy end just when they seems to be getting into their stride. That these are newspaper articles, written under the pressure of word limits and deadlines, is clear. It is disappointing however to have them reprinted as a collection with no revision, no expansion or filling-in of context. Most of them are reviews of single exhibitions or events. They do not, thus, offer insights into Pakistani contemporary art in general, or to the lives and oeuvres of the particular artists who form the subjects of her articles.      Aditi De’s book is also a compilation of previously published newspaper pieces, but it has a different texture. For one thing the pieces do not feel so dated, because each piece is a ...

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