Aesthetic continuum of contemporary folk paintings of india: case study of five traditional practices

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Indian folk artistry is uniquely recognized all over the world not only for rich aesthetics but also as indicators of age-old habitual belief. They comprise of tacit knowledge that is protected by passing on through generations. Apart from the act of customary decorations on ephemeral foundations, Indian painters-storytellers cum singers perennially depict life and death, victory and defeat, good and evil, in the regional folk paintings. The roving minstrels for over two thousand years have disseminated moral values through their painted scrolls and performance to the rural society that has equally reached past the overseas audiences. By counting contemporary folk art only as a community practice that strictly adheres to a tradition, may undermine the folk artist as a creative individual who significantly contributes to the tradition to keep it alive. The present study shifts its focus from the conventional ethnographic approach and instead, probes into the responsiveness of present day folk artists who use their freedom of experimentation to move forward. The contemporary form of Indian folk art primarily focuses on a wide dispersion of the otherwise localized content and hence making it more significant and worthwhile of analytical studies. Regional folk paintings from five adjoining states in India have been selected for the field study. It shows the paintings distinctively vary in their styles in different regions but connect through the common literary sources. It gives a larger picture of how the country as a whole is integrated by a common cultural profile in spite of immense ethnographic diversity. The mainstream academic style of art synergized with the principle of vernacular folk and tribal art to boost nationalism and modernism in Indian art scene. Social reformers of pre and postcolonial era particularly realized the role and significance of folk art in the revival of indigenous culture. 20th Century technological empowerments lead to a notable change in Indian popular taste causing a temporary decline to Indian folk art and culture. The research traces how the tradition survived this crisis in spite of trivial patronage and reached its contemporary form. The realization hypothetically reformulates effective means of sustenance of a cultural practice, the practitioners and other stakeholders.
Supervisor: Amarendra Kumar Das