Art in Mauritius – Post Independence issues and perspectives is being launched on Wednesday 30th May 2007 at the 26th Salon de Mai, at the Mahatma Gandhi Institute’s School of Fine Arts in Moka.
What is it about?
It is a book-length text that tries to go beyond the limitations of the only other book that has attempted something of the sort – Decotter’s Panorama de la Peinture Mauricienne (published by the EOI, with the first volume now out-of-print), a two-volume text that was published in the 1980s but which was even then very out of touch with contemporary scholarship in art history and art criticism.
Art in Mauritius attempts to look at the whole range of practice and study the most characteristic styles and the most representative artists. Illustrated with 200 colour photos of artworks (paintings, sculptures, prints, installations, etc) of around 40 representative artists, the book is not an in-depth study (that would require several volumes), but more of an introductory text that attempts to lay the foundation of a Mauritian art history.
The first part of the book is a long introduction to how ‘art’ is now read in a contextual manner, by avoiding the usual preconceptions that are carried by Western hegemonic culture. Changes in the role of the artist, the function of the artwork, and the expectations of patronage are the inter-related elements that constitute the particular context in which ‘art’ is experienced as an aesthetic encounter. More than just an aesthetic encounter however, ‘art’ (in the form of pictures and images) are the ways in which we make the world meaningful, ways through which we can ‘imagine’ the world.
This is the underlying thread of the second part of the book. One main idea is that styles associated with a chronological development of art in the West – the premodern (from the 1400 to the 1850s), the modern (from the 1860s to the 1960s) and the postmodern (from the 1960s to the present), here telescope into each other and occur simultaneously instead of successively. These three ‘paradigms’ or frameworks, are used to categorize several artists. However, this does not happen in a neat and orderly fashion – several artists defy categorisation. A further category – the ‘exotic’ is seen as another important dimension of the art of the island. More than just ‘tourist art’, it is one way through which some Mauritian artists construe a Mauritian identity through an exotic lens.
Throughout the book there is a consistent effort at not using jargon and making complex ideas understandable and accessible to the general reader or student, without being over-simplistic.
This blog is the ideal place to discuss the issues raised by the book, and hopefully constructive dialogue will emerge, contributing to the development of the visual arts in Mauritius.