Canvases Across Centuries

Art – it’s a language that is comprised of a plethora of colours, endless shapes, and innumerable patterns. Equipped with the power to elicit emotions and trigger memories, this is one field that has been evolving since the Stone Age itself. Today, not only do we have access to a boundless collection of art from varied schools, we are now also surrounded by constantly developing contemporary methodologies as well as impressive by-products of classic art. This week, You & I takes a look at a handful of art movements; a few that made a major impact on the world, and some styles which couldn’t sustain the test of time. Moreover, we also learn from three of Hyderabad’s young artists about their techniques and dedication to their work.         – Roshni

Capturing Movement Kinetic Art

This form of art focuses on movement that is visibly noticeable to the viewer. In terms of Kinetic art in canvas paintings, it aims to help the observer perceive movement that is also multidimensional.

These artists have also been known to work with three-dimensional sculptures and structures that can either move on their own by being suspended in the air, or can be operated by machines.

The origins of this school of art can be traced to the 19th century through Impressionist artists such as Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, and Edouard Manet. These pioneers were known to experiment with emphasising the movement of human figures in their paintings. At a time when motion capture equipment was just making an appearance, the work of these artists could only be considered as revolutionary.

Manet’s art showcased the subjects’ shapes and gestures, focusing on the blurred colours and lines, giving the impression of a moment that is about to pass. Similarly, in Edgar Degas’ Chevaux De Courses (1884), the artist was able to capture the dynamic motion and concentrated focus of horses racing. While he did receive some criticism for basing the painting on actual photographs, he was inspired to further improve on this technique.

As for sculptures in this form of art, Naum Gabo’s Kinetic Construction (Standing Wave) (1919-20) was only a simple vertical strip of metal right until the moment its electrical mechanism made it rotate. It was the movement that raised its value as it then produced an optical illusion of volume. The effect that this sculpture hoped to create was that of a deception that can cease to exist at any moment.

Pursuing Authenticity Ashcan School

This form of art was originated by Philadelphia’s Robert Henri, who has then joined by newspaper illustrators and fellow artists John Sloan, Everett Shinn, George Luks, and William Glackens. Over the years, the group integrated four more artists which then formed The Eight in 1908. The Ashcan School was all about dark colours, the working class as the subject matter, and expressive brushwork.
The Ashcan School was drawn towards depicting the realness of the immigrant lifestyle. This was in contrast to those who covered the upper crust of the society, as was the case in the American art scene during that particular period of the 20th century. Yet again a revolutionary change in the field of art, traces of the Ashcan School’s origins can be found in 17th century Spanish and Dutch Realism and in 19th century French art.

This art form experimented with swift executions based on first impressions. The results always emanated a sense of urgency and spiritedness. The sketchy and exaggerated use of paint left an effective impression of the thriving and emerging metropolis moving towards modernity. This school of art made sure to not just focus on dire economic conditions, but to depict people’s powerful personalities as well.

One such project which stood out was Henri’s Portrait of Willie Gee (1904). It was a simple portrait of an African-American boy, William Gee, with brushwork that suggested movement, which was a norm when one worked with children. It was the modesty in the boy’s appearance that compelled Henri to paint him, and thereby he moved past dominant stereotypes that were prevalent at that time.

Beautifully Baffling Surrealism

As is the trend for every art from, Surrealism was also the product of yet another methodology, the Dada Movement. It came up in response to the First World War, ridiculing materialism and nationalistic attitudes of that time. The Surrealist movement on the other hand was against the self-righteous nature of the middle-class.

According to André Breton, one of the primary spokespersons in this field, surrealism was meant to bring together both conscious and unconscious experiences in order to unite the realm of dreams and fantasies with one’s reality. He believed that tapping into that suppressed part of the human mind could open access to previously unexplored imaginative ideas.

Surrealist art is easy to recognise yet equally difficult to define. The technique involved unique motifs and unusual and exotic imagery. These were often intentionally confusing in order to discourage viewers from sticking to complacent assumptions.

One such piece of Surrealist art that achieved all of the above was Harlequin’s Carnival (1924) by Joan Miró. This oil painting centers on an Italian theatre comic character, the Harlequin, and is filled with symbols, characteristics, and details from the subject’s day at the carnival. The depiction is filled with anthropomorphised objects which seem to portray human traits and symbolise one point or the other in the painter’s life. However, the creation is nevertheless open to interpretation, and therein lies the beauty of surrealism.


Despite having moved decades into the future and many miles away from artistic legends, the presence of art and the act of creating is never too far away from anyone. Hyderabad is a Nawabi city with its very own treasure trove of history, culture, and art. And so here we glimpse at a small yet immensely talented portion of the city’s artists, who are always willing to learn and eager to create and express themselves.

Faiza Hasan

An alumnus of the University of Hyderabad, Faiza often works with combining water colours, drawing, found objects, and embroidery. Her process also has a tendency to culminate in installations. As for how she came upon these techniques that she has now made her own, Faiza believes that every artist’s style develops and emerges from their unique journeys and interests.

Speaking about what goes into that process, Faiza finds herself leaning towards techniques and mediums that are fairly slow-paced. Therefore, a single work is bound to take a fair amount of time to complete. This could include multiple washes of water colour, working through an embroidery stitch-by-stich, or even doing the research which goes into developing a piece. Drawing inspiration from everywhere, she has also had a variety of things make their way into her work. This includes the world we live in: books, historical objects, flora, medical anatomy, and much more.

Today, Faiza is also excited by the possibilities of being an artist at this time. This is not only in terms of mediums and techniques, but by the fact that the definition and boundaries of art practice itself have expanded so much. She recently completed a collaborative curatorial project called the Students’ Biennale which brought together 55 art schools (470 students) from across the country.
She is currently in the process of shifting her focus back to her own studio practice – working at a slower pace with drawing and embroidery. Furthermore, her interest as a practitioner also lies in social/political narratives and negotiations.

Priyanka Aeley

A well-known face in the Hyderabad art circuit, Priyanka personally enjoys the pen-and-ink medium, apart from her contemporary projects which have allowed her to get more experimental. To get to where she’s at, she first practiced with oil and water colour painting, stitching, collage making, and a variety of other mixed mediums. She now enjoys working on canvases with acrylic paints. Her latest project looks at the fragmentation of flora and fauna with overlapping images of an extinct world that surrounds her.

The other areas that Priyanka has branched out into include inks, new media art, performances as well as audio-visual installations. As part of her work routine, Priyanka also researches the various schools of art, other artists and their work. While there isn’t a specific point where she derives her creativity from, she definitely deems her father, artist Laxman Aeley, as one of her inspirations, along with the Mexican artist, Frida Kahlo.

With the world of art growing and evolving day by day, Priyanka believes in keeping up with the changes. It requires quite a bit of perseverance and strength to make it as an artist, for adopting any creative medium in no piece of cake. However, she also believes that with the emergence of various methodologies, it has also become easy to experiment and to set out on a different path; the expanding culture of art in the city has become accepting of these new methods.

Pranati Khanna

A creative mind who had her very first art show at the age of 19, Pranati specialises in new media art, which includes photo-manipulation or digital art. She also works with acrylic on canvas. For her it all depends on what suits the theme of the series, and she also attributes music as a huge part of her process and curation.

As part of her latest project, Pranati is working on a series of art that is based on the concept of happiness; purely acrylic on canvas, raw, and inspired by old Indian and Eurpoean artists. As part of her research she spent an entire year exploring human mistakes, and why some in her generation are unhappy so often. For this series she is revisiting the beauty in tradition, not only in the methods being used for the artwork, but also in the themes for each piece.

As the grand-niece of the renowned artist Kishen Khanna, Pranati considers herself lucky for her inherent skills. She is also someone who is full of idea and emotions, and who found a way to channel them by singing, as well as painting about them. As for the artists that inspire her, Da Vinci, Van Gogh, Cezanne, Monet, Degas, Aziz, Gaitonde,

Bendre and Hussain are among those she will always look up to. The fact she holds most highly in regard is that they have lived and struggled, and she strongly believes that artists and musicians need to struggle at least a little bit.

With regards to what it’s like to be an artist today, Pranati still feels like a new artist, for it is quite a task to break into that fold. While the sky is the limit in terms of methods and techniques, it is still a crazy world out there for artists, where everything is experimental and even bizarre. The trick here is to stay grounded. As a parting note to the ‘new kid on the block’ as well as her peers, Pranati suggests a good art school, socialising with other artists, and visiting as many art exhibitions as possible.