Saturday, January 17, 2009

Why American artist Andrew Wyeth is interesting


Many of the art lovers are caught between incomprehensible abstract art on the one hand, and a sentimental kind of figurative art on the other. M.F.Husain turns his figurative canvases into part-abstract ones as well, which is one way of keeping the stupid cognoscenti pleased. That is why, Husain continues to bamboozle the ordinary viewer. It is in this context that the case of American artist Andrew Wyeth, who died on January 16, becomes a good test case of how a good artist is one who swims against tide and who manages to convey something of the pathos of the human situation as well as express something of human values. His realist portrayals touch on situations in everyday life and impart to them a heroic quality.
For example we learn that the lady shown in "Christina's World" (painted in 1948) was a handicapped person but she refused to use a wheelchair and scrambled up on her own the hillside.
Wyeth came into news for doing a series of paintings of a German woman, Helga Terstof, who was a maid in the house. He captured the many aspects of the woman's body and soul in a stark realist manner. The canvas was filled not just with her figure but also with a certain perception of the human figure in a non-human world.
It lends an existential dimension.
The reason that Wyeth seems to have managed to achieve this poignancy is that he has lived in a real world of ordinary people and he seemed to have glimpsed the sad beauty of this ordinariness.
It is very difficult to identify this kind of evocative work in any of the contemporary Indian painters. We need a realist like Wyeth to bring back the general viewer back into the art gallery and art museum.

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