K.C.S. Paniker’s Editorial Mode: Texts and Painting in Relation

Thursday, February 27, 2020
6:30pm | Campbell 160

McIntire Lecture Series

Rebecca M. Brown, Johns Hopkins University

In 1974, the Progressive Painters’ Association of Madras and the Artists’ Handicrafts Association of Cholamandal Village published a volume entitled Indian Art Since the ‘40s—A Search for Identity. After a series of short essays by well-known critics and artists, the last two-thirds of the volume was taken up with a section called “Plates” in the table of contents. What one finds there is much more: full-page color reproductions of paintings and sculpture, yes, but put in dialogue with one another and with quotes from a wide range of interlocutors, from Isamu Noguchi to the Panchatantra to Oscar Wilde and Carl Jung. Compiled by the founder of the Cholamandal Artists’ Village, K.C.S. Paniker (1911-77), with contributions from artists and critics in the Village, the book constitutes, I argue, a central piece of Paniker's practice as an artist. Taken together with his other major editorial project, the journal Artrends, Paniker sought to think through the work of art making via textual-visual juxtaposition, very much in line with his own practice of painting. Rather than see these editorial projects as a separate activity for Paniker, I understand them as part of his larger project to deconstruct the presumptive solidity of knowledge and knowledge production in the 1960s and 1970s—when language and text failed to capture the implosion of certainty and proliferation of information in the post-war, postcolonial, and post-Nehruvian moment.