On 7th Feb, 2019, Dr Jyotindra Jain, eminent historian of art and culture, and museologist, delivered a UoH Distinguished Lecture on the Modern and the Contemporary in the Vernacular Arts of India. Professor Annapurna Garimella, Visiting Professor in Art History, Department of Fine Arts, formally introduced the audience to Dr. Jain’s intellectual biography, and highlighted the significance of his immense contribution to our understanding of the vernacular artistic and cultural traditions of our country. The event, held at the CV Raman auditorium on campus, was well-attended, and very well-received. It was presided over by Professor P. Thirumal, Dean, SN School of Arts and Communication at the University of Hyderabad.
Dr. Jyotindra Jain, in his lecture, presented a vast corpus of visual material, that drew on his decades long work documenting, archiving, analyzing and showcasing the works of twentieth century artists from the Warli, Madhubani, Gond, Kalighat, and Pat traditions of Maharashtra, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal respectively. He traced the individual trajectories of the artists Jivya Soma Mashe, Ganga Devi, Jangarh Singh Sham and Kalam Patua from these traditions, who either by choice or by serendipity, broke new grounds from within their inherited pictorial traditions, and successfully carved an individual space for themselves (and their works) in the contemporary Indian and global art scene. While Dr. Jain’s professional contributions lie primarily in overseeing museum collections, curatorial interventions, and research based scholarly publications, his talk brought to light the personal narratives, material innovations, pictorial shifts and new socio-spatial contexts that defined the works of the master artists he chose to speak about. The talk by Dr Jyotindra Jain was a rare opportunity for us, not only because it allowed glimpses into the making of a distinguished professional and academic career, but also because of the ways in which it acknowledged the deeply personal and meaningful bonds of friendships with the artists that shaped and defined that career. In so doing, Dr. Jain’s talk gave us an opportunity to hear first hand, the voice of a consistent, passionate and committed legate for the vernacular traditions, whose enduring legacy has been to give scholarly validity and platform to those who may otherwise have remained as silent, side-lined, or forgotten master artists.