It was a new experience for both — us to create and the audiences to see the paintings being created.
Increasingly, art camps are being held where artists don’t physically paint but travel together, take pictures, sketch, have fun and on return give the paintings to the camp organiser. This interaction is very precious too for the landscapes and conversations leave indelible marks on the artists’ psyche that often find its way on the canvas.
Painting is a very lonely profession. Like the proverbial main aur meri tanhai dialogue, often artists can remain confined to their studios for long periods. They meet other fellow artists when they stir out of their comfort zones read cocoons for exhibition openings or such art related activities. Gone are the days when artists and artistes had freewheeling relationships and made the effort to see each others’ creative impulses.
This is exactly the reason I love art camps — the kind of bonhomie and interpersonal relationship that is evident at an art camp is rarely seen outside.
When there are people from the same profession, the wit, the humour or even dark humour that abounds is like a private language being spoken. Of course copious amounts of caffeine and other stronger brews make the blood stream over active but that is the whole point! Increasingly, art camps are being held where artists don’t physically paint but travel together, take pictures, sketch, have fun and on return give the paintings to the camp organiser. This interaction is very precious too for the landscapes and conversations leave indelible marks on the artists’ psyche that often find its way on the canvas — sometimes even much later. The other more physical reason is that painting and creating art needs specific tools and space and as most artists are comfortable in their own space and the logistic needs are so many that camp organisers don’t get into the physicality of an actual “painting camp”.
So a recent art camp, held under the aegis of the Noida Club was happily different. Six renowned artists, including Prof Niren Sengupta, Jagadish Dey, Shridhar Iyer, Manisha Gawade, Nupur Kundu and yours truly were invited to be part of the camp Art for Civilisation and Life and we actually painted there since it was a day camp and we are all locally-based it was possible to do it. It was such a riveting experience for us as artists to see the techniques practiced by the others.
For me it was such a precious visual and experience to see Niren Sengupta paint. I watched almost without breathing lest I disturb him! What mastery and control over his idiom he has, as he drew with deft and clean strokes.
The force that Shridhar Iyer brings to his canvas was altogether another worldly. The spiritual connect of his strokes in almost a whoosh of energy was startling. Nupur Kundu’s layering on black as is her usual practice where the colour reveals its “hidden” beauty as she scratches out the layers was very fascinating to watch.
Manisha Gawade’s hallmark is her use of the gold and silver leaf. It is a technique that she has perfected; even more enthralling are the various layers that she adds to her canvas both before and after the leafing that bestows an amazing depth to the final work. Jagadish Dey’s very competent drawing is his characteristic feature and he painted so quietly that we sort of tiptoed around him.
While we were working on our creations, audiences swarmed us eagerly to experience the mesmerising visual and actually see the artists at work.
It was a new experience for both — us to create and the audiences to see the paintings being created. They questioned us about techniques, the “meaning” of the paintings, the medium and the idioms. It was rather interesting largely; at others some of the artists felt strange to have an audience while they worked.
Sometimes we were hard put to explain that what looked effortless on the face of it, had actually been perfected over years with hundreds of works having been created to gain complete control over the techniques. The evening culminated in a symposium by the same name where the artists fielded questions from the audience and shared their perspective on the importance of art as a civilisational watermark.
Mahesh Bansal , director of Gallery Stupa 18 which had co-ordinated and brought together the artists, was all praise for the wonderful connect the artists were able to establish with the audiences.
“For us as a gallery it is important that we reach out to our audiences and demystify art so that people understand that art is part of life and not something rarified,” he said.
According to artist Niren Sengupta, “Art is not a mere mark of civilisation and life, but it is art that is civilisation and life.”
He felt that life without art would be bereft of all the refined and finer aspects of life. He was of the opinion that with increasing dependence on technology, art must expand its frontiers to include the fruits of technology within its ambit.
The film Ehsaas directed by Rajesh Tailang on digitally created art on textiles to make wearable art was also screened on the occasion. Indian abstract art is increasing being taken seriously at the international level, and the symposium had an interesting discussion about abstraction.
As four of the artists were of the abstract genre with each having their own peculiar oeuvre, they talked about their particular style and the how abstract art is perceived. Artist Manisha Gawade felt that art and life are simply inseparable.
“Abstract art is all about the viewers’ interpretation. It is literally in the eye of the beholder! And yet it has the power to be perceived differently every time someone sees it and experiences it differently.”
Shridhar Iyer spoke about the deep connection of the other worldly and inward looking role that art plays to act as a bridge. For he felt that the civilisational reference points are all art related.
On the next and final day of the camp, the artists gave final touches to their works and painted on the large camp canvas with their signature works. These seven fabulous works have been graciously donated to the club by the artists.
The writer is an artist, curator and an art writer. She can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org