Contemporary art is retouching the elements of folk art styles from different directions. It indeed looks like moving backward in time. You may call it whatever you want, call it modern, minimalist, simple, primal but the facts will remain the same that the definition of modernism is about moving more towards simple to the simpler. For instance, when we study paintings and drawings of some of the most contemporary artists such as Picasso, Jamini Roy, Vikash Kalra, Francis Bacon, or F.N. Souza we see the same touch of simplicity or in the modern word “minimalist”.
While studying Paul Gauguin’s artworks of Africa, Picasso’s drawing of Bull, or Vikash Kalra’s drawings of erotic women heads & lonely men; we see their same style of retouching the formal artworks with modern strokes. These all works are created from diminishing the unnecessary lines, colors, and strokes.
When we see the early modernism artworks from our Indian artists such as Jamini Roy or if we go for our traditional folk artists, we see the contemporary touch that we are pursuing in the 21st century. In other words, we can say that it is a revival of local traditional art but with different flavors.
For instance, Lonely Man by Vikash Kalra is an extreme example of primitive art. The subject is colored with black-brown typical strokes containing a dark face of loneliness, emptiness, and exaggerated emotions. While watching this painting we can feel the depth of solitude turned into deep trauma. The whitish background represents the disconnection from the society aka background.
As a primitive art, it is something of mysterious character-containing lots of deeply troubling emotions in his eyes. From the slender body, we can feel the depiction of malnutrition and penance. An emotionally, physically, socially, and mentally troubled character. A scene containing struggles, pain, and vulnerability. The eyes seem to be sunken in the skull due to the heavyweight of discomfort he is putting on his body. The poisonous emotions, depressing thoughts, and loneliness consumed him to the near-death. There is nothing remains in it but bones and skins.
The pain and agony of the subject could be only felt but our ears can hear its scream. A work that could be categorized as a primitive work with extreme emotional depth and lesser lines and solid structures.
For example, in modern society, a man performs all the required duties assigned for him for his family, wife, and children but sometimes he doesn’t get the time, love, and care from the same people. In that case, a man felt lonely, depressed and find a lack of a support system. This painting depicts the problem of modern society from a man’s perspective. The subject in the picture is telling a story about the feeling of a person that he feels from time to time. While watching this painting we see there is almost no structure of arms and hands to the character which again symbolizes the inability of the person in doing anything for the betterment. He is incapable to change his situation and the artist understood this factor so subtly that he consciously draws a man without hand showing inability, thirst, and hunger for love and care.
The work is a dark as it could be. The subject is almost an epitome of the pursuit of hope and courage. It may be not noticed at the first glance but when we care enough to look at it; we see and feel all the feelings and thoughts of ‘Lonely Man’.
The artist Vikash Kalra did a wonderful job in creating a piece of work that is modern as well as extremely thought-provoking.
Vikash Kalra is a self-taught artist & writer based in New Delhi whose work has been exhibited across India and is held in several private and corporate collections.