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(definitions©Prof. Lawrence Waldron)

Abstract Art

Abstract Art

Ironically, the vernacular usage of the term "abstract art" is almost the opposite of what abstract art is, such vernacular usages referring more to what is actually called "non-representational art."

Abstract art is not completely non-representational art. In fact, abstract art involves analysis, embellishment or deconstruction of existing natural forms. Picasso's Analytical Cubist works especially fall into this category and Picasso is an "abstract artist" having never completely left the figure, the landscape or the interior behind. Kandinsky's early works would also qualify as abstract ones in which recognizable objects are observed to be 'abstracted' past any mimetic depiction. Many of Kandinsky's later works however are not merely abstract works but completely non-representational, consisting of lyrical arrangements of shapes, lines and other design elements with few visual analogues or references to naturalism. Thus, abstract art is a modern style or device which is still built on the foundation of representation and in art history was one of the last steps towards true non-representational art.

Some artists of the New York School of Abstract Expressionism, including Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko are examples of purely non-representational art.


Contemporary Art
In art education, the contemporary is distinguished from previous "modern" art movements as the phase of art in which artists are at present working and for roughly two decades before the present so that living artists are represented in the study. The definition of contemporary art is thus always subjective, being advanced ever forward by critics and art historians to encompass the sphere of living artists working in the newest, prevailing styles of art.

Shastri Maharaj's art works are a synthesis of varying styles and approaches. There is on-going research to present ideas differently from previous paintings. Colour is to be used sparingly, almost in a monochromatic manner. Texture is now seen as heavy build up of modelling paste with glimpses of the underpainting. The intention is to introduce unto  the canvas new material which will complement the paint.


While the term "expressionism" is used loosely by some scholars to indicate a high level of emotional content in any period of art, the modern use of the term refers to a specific phase of art history.

This is a period at the beginning of the 20th century when artists opted to explore and express emotion through the use of bold or contrasting colours but also through the strong use of line and texture in both two-dimensional and three-dimensional art. Expressionism begins with just a few apostles at the end of the 19th century, some of them belonging to other movements of modern art. Both Cézanne and Van Gogh can be considered expressionists in many of their works. But the French and German Expressionists were soon identified as separate and distinct movements, the French headed by Matisse and the Fauves (The Wild Beasts) and the Germans by Kandinsky, der Blaue Reiter (the Blue Rider group) and others. Blue Rider era German
Expressionists like Kokoschka, Kirchner, Nolde and Jawlensky were fascinated by the art of children and lunatic asylum patients.

Expressionists sought emotional primacy and prized the instinctive over the rational use of colours, design elements and materials. This was a break from the rational experimentation of the earlier, often French, modernists. 

Primitive Art

The description "primitive" is now dismissed as a nearly meaningless and pejorative terminology once used for some arts of Africa, Oceania and Pre-Columbian America.

In the 19th century, "primitive art" was characterized by its use of bold forms, simplicity of manufacture (by way of the simple tools used to fashion images), its seemingly loose interpretation or disregard for the notions of symmetry, precision or fineness treasured in other non-western (the "Oriental") cultures.

Modern artists like Picasso and the German Expressionists treasured the new-found "primitive art" flooding in from European colonies in Africa, the Pacific and the Americas for the diametric opposition, and thus originality, that these objects represented in the face of the Renaissance, Baroque or Neo-Classical periods.

Primitive curiosities became the inspiration for modernist experiments with the subconscious and the expression of primal impulses. What the European modernists could not have known (from the often cursory if not erroneous labels in the curiosity museums of Paris and Munich) was that Bantu, Polynesian and Native American statuary, masks and other ritual objects were usually made not as "personal" or "primal" expressions by native artists but as public, secret or funerary art by state-sponsored or other professional artists for demanding patrons. Often, adherence to tradition and the artists' own subscription to memberships in artist societies and unions were more akin to Medieval European craft guilds than modernist individualism. The complex, intellectual and spiritual iconography of "primitive" art was also a mystery to European artists and collectors at the time, Europeans choosing to focus on style and other formal aspects of the foreign art instead.

Primitivism can be observed in Shastri Maharaj's art through the simplicity of form and image. There is a conscious attempt at minimalism in the paintings. References are made to early civilizations associated with pre historic India. Also, works are presented in the form of tablets, pictographs.
There is strong fascination with the tribal, folk, indigenous and ancestral.

Spiritual Art

Most of art history might be described as the art of the spiritual, since the world abounds in more religious art than any other. From the cathedrals of France to the stupas of Central Java, from Inuit kinetic masks of Alaska to ephemeral Tibetan sand-painting, most of art has been spiritual.

Even modern art has a strong spiritual component forged in the crucible of post-industrial alienation, post-Freud motivations, post-Darwin determinism, post-Sartre existentialism, post-Einstein relativity, and urban/global relativism.

Despite all the changes to our traditional power structures, for now we go less and less to the priest to ask him when to plant, when or if to marry or even where we came from, we remain intensely spiritual in our motivations towards art.

It is often something greater than ourselves we are trying to express or to reach through making art and the search for profundity can be described as a spiritual quest. As her medium and her methods change, the artist still holds her place alongside scientists and clergy as a director and creatrix of culture.

Surreal Art
Surrealism actually started as a literary movement under André Breton and his colleagues but quickly spread to the visual arts where is produced the fantastic imagery for which it is world famous.

Surrealist artists were concerned, like the Expressionists before them, with the working of the subconscious mind, the symbolism of dreams and the increasingly popular theories of psychoanalysis. The juxtaposition of seemingly unrelated objects in a single image might force associations or spark a sudden flight into the irrational.

Impossible objects or situations, credibly rendered became the benchmarks of Magritte's and Dali's works and the meticulous rendering of unidentifiable objects could be found even more so in Ernst's work. Surrealists like Miro became increasingly non-representational, whereas painters like deChirico became deeply evocative while never leaving the sphere of naturalism.

Surrealism in Shastri Maharaj's art mainly focuses upon images and symbols which are to be found in the Christian and Hindu religions. There is a visual narrative which borders on the sublime and the fantastical.


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