In between the two world wars, Europe was a war zone for passionate believers of a variety of political ideologies. It also brought into existence a set of thinkers who propagated the view that everything is in the mind and our realities are what we think and dream about. This idea taken to an extreme began a distinct art genre called Surrealism, which produced a series of highly influential artists like Salvador Dali, Max Ernst and Andre Breton.
But Surrealism had very few takers in the third world. Instead, new genre developed in these parts of the world. It was called Magic realism – first developed as a literary genre in Latin America in the early decades of 20th century and then taken up by many visual artists like Frida Kahlo, Paul Cadmus and Marcela Donoso. Compared to Surrealism, Magic realism gives primacy to the hope of magic in an otherwise mundane and difficult world.
At the break of 21st century, a new style developed in China, called Cynical Realism which tries to give vent to the need of the artist to express in a society under the dictates of high censorship. Only about three decades old, Cynical Realism has already started acquiring international recognition with artists like Fang Lijun and Yue Minjun creating a new kind of art never seen before.
But beyond ideologies of any kind, today, we live in a post-truth world. Purities of ideologies are giving way to an era of free expression through social media, accessible to almost everyone. Propaganda is thus no longer the monopoly of a small elite. Today almost anybody can tell a story and create an illusion of reality. This is the essence of a new art genre now becoming popular coming out of India. It is called Pseudorealism.
Started by Devajyoti Ray only two decades ago, it is slowly gaining popularity as Ray’s easy to understand works in vibrant colours telling stories of an emerging young India finds resonance among the new generation of art lovers.
Ray’s Pseudorealistic works can be categorized in three distinct story lines. First is the new woman – who smokes, bold in her attire, and often highly opinionated. Second is the world of spirituality, which still holds sway in our lives as new age gurus see a rise in their followings amongst Indian diasporas, across the globe. The third is the desire among the new generation of Indians to rediscover their history and roots, which often takes a comical dimension when taken to an extreme.
Mixed with humour in conception and use of chiaroscuro, Ray’s paintings tell stories which we can all understand and relate to. Each frame is a delight to watch, holding us in the hidden intrigue, left to viewer’s own understanding, much like the doings of our new ever excited society.