Posted by: Rajesh Shukla | July 15, 2012

Mourning of poet and critic keshva Mallik


I would like to collect entire mourning works on Indian artists and art but I have no time for it. This excerpts from an interview of one of the oldest art writer and reviewer Keshav Mallik is one of the mourning samples on artists. Keshav Mallik had dedicated his entire life for art and artists. He had been associated with academy throughout his life and seriously worked on arts. On the occasion of golden jubilee calibration he was honored with Fellowship for his contribution to art and literature. He is also a recipient of Padam Sree award for his contribution to literature especially poetry as he is a good poet. He had once criticized dumb artist Satish Gujral and he was booted like an enemy and almost send into nothingness. Interview excerpt looks like mourning as he criticizes pettiness of Indian artists and art community. Seriously mourning did not happen in art world, if it would have happened pettiness,theft, copying etc. wouldn’t exist. Indian artists are pettiest creatures in creative fields; they are mostly craftsmen- palledar, not artists of sublime expressions and emotions. When it is exposed that artist is uncreative, critics criticize it from both objective and subjective grounds; for their merciless criticism against lies, fakes and reproduction of reproduction artists can’t blame critics. Artist as a creative being doesn’t think that thinking art means thinking poesy and it is philosophical by nature; all rules of philosophico-aesthetic criticism comes to the fore and one is bound by its laws. Criticism is not a fantasy, it is very much objective like art that artists perhaps don’t understand. It is objective so much so that sometimes it is destined to see fossils. If Keshav Mallik or Swaminathan saw fossils in few artists work it was their job for which they were booted. It was simply a criminality of money mongers and almost slavish art community against authors and critics. However, enjoy this morning excerpts:

Interviewer: You have also been a witness to fifty years journey of art-review. What was the ambience?
Keshav Mallik: Let me first make t clear that what we refer to as art review is now defunct, at least in English. Although, occasionally you do come across an odd piece of review in newspapers by critics writing Hindi or other languages, out of their personal interests. I would like to go into its detail later on. For now, I would especially like to mention an event that took place in 1955. It so happened that in 1950-52 after having studied renaissance art in Florence and Paris on Italian and French government scholarship, when I returned to India and was preparing to head for Columba university, there used to be an institution ‘congress for cultural freedom’ on Haley Road. They had put up a group exhibition showcasing the works of Gaitonde, Laxshman pay etc. There was an English magazine ‘search’. I was a student then and I wrote my first review. The response to my review was overwhelming. On reading it, Satish Gujral insisted that I should write something on his art. I wrote at air port just before leaving for New York and it was published in ‘search’. For years afterwards, Satish Gujral carried its copy in his wallet until it was reduced to shred. Can you imagine such thing happening today? No, because there just isn’t space for review.
In 1960, two years after my return from America, h Hindustan times entrusted me with the task of reviewing all three-dance, art and drama on regular basis. The fact that plays were written in different languages causes me inconvenience. Dance too did not hold my interest for long. From 1968 I focused on fine arts. I was thrilled to note that artists I wrote about became very famous later on. …in those days, one Hungarian-Jewish Charles Fabri Sahib used to be a regular contributor to statesman and Richard Bartholomew who later became the secretary of Lalit Kala Academy used to write for ‘Times of India’. Later, he stopped writing out of courtesy. Richard was an Englishman who had escaped into India from Burma. It was in his place that I was given the job of art review in 1976. Before this, a magazine ‘thought’ used to be brought out in 1960 in which Richard worked. . Art reviews published in this magazine were highly regarded. A nephew of well known British author Bertrand Russell had a stake in this magazine. “Thought ‘was closed down in emergency. In those times, ‘Hindustan Times’ paid five rupees per review. Writing for a living was not possible back then.

Interviewer: But there was plenty of space for art-reviews in newspapers/magazines. Was it less threatening then? Did you ever have to face a risk?

Keshav Mallik: The risk was great. I was given the boot after having worked fourteen years reviewing for ‘Hindustan times’. The same story was repeated at ‘times of India’ in 1976-77. Both these events get a mention in Krishna Chaitanya (kk Nayar) autobiography. It happened like this one day. V.G.Verghese summoned m to his office and told me “you don’t know how to write on art. You may go home’ I had written something that did not well with the artist Satish Gujral. He not only complained me but also got others to write letters to the same effect. I can claim that the artists I put my finger on have today become big names. I don’t even get to see them these days. You write, appreciatively thirty-forty times and then one adverse review and they take offence. They break off friendship. ….[…] Artists are so intolerant of adverse criticism that they mistake honest criticism for personal enmity.

(this painting made Gujral famous which is copy of Orozco’s style)
Note:
Satish Gujral wrote complains to HT Editor and then lobbied active names of art against him. He is a quite big gangbaaz, many old artists and sculptors have told me that he did not like any one to enter in sculpture field. He exercised political power from academy to newspapers for his hegemony in theft. The congress leader Indra kumar Gujral ‘s (his brother) political pressure made editors boot him ‘fuck you! You don’t know how to write. Get lost bastard!’ after fifteen years of writing in the same news paper! It was not only Keshav Mallik who had criticized Gujral’s repetition and copy but artist-critic Swaminathan and Krishna Chaitanya too had criticized him. Satish Gujral’s painting on ‘trauma of partition’ that made him famous those days was modeled and style was copy of Mexican artist Gabriel Orozco and when it was pointed out by critics he became enemy. Majority of Indian artists were doing modern art like what students do in schools ‘that is copy work of masters’ and if critics pointed out fingers to it they would do all kinds of conspiracy against them and appear like gang of criminals with knives.

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Responses

  1. Distasteful writting at best. Or else, lotsa gobbledygook !

  2. Either Padam Sree people who have conferred him such prestigious award were fools or the rest. He is a good writer, he has edited literature magazine for a long time. Editors of news agency mostly work under govt. pressure and dumbest are artists who for their pettiness did conspiracy against a poet.


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