Asian artists


Asian artists
   As a loose grouping of largely migratory artists of Asian birth and British-born artists of Asian descent, Asian artists have counterpointed and hybridized Eastern and Western artistic styles and traditions to produce a culturally syncretic art which interrogates primary notions of identity, difference and representation within post-colonial contexts. Between the mid-1950s and mid-1960s, Indian artists Francis Newton Souza and Avinash Chandra, and Pakistani artists Iqbal Geoffrey and Ahmed Parvez, rose to prominence in a British art scene intrigued by modernist expressions of ‘otherness’. Against Chandra’s more vivacious style, Souza’s paintings subverted imperialistcolonial dialectics, engaging with religion and sexuality from the conflicted self-perspective of a Hindu heritage, Catholic and colonial upbringing. Parvez, as one of several 1950s Pakistani abstract expressionist painters pursuing their art in Britain, created a highly individualized style infused with properties of Muslim art, while Geoffrey’s work was riddled with artistic contradictions and conceptualisms.
   Their influence however, subsided after an initial resounding impact. Fellow Pakistani Rasheed Araeen progressed from painting to minimalist, abstract sculptures inspired by the 1965 New Generation Sculpture to 1970s politicized art, before undertaking his visual art projects of subsequent decades.
   The 1970s and 1980s produced sculptors like Avtarjeet Dhanjal, whose organic art exquisitely unifies nature and culture through contrasting materials, environments and traditions. Anish Kapoor’s sublime sculptures are imbued with transcendental and metaphysical dimensions. Dhruva Mistry’s works reflect the craftsmanship and sensuous aestheticism of ancient Indian sculpture, while Juginder Lamba’s sculptures similarly attempt to exteriorize inner emotional and spiritual lives. The politicized 1980s and the 1990s witnessed the ascent of Asian female artists including Sutapa Biswas, Zarina Bhimji, Chila Kumari Burman and Perminder Kaur. Their varied artistic and performative approaches to race, gender, class, sexual politics and representation have elicited resolute challenges to established orthodoxies. Biswas’s real and imagined reconstructions of migration, memory and history are deployed through mixed media, while Bhimji’s sensory expressions of historical trauma, recovery and crosscultural understanding through evocative art and materials are echoed in Perminder Kaur’s subtle equivocations on themes of innocence and loss. With British artists such as Burman, Keith Khan and photographer Roy Mehta (and even the fascinating epistemological enquiries into art and science of the late ‘Young British Artist’ Hamad Butt) provocatively exploring cultural multivocal-ities in diverse media, the once celebrated ‘exotic’ difference of Asian artists is being superseded by a generation reshaping the parameters of British art.
   See also: painting; sculpture
   Further reading
    Araeen, Rasheed (1989) The Other Story: Afro-Asian Artists in Post-war Britain, London: South Bank Centre (essential documentation of black and Asian art).
   SATINDER CHOHAN

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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