October 28, 2015

Art Blogger of the Week: Johny ML in Dehli, India

By All Means Necessary comes immediately across as a blog of an engaged and critical mind-set - one that questions art history's darlings, cherishes an idealism, and strives for nothing less than freedom. Even his blog's title has an urgency to it. Exceptional is also that Johny ML is a full-time art writer. As such, he has founded magazines, and he has also expanded his practice as a curator and a director of art documentaries. I came upon Johny ML in a video interview of Chandigarh Lalit Kala Akademi where he talks about the evolution of art criticism in India during the boom time, how art criticism has become the scapegoat for everything that goes wrong in the art world, and the lack of vision of new galleries. All this critical thinking Johny ML does with a great sense of humour. A treat, yes it is! You can also follow him on Facebook

Art Scene
"The Indian art scene is a very vibrant one. Though there are some common traits that define the country as well as the citizens, India is very vast and varied geographically, politically, socially and culturally. Different streams of art are pursued by both academically educated and self trained artists and many of them are doing pretty well in the market. Considering the cultural variety of India, I cannot say that we have a common kind of modern or contemporary art practice. Our modernity was largely defined by the western education and interestingly contemporary art too takes sustenance from the global trends. However, I would say, we have produced distinct modernist trends and very competent contemporary styles in art. During the modern times, that is till 1980s, the basic idea of the artists was to match up to the western trends and also as a parallel stream there developed a search for indigenous modernism. Despite the frictions that these two streams had, it was capable of creating a modernist discourse which later laid the foundation stone for post-modernism, which for the first time attempted to touch upon subaltern subjectivities. Before it could bloom completely, with the changing of market trends, contemporary art started flourishing in this country. Though Indian contemporary art stands at par with the global trends, it has also been successful in showcasing India’s peculiar contemporaneity, which is a mixture of the urban and the rural sensibilities. 

Indian contemporary art is intricately connected with the global scenario not only in terms of aesthetics but also in terms of its market. International auction houses have started working from India and they have already started highlighting the later modernists. Sooner than later these houses would pick up the first generation contemporary art for validation in the auction circuit. 

At present, ironically, tribal and folk art are promoted in the market circuit rather than the contemporary works of art and it should be based on a growing demand for the very pure aesthetic sensibilities and products from the patrons who had been promoting the contemporary art in India till recently. Interestingly, this shift in focus is also reportedly having some connection with the global aesthetical climate changes." 

"I started writing my blog, ‘By All Means Necessary’ in 2008. I have completed seven years in blogging this year. I came to online publishing in 2005 with the publication of an online platform called mattersofart.com. In the very next year I launched www.artconcerns.com and ran it for four years before winding it up. I also edited Cart an Art, an online journal and currently I edit Art Tehelka published by Sushma Sabnis in Mumbai. In the meanwhile I started blogging thinking that there was so much to write and comment upon beyond officially publishing online journals. Once I started blogging, it became a passion. I write not only on art but also on culture, politics, society and people. I like blogging because it is spontaneous and no editor is breathing down on your neck. You don’t have any deadline to meet or any world limit to stick to. You could publish a post from anywhere at any time. Blogging is publishing sans frontiers. I have connected with many people from different parts of the world who came seeking after reading some of my posts. I even had got an opportunity to write the biography of a horse rider and entrepreneur living in London through his Indian agent. Initial meetings were done but as I was not so keen to go into it, writing a stranger’s biography, I did not pursue. Then the proposal itself withered away. 

For me writing is something integral to my personality. I think in words; artists must be thinking in colours, lines and forms and musicians in notes. A sight gets simultaneously translated into a narrative in my mind. It is so instantaneous a process that I do not have any control over it. As a writer I could only give a twist or direction to that narrative. Hence, I do not distinguish between art writing and any other kind of writing. Everything is creative for me. I do not know whether it is an inbuilt nature or a cultivated discipline. I have been writing since I learnt to write letters on a paper. But to be a writer you have to have your researcher mode on throughout your life. A writer literally does not have a holiday. He/she should be brain dead to take a holiday. If his brain is active it would narrate a holiday even! I am an art critic and a historian by training and there is no day left without researching on art. If someone asks me what I do for a living, I tell them, I read and write. They look at me with disbelief in their eyes for I am not a celebrated writer with major commissions lined up. But I firmly believe that I could live by writing by all means necessary. I have read somewhere that the first and foremost quality of a writer is his ability to sit in one place for a long time, writing. I can spend my life in my studio. Somehow I am not connected to other bloggers; nor do I read many blogs." 

"I come from English Literature background. That defines my writing. At the same time I come from Art History and Criticism, and also from Creative Curating. I studied in different places and countries. My writing is informed of my education. My expertise lies in my thorough grip on Indian contemporary art vis a vis the global contemporary art scenario. I could write about Indian contemporary art at any given time. I need not rush to a library or google search for information. I do not do much in my life. I have involved in politics. I am a state leader of a political party though I would like to be on its intellectual side. I read history, political history and art history, besides reading all what is latest in literature and art. My interest in culture is eclectic and I spend a lot of time studying popular culture, photography and cinema. These things have contributed definitely to my art writing."

"Blogspot offers a monetising option. I am not a fortune hunter and my writings are not about increasing readership or advertising. I do not monetise my blog in this conventional sense. I consider blogging as a sort of window display; it is here you show your work and obviously your talent is out there for sale. When I say sale it is not in a vulgar way; it is a sort of showcasing your abilities so that people could approach me with commissions. I do get my writing assignments through the blog only. People read me and they come to get their exhibitions written about or reviewed. I take money for writing a catalogue. But never accept bribe or payment to do a review in my blog. That is my policy. I do not accept advances for writing because if you receive an advance you automatically become contract bound to perform. I value my freedom so that I could write at my leisure. But once I deliver my work, I insist they pay immediately. A committed writer is someone who finishes his work within deadlines and treats all the commissions alike." 


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