The artworks produced during the Mao period (1949-1976) are ubiquitously seen as just propaganda, with complete condensation of the artist's position, accompanying practices or institutional spaces. This seminar delves into an ongoing research endeavour which seeks to fill that lacuna by providing a constellation of the given epoch's diverse social, cultural, and aesthetic assemblage. It follows the trajectories of academic artists in China who worked with Konstantin M. Maksimov, the Soviet Art Educator. This academic training in Socialist Realism transgresses the contours of painting as a medium with foundational continuity visible in posters. Therefore, posters produced during this time are incredibly diverse in themes, and some are easily mistaken for paintings. The talk will examine the transition of art style from "importism" to developing a unique vocabulary separate from the Soviet model. A close analysis of these collections reveals the departures from earlier Soviet influences to a more contextual language specific to China.
About the Speaker
Sugandha Tandon is a Doctoral Candidate at Jawaharlal Nehru University and a Research Assistant at the Institute of Chinese Studies, New Delhi. Her research lies in exploring the relationship between art and politics in the Mao era (1949-1976). She is also interested in the study of history propaganda in China, museum studies as cultural institutions, and the generation of knowledge systems around exhibitions. She has been a student of Fine Arts, and has a Master’s degree in the History of Art and Appreciation from Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi. Sugandha’s recently submitted MPhil dissertation is titled Making of Chinese Political Propaganda Posters (1949-1976). She is currently enrolled in a PhD programme, where she is looking at the visual culture during the Mao period - focusing on art production, and the histories of its collection and exhibition (in Shanghai, Hongkong and the US).
About the Chair
Shukla Sawant is a visual artist and is currently a Professor of Visual Studies at the School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Her areas of artistic and academic interests include art in colonial India, postcolonial theory, South Asian modernism and contemporary art movements, photography and printmaking, new media practices and artist collectives and organisations. After graduating in painting from the College of Art, New Delhi she specialized in printmaking at the Ecole Des Beaux Arts, Paris and later went to the Slade School of Art and Center for Theoretical studies, London on a Commonwealth grant. Shukla has ten solo shows to her credit and has published various catalogue essays and contributed chapters to edited volumes on contemporary Indian Art. She was a working group member of Khoj Intenational Artists' Association for seven years and taught at the Fine Arts Department of Jamia Millia Islamia (1989-2001) before joining JNU. Her most recent publication is the edited volume Readings on Modernism From 75 Years of Marg (2023).
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