Monday, December 3, 2012

R.A.P.E . Guwahati 2012 –Excerpts from Interviews with artists

This article is based on the interviews that were conducted as part of the documentation process for R.A.P.E (regional art performance event) Guwahati 2012, a fortnight of events with interconnecting junctures in form of performances, installations, workshops, paper presentations, and group interactions.
The premise of this article is to present viewpoints as expressed by various artists regarding their performances during the event.

Performance for me is just like photography, painting or video it just another medium to express myself and my past experiences.
Manmeet devgun

It is an act where I am involved with myself and conscious only about myself, where the choreography becomes spontaneous and honest
Anuradha upadhyaya

I am concerned with the idea of “body is an element”, to experiment with how to explore my body in context of performance, as sight specific using the limited resources. For me the performance starts by recording the moments and things around be whether they are conversation, environment around or other mundane stuff. My act starts while the other activities are still happening around me. So I believe in the accident.
We are surrounded by frustrations and problems but no one actually talks about how to solve the problems. Thus for me tying and choking myself is a process of relieving, I can’t even express the peace of mind I get after the performances. For me it’s a cleansing process, it is easy to talk about the problems but being a sensitive human being and being an artist we have to find solutions too. For me binding is a frustrated act, if I am not able to find out the solution to issues, disturbances, frustrations that keep piling up inside me, around me, every day.
The objects that I use are representation of collective discussions or symbols of society and my step by step interventions or act is a cleansing process, I relieve myself of the frustration at every point during the performance.
Each and every act or performance of binding is different with different concerns and problems that may be pilling inside me till that moment, so each act becomes a life altering process making me feel relaxed
Pratul dash

Through performance the idea can directly be taken to the public
Aniruddha baruah-The Yellow Cab Group

My thought is to create interaction, curiosity and social conciseness amongst common people. What I like is when people come to the performance and I am able to study their face, everyone has a different expression and reaction.
Kishor Kumar Das – Artist’s Guild

Even in my paintings the human body parts which are very abstract and organic are frequently used. I explore this sensuality through touch, an act which has a very intimate connection for me a performance was a way of connecting my private experience within a public domain, while questioning certain social stigmas which restrict women from engaging in certain tasks
Dharitri Boro

It is not very different for me to be an artist – generally - then a painter and a performer. Some where I have taken a decision that my work is in the field of visual arts so I try to construct designs, visuals and visual experiences, sometimes on paper and sometimes with spaces, not just two dimensional spaces but also 3dimentional real spaces. My intention is always the same as when I am working as a painter or when I am working as a performance artist.
I try to create a sort of an expression - a communication or a visual - more directly to say a visual experience to communicate within myself and I think if that process is reflected it communicates with the audience as well.
There is a difference, when I am working within my studio my space, private or personal space, and when I am working in the public I am working with the other with people around.
That is what I like about public art, that I can reflect or share my labor- the process of labor, the process of the work which you can’t always reflect in the painting or in a sculpture.
I don’t think of my work from the subject or content point of view because the content, subject, visuals, or motifs come intuitively.
I try to relate with what I am thinking, I try to keep myself engaged with it, so that when I try to relate the thoughts with my art I can share that labor in public spaces. This sharing of labor is, I could say, interesting and important. It’s this physicality of doing which reflects the feeling of labor.
Syed Taufik Riaz

For us as a group performance comes from personal experiences and trying to find and provide solutions to our personal experiences, even if it is temporary. The act is not for the public it was for ourselves. As a group for us Performance starts with the idea and then its development takes place.
Dharamendra Prasad – Anga Studio

I work with the non linear theater - for me nothing is fixed and permanent. I use disposable material and all the materials that I use are originally used for some other purpose. But when I use these materials I give them different meaning which is lost after very performance, leaving the material to regain its own identity later.
I don’t stick to one original idea or the concept of the installation, performance or public art- whatever that it is- the moment you walk into a post modern approach, you cannot keep a border line, you have to break out of all kinds of boarder line but without avoiding the cultural icons, visual symbols or psychological symbols,
 What makes the whole exercise interesting is when the symbols are used do deliver a different meaning which may or may not work depending on the circumstances.
Dilip Tamuly

I have a serious problem with the ongoing performance practices, it is not just my problem but a problem faced by all because we are trying to identify the grammar and understand what can be a method for performance art. This difficulty is reflected in the term itself whether to call it performance art or performing art. Whether you agree or not it is already there, one belongs to the visual art practice and the other belongs to the larger cultural practice, so the perspective and the experiential detail is entirely different. That is why I feel I am in an in- between space of a larger public domain and a very personalized, artistic presentation.
Since I am still exploring the field I feel very confused, as to whether I should call myself performance artist or address with some other term.
The performative circumstance is already present in Assam, people understand, see and visit theater so the culture is already there, but there are other reasons too. Though things are happening, people are constantly saying there is no working space in Assam for fine arts, and there is no working environment for artistic practices. ……… So we have to check it out by practice and by physical presence, because sitting in Delhi we can easily comment but to go to the space and to observe it to experience it is a completely different thing,
………………In two or three days you cannot understand the effect of what is happening.
We have to understand how the space is giving shape to the ideas. It is important to check the environment basically and to generate a proper dialogue because there is a working environment but the dialogue is somehow missing. Dialogue is in two terms- in theoretical terms a theoretical understanding and a critical vision, which ‘as a fact’ is seriously missing. The second is a dialogue between the working artists and the agencies and spaces, where there is no co- ordination and even if the co –ordination is there it is not visible.
…………………So the exercise and the RAPE is not an effort towards creating any brand.
In case of art the so called high art practices are governed by the western model or the pan Indian model of gallery and connoisseurship etc to an extent that there is no voluntary aspect to it. We see people changing their visual language also because of the monitory conditions.
So it was important to go to the voluntary model, the kinds that are happening in the theaters, to do art for own sake and pleasure first. Then there might come out a genuine idiom, since performance is a very idiomatic practice, thus to find out a particular language.
We never stand in front of an art work for more than five minutes but performance has an appeal which makes people watch an art activity for longer duration. This is an achievement, because it generates a mood and the aspect of “seeing” which is important.
Samudra Kajal Saikia

Saturday, February 4, 2012

concept note on the Aligarh workshop published in the Lalit Kala Journal

A conceptual note about the national workshop on
“Traditional and contemporary art in India”

Past few months have seen recent work of photography by Rameshwar Broota in an exhibition titled “open enclosures” and the art summit this year saw Ranbir Kaleka’s recent painting cum video installation. The fine arts faculty of Baroda exhibition hall witnessed the exhibition of ceramic artist Niharika Dave called the Cera Scapes and on the other hand the work of Vibha Galhotra was on the cover page of an art magazine on aesthetics reflecting her angst and quest to explore the surroundings around her. More recent are the curatorial projects that are being sponsored by various galleries. All these works strive to project an aesthetic of visualizing and translating an urban space as seen around us interacting with and changing because of the daily shift of events in contemporary times through the means of digital media, traditional mediums or mixed mediums of art.

But then what is contemporary art in India and what is traditional art in India are some questions that continue to be contested and debated in the art circuit while the art market of India is making every possible mark in world scenario to be recognized, celebrated and respected and artists continually strive to analyze their surroundings. The concept of Contemporary in India is no longer guided by only the metro cities but a strong voice is also emerging from the smaller cities. These voices are guided and supported by the fact that the art institutions in these cities are actively promoting artists from within the region and creating space for interaction with artists and theoreticians of art from other regions creating a dialogue for newer possibilities and exchange of ideas. Active in this sphere are institutional spaces like the art camps, art galleries, art colleges and universities who are actively pushing to create a constant influx of idea generation.

It is in this direction that the workshop being organized and held at Women’s College, A.M.U., Aligarh from 11th to 14th March 2011 and sponsored by State Lalit Kala Akademi, Lucknow, U.P. gained importance. The workshop was graced by Legendary Artist of international imminence, Mr.Imroz. Also present were academicians’ theoreticians and artist as resource persons amongst them were Prof. Zahoor Zargar, Dean, Faculty of Visual Arts, J.M.I. University, Delhi. Prof. Lalit Gupta, Jammu University, Dept. of History of Arts and Aesthetics, University of Jammu. Dr. Meenakshi Bharati, Reader, University of Rajasthan, Rajasthan. Dr. Ajay Jaitley, Chairman, Dept. of Visual Arts, Allahabad University, Allahabad. Dr. Ambalicka Jacob, Reader, Punjabi University, Patiala and Mandeep Sharma, Miniature Artist, Udaipur, Rajasthan. The workshop also had participants from various academic institutions within India.

The workshop aimed to bring art practitioners on a common platform and investigate praxis of contemporary and the traditional art practice within the contemporary art scenario.

Concepts emerging from the workshop

A simple definition of the word contemporary means that it has to do with things that are co existing at a time span for us living in the 21 st century things and events happening around us are contemporary. But when we talk about the art world then and its contemporary implication vary relying on the happenings in the metropolitan areas such as those of Delhi Bombay Calcutta Bangalore and forget that contemporary also includes the peripheries, regions away from the high opportunity and exposure these areas are far removed and lack much in terms of infrastructure to provide a flourishing art environment. But that does not mean that the arts don’t exist in these areas. So a very important question is what is the contemporary art practice like in these areas?

We can easily dismiss by saying that these small cities don’t have any relevant art practice or that they do not have skills to create good art and leave the discussion by saying that these are bad arts. Thus it is here that the purpose of such workshops becomes clear.
Most of the emerging artist, teachers, and students of such areas don’t have enough infrastructures nor do they have the backing of intense theoretical discourse, What these students do have is an understanding of their own experiences reflecting their surroundings and localities. On the other hand when we talk to the art practitioners from the metropolitan cities their concerns reflect the immediate environment which is so engulfed with global politics and scenario that their own work start reflecting their relation as the global citizen.

It is here that we recognize the importance the contemporary art practices in small places and cities like the Aligarh. Where interaction with most of the students and art teachers and young artists from the institute were about sharing their experiences around the concepts of “desire”, of what they want. So even if the art practitioner had an understanding of expressionism or abstract art, they were not concerned about the world outside but the theory of abstraction or expressionism was utilized to explain their life within the confines of their art institute, home or the city. In that sense “contemporary” here means the present aspirations of common people who reflect on their immediate life and not on the concepts of a larger global experience but their own mundane life and focused on their own traditions.

Thus this workshop created an interesting link between various art practitioners from within Aligarh and outside of the city and gave them an opportunity to form common consensus when students and young artists and teachers from the institute interacted with eminent artist who are global citizens and who use their art to show concerns about larger global issues while reviewing their own works to see where they would like to expand in their art practice.

Benefits and critical overview of the workshop

This workshop gave ample opportunities to the participants to interact with each other and the resource persons sharing their life experiences, art works, techniques and styles.

On the usual circumstances when an art camp is conducted it caters only to the eminent or more established artists, in such a situation the more emerging artists or students do not get opportunities to show case their talent or even interact with eminent personalities. The workshop was particularly important at this juncture. The first reason for this can be highlighted that the workshop was being conducted within the premise of an institution which gave ample opportunity for students and teachers of that institute to interact and seek direct guidance from the artist who had come for the workshop. Such a workshop does not just give ample opportunity to the students and teachers to interact but also observe the techniques and styles of working of these eminent artists and listen to the historians giving lecture and talk about the theories and ideas on art that are circulating in the contemporary art field Which can be further used by teachers as a resource to teach students and help in development of their works.

Another important factor of such workshops is that unlike the art camps which are located in areas replete with exotic and natural beauty provides the artists a retreat and solitude away from the city life. On the other hand the workshops such as this which are conducted in small cities like Aligarh provide constant influx of visitors to view the works and opportunities for interaction. Common people also become aware of the art mediums and generate interest in arts which they would not get on a regular basis by witnessing eminent artists at work. These workshops help bridge the gap between the metropolitan cities and such small cities as Aligarh by making communication possible between artists and common people or students thus providing exposure to the art world.

Although there were many technical problems also in handling such national level workshops but it is only by consistency and constant reworking on these workshops that they can be made into a regular fixture on the academic calendar thus providing help, nurture exposure to students.

Thus the workshop was successful with providing students, participants etc to a professional interactive space for dialogue on art practice in contemporary times and identifying its manifestations in various forms of materials and techniques while gaining an understanding of our long standing tradition in art practice. Compared to an art camp were established an renowned artist are called and not much chance is given to younger and more emerging artists or even to the students ‘these workshops on the other hand give a common platform to the art practitioners whether emerging artists or more established artists.

Proceedings of the workshop

Throughout the workshop there were attempts towards creating an interest and link between art, art practitioners and art lovers. This four days workshop was conducted to provide an interactive space to artist, historians, students and academicians. The inaugural session on the 11th began with Ms. Madhu Rani delivering the concept note for the workshop, followed by the speech by the princal prof. Bilquis Waris and Vice Chancellor P.K Abdull Aziz.
The link between various practitioners of arts was established from the very first inaugural session key note address delivered by Dr Lalit gupta from Jammu university dept of arts and aesthetics, where he emphasized the need of art as the medium of communication making a transition and transformation from past to present and from folk arts to the modern art movements. This aspect of art as communication was further emphasized by prof. Zahoor zargar from Jamia Milia Islamia University Delhi, during his live demonstration session where he gave importance to the understanding of fundamentals of visual arts. The live demonstration session was particularly informative and gave ample opportunity to the participants to observe legendary artist Imroz known for his illustrations infusing life into the poetry of Amrita Pritam and eminent artist Ajay jaitley demonstrate their art. Mr Imroz displayed the use of materials such as acrylic on canvas to create an expressionistic style art reflecting on his life journey. While prof. Ajay jaitley demonstrated a work from his series of beyond faces using fingers and dry pastels instead of tools to express his art. These sessions gave a chance to participants of the workshop to observe the style and techniques of the artist and also to interact with them. During the workshop many open forum were conducted where the discussion revolved around art education and concepts of art between the participants and resource persons.

The workshop saw lecture presentations by various resource persons from all over India. These lecture presentations were conducted mainly for the purpose of informing the participants about the continually and constantly evolving traditions. Important in this respect were presentations by Dr Meenakshi bharati from Jaipur, Dr Ambalika Jacob from Patiala along with Ms Daljeet gill and Sukhranjan kaur from Patiala. All these presentations focused on transformation of traditional ideas, concepts and techniques into contemporary manifestations. The presentation by Dr Meenakshi Bharati incorporated her own works which reflect Jaisalmer and nature using various textures to create an impressionistic semi-abstract art. Dr Ambalica focused on the evolution of mother goddess in various forms as a source of life Her presentation was focused on guiding students towards self expression, where she reflected the inspirations that she takes from Mother Goddess figure and parrots to explore her thoughts while Ms Daljeet gill’s presentation focused on the relation between traditional motifs and their translation into modern and contemporary forms. The focus of her lecture presentation was concerned with the issues of migration inspired by the natural phenomenon of migratory birds. Ms Sukhranjan kaur’s presentation was focusing on the translation of traditional crafts of embroidery in her works. The concept of her works revolved around the dual relationship between humans symbolically reflected through nature, she too presented the transformation of various crafts into contemporary forms. Note worthy in this respect was a demonstration of miniature painting techniques by miniature painter Mandeep Sharma from Udaipur. Interaction with him too helped participants understand the importance and evolution of miniature paintings in India from past to the contemporary times expressing and explaining the techniques of making brushes from squires hair and the use of wasli paper along with techniques of making colours from natural materials.

On its concluding day the workshop included a day long exhibition of the works done by the participants. With more than 50 people having participated in the workshop it was equally well received by the audience which thronged the exhibition in large numbers. Amongst the participants were the faculty members of the college, along with teachers from outside the college. The occasion was graced by the presence of legendary sculptor Tahir m Syed and water colour painter Yasmeen Tahir.

The exhibition was inaugurated by prof.Qazi Afzal husain dean faculty of arts and director Urdu academy Aligarh. He viewed every work in the exhibition and reacted to most of the works displaying his keen awareness in arts. During the exhibition miniature painter and resource person Mandeep sharma presented a portrait of sir Sayed ahemed to the chief guest prof.Qazi afzal husain done in a miniature style according to the artist he made the portrait keeping spiritual aspect of the personality in mind.

Later during the valedictory function the chief guest Mr Qazi afzal gave a speech on art and gave importance to the contribution of Picasso to the development of humanity. Resource person Dr. Ambaliika congratulated the students and faculty members of the college to make the workshop a success. In the same spirit resource person Ms Daljeet too congratulated for a successful completion of the workshop. Finally the vote of thanks was given by Dr Madhu rani coordinator of the workshop.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

 a follow up on options dearth

did the orchestra struck
did the calligrapher cite
did the notion collide
               why then did the fire reside?
                the casting of Othello
                the death of grievance
                the partial commotion of silence
                                    is the Goliath tamed?

                                    churn the stone on suffering back
                                    burn the mid summer night in flux
                                    turn the persistence into black
                                                        can the hunted cause the halt?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

the fine arts of reverie

breezing from the winding paths
gushing through the swaying trees.
like an orchastra performing in high,
filled with zest to set me free.
               through the doors into the bliss

playing prints to its motion, swift,
transforming sculpture, no less than mortals,
that cool aroma arising from clay,
perambulating senses down the soul.

                where colours fickle in turn with eye.

the movement defying the stillness of life.
to that continually adorned plain,
leading me from the overt facade
solely transpired, as fabled legends epitome.

                   to let feel the persisting calmness.

a peep through, into the exubrance,
concealed yet...............................
halting the zeal to spring out.

                     i trip with my peace from that one world,

shining under golden rays,
to that wholely different serene,
glimmering beneath the moonlit haze.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

a coat of pink

The venue was Tablu Art Gallery and the occasion; inauguration of an exhibition of paintings by Shan Bhatnagar. This may sound as any other usual gallery exhibition with an all impressive gathering of Jaipur socialites, but one peak into the exhibition is all that is required to have an experience beyond any usual limits. The open surroundings of the roof top gallery at the hotel Clarks Amber set  a romantic backdrop of a dark star studded night with light drizzling for equally romantic works of Shan Bhatnagar contrasted only by a representation of a fresh day light and a clear blue sky in his paintings. "Romantic" in this context is in no manner, drawn from the lineage of european ideological realm of art, but is only a reflection, in a literal sense, of shan's romance with the pink city; its havelis, market and the facades of buildings in the walled city.

Explaining a work of art can be a never ending phenomenon, engulfing endless debates leading to a heightened self interest, as it is aptly pointed out by Lakshmi Lal in her book "My brush with Art", that, "finding words to fit the idea of an art work can border ecstasy". But the exhibition at hand requires minimal assistance for subjective interpretation as the works are simply a visual translation of cities architecture on paper with water colours.

Shan Bhatnagar, born in 1979, completed his schooling in Jaipur, and higher studies from Germany studying international business. it was in Stuttgart that he had three successful exhibitions; Stain glass icons, Rajasthan, and The dancers of India, and after his return to india Shan finally took to painting full time. The area of interest for this young artist however lies in painting the images Krishna in the form of Shrinath ji. It is thus all the more interesting to see the shift from such a religious topic to a more docuentary form of art, with the works developed as reproductions from sketches and photographs combined with meticulous detailing and a little play of imagination, resulting thus in works like the "Sankrant" series and the "Subzy mandi". Although two or three works out of the twenty put on display suggest a hasty temperament and a slight distortion in perspective, they can be easily overlooked when confronted against the beautiful paintings of pink blanket or the bright green gate, which boast of an expertise in draughting and a suggestive use of bright colours with out hampering the fresshness of the pale Jaipur pink, which is consistent in all the paintings against the crisp blue sky.

Shan, in this exhibition, brings alive snap shots of the fortified city giving the viewers a chance to see other aspects of this 276 year old city and shows through his paintings, what is only written in Dharmendra Kanwar's book "10 easy walks" that "there is more to this city then the famous Hawa Mahal or the Amber fort".