Problem of modern art criticism

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Picture: Agency

The issue of ‘Nepali art criticism’ struck me once again when I went to present a discourse on this subject at the invitation of the Nepal Academy of Fine Arts on May 5, 2022. 

I was liberally given in advance the publications of the academy that mostly included what was claimed to be Nepali art criticism. This genre was familiar to me, as I have been writing about Nepali arts for several decades. As a university teacher of inter-art subjects and writer of art reviews and criticism, my expectations of art criticism are more or less guided by the canon. The study of the publications of the Academy made me pensive about the genre and the problems that art studies have to be tackling. Though this is the subject of a long article, I only want to outline those issues in the following paragraphs.

 The most outstanding problem of Nepali art criticism is establishing its academic basis both in art pedagogy and criticism. I have already written a short essay on this subject in which I have discussed the problem of art criticism and pedagogy.  The first problem of modern art criticism is establishing historicity. Modernism in Nepali art has a history of about 55 years, and it came with the art pedagogy of the Nepali artists. Art education played a very important role in that because the painters and sculptors received education in the art schools of mainly France, Britain, and India, and art critics made such art education the basis of art criticism and history.

The other basis of modern art interpretation in Nepal is the evolution of the genre slowly through the writings of Nepali art critics who wrote in Nepali and English. I want to allude to the name of the late Narayan Bahadur Singh whose book entitled Samasamayik Nepali Chitrakalako Itihas (history of contemporary Nepali arts) is considered the pioneering work of Nepali art criticism. Since then several art critics have written art criticism. The publications of the Art Academy that I alluded to earlier fulfill some of the needs but they fall short of meeting the standard that we need to fulfill today.

I see a strong need of developing standard art criticism and using that in art education at the Universities mainly at the art schools. The other need for art criticism lies in promoting inter-art studies. For lack of space, I would like to end by alluding to an evaluative study of the inter-art studies in Nepal that I have written for Sirjana entitled “Widening Sphere of Modern Art and Literature in Nepal: A study of the interface between them”. (DOI: https://doi.org/10.3126/sirjana.v7i1.39340).  

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