If you look around you will find that most Indian artists whose works are in great demand have a penchant for figurative art. Whether they paint figuratives because it is in demand or vice versa it is difficult to say. But the fact is that a larger cross-section of buyers have a liking for figurative art compared to abstracts. V S Gaitonde’s evocative abstracts and S H Raza’s geometric abstraction and the Bindu are of course exceptions to this rule. These remain greatly in demand and usually do very well at auctions. However, one must also remember that these artists have acquired cult status in Indian art.
But, in general most buyers opt for figurative art rather than abstracts or any other genre. This is especially true for new buyers who tend to relate better to ‘realism’ in art.
The general feeling regarding abstracts remains that it fails to move the viewer in the same manner as a ‘recognizable’ work of art. A viewer responds to a work of art based on his experiential background and his sensibilities, and therefore it is always easier to relate to a familiar and easily decipherable work of art rather than an abstract or non-representational one.
However, there are plenty of discerning buyers who are able to differentiate between deliberate abstraction and random or amateur brush strokes. Incidentally, most artists who are known for their abstracts have excelled in figurative art as well. While, there are a few artists, such as Anupam Sud who have shifted from abstract art to figurative.
Artist KM Adimoolam, who passed away recently was equally proficient in drawing (his series of black and white portraits of Mahatma Gandhi is very well known) and in abstracts. The play of colours on his canvas is a delight to watch.
Indian modern and contemporary art as we know it is still in its nascent stages. As the awareness about art and its finer nuances grows, one is sure to find that abstracts will become more popular.