Writer

When I returned to India in 2001 after being away for twenty-two years I felt compelled to write about the situation I found in the contemporary art scene and in school art education. It seemed that contemporary art was lurching imitatively into western art constructs that had little relevance, and simultaneously the broader and integrative art traditions of India were being abandoned thoughtlessly. Initially I wrote articles for the Hindu newspaper. This led to regular columns in two monthly magazines: First City and Design Today and I wrote several pieces for Resurgence magazine in the UK. In 2005 Penguin India commissioned me to write my first book on a rethinking of Indian art and aesthetics, Towards Ananda. My second book Artistic Visions and The Promise of Beauty, where I was a co-editor, is a cross-cultural study that brings classical Indian and Asian views on art practices and beauty into dialogue with their Western counterparts. And now a third book The Promise of Beauty & Why it Matters. I continue to write, as it helps me think, share and engage.

Books

  • The Promise of Beauty and Why It Matters
    The idea of beauty is highly conflicted terrain. Does it only have to do with how things look? Is it merely prettiness? Is it entirely subjective? Does it serve a function? Historically, beauty has been held in high esteem: ‘beauty is truth, truth beauty,’ the poet Keats wrote. Why then do the high priests of the arts and the arguably progressive socio-political thinkers of the day shun it? Maira explains how the problem lies with the confused understanding of beauty and with beauty becoming superficially located: quite literally, on the skin.
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  • Towards Ananda
    Rethinking Indian Art and Aesthetics
    Anyone who knows India is aware of its sophisticated aesthetic philosophy and equally rich history of making everyday things beautiful. Yet, many people have also experienced the great contrast between its ingrained beauty and its contemporary ugliness. This book looks at the many reasons for such a paradox, with particular focus on the visual arts: the impact of colonization and industrialization; the split between the practical arts and the fine arts, which diminished the crafts and made art a plaything of the elite; the movement towards ‘brand-name’ art; the influence of Western art movements and the quality of art education.
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  • Artistic Visions and the Promise of Beauty
    Cross-Cultural Perspectives
    This volume examines the motives behind rejections of beauty often found within contemporary art practice, where much critically acclaimed art is deliberately ugly and alienating. It reflects on the nature and value of beauty, asking whether beauty still has a future in art and what role it can play in our lives generally. The volume discusses the possible “end of art,” what art is, and the relation between art and beauty beyond their historically Western horizons to include perspectives from Asia.
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Essays

Columns, Articles and Reviews