Unless you are artistically challenged (or just failing history class), you would know that India has long been an emblem of art. Beyond the initial cultural stereotypes that spring to mind, such as spicy food or an obsession with cricket, lies a long, compelling history of art that clocks back to ancient times. Fast forward to the late 18th century, and Britain’s colonisation provided India with even more inspiration.
Many Brits exposed themselves to Indian art, and even threw some of their flair into it, creating an intense cultural mix. In 1857, the British government established 22 art schools in India to widen the exposure, and the country’s artsy side was then on the edge of reaching international recognition.
A new exhibition currently at the VCUQ Gallery invites visitors to discover how east and west came together to produce such works of art. India East/West was opened last month by the Indian ambassador to Qatar, HE Deepa Gopalan Wadhwa, and runs until April 17.
In the exhibition, India’s rich and vibrant culture and history, which dates back from colonial times, is mirrored through the paintings, drawings and prints produced by the passionate Indian and British artists who have helped map India as an artistic capital. The Royal Asiatic Society in London is showing three of its collections as part of the event by different experts in the field, including the likes of Sir William Jones, Ram Raz and James Tod. Some of the other artists guaranteed to make a strong impression include William and Thomas Daniell, George Chinnery and Zayn Al Din from the Company School.
For any budding artists grappling for inspiration and a chance to experience different cultures, this exhibition may provide just the opportunity. ‘Scholarship, investigation, curiosity in another culture – these are all part of the bigger picture for the Royal Asiatic Society, Virginia Commonwealth University and Qatar Foundation,’ says Jochen Sokoly, one of the event’s curators, of the intentions of the show’s three organisers.
While Qatar has been transcending boundaries and advancing in numerous areas, it hasn’t repressed its artistic roots from flourishing. Just like 18th century India, many new ideas are seeping into the country’s appreciation of art. So it is no surprise that an event of this magnitude has rolled into the country. Sokoly continues: ‘We think that looking at a critical moment in the past, when new centres of learning were created in India and in Britain, can help us understand similar processes that are happening at the present in Qatar.
We should learn from the past and build on it, and use the experience gained from that.’ So it seems that Qatar’s appetite for art is ever expanding. According to Sokoly, the India East/West exhibition has been a success since day it opened. ‘I have only heard good feedback after the opening. People were truly amazed by the works on view,’ he adds. Surely you need no more reason to visit and bridge the east/west divide for yourself.
India East/West runs until April 17 at the VCUQ Gallery in Education City (492 7200). Open 9am-5pm.