Saturday, May 22, 2010

Art from the Heart !

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I love watching children drawing what they see around them. The doodles and pencil lines come from the heart and have a lot of passion in every stroke.

The opposite is often true in the Contemporary Art space nowadays. The joy of drawing and painting seem to have almost vanished. So the artist comes up with a concept and then using a computer — and perhaps Photoshop — produces an image which is then painted and churned out. What you get is art that looks nice but is without heart and soul. Some of the top Indian contemporary artists have fallen into this trap and this is a fact that often worries me.

So the moment an artist starts to sell for over Rs 3 lakh or so, you hear that he or she has hired a couple of studio assistants to help prepare the base of the canvas. In scores of cases these assistants actually paint the computer-generated image. This style of working, I believe, is one of the reasons for similar looking work being churned out all the time. Also, don’t forget that studio assistants come cheap in this country. Many of them finish from art colleges and then survive living someone else’s dream.

Let me turn to an interesting show I went to recently by an artist who paints from her heart. Ranjeeta Kant, who trained under the eminent artist Rameshwar Broota, has painted for years for the love of art and not for money. Her latest exhibition at Delhi’s Gallerie Alternatives called The Dance of the Rainbow was inspired by a trip to Bali.

The Kachak Dancers and The Abode (above) by Ranjeeta Kant

She was deeply affected by the lush green tropical island — everything from the green paddy fields and the exquisite lotus ponds and lovely flowers to the deep blue ocean and the tranquil images of Buddha everywhere. The myriad hues of nature and this entire experience have been captured in rich greens, magical blues and the striking hints of red that together result in stunning canvas works.

One is immediately drawn to the works as it’s clear that Ranjeeta has worked on the canvas and the resulting art is a work of passion. In spite of the detailed canvas work, the prices are reasonable and most of the works are under Rs 2 lakh for a 3ft by 4ft canvas. Smaller works sell for close to a lakh. It was one of those shows where you’d feel inspired to instantly reach for your chequebook.

Another show which impressed me recently was On the Darkest Night I Can See the Light at Delhi’s Gallery Seven Art run by Aparajita Jain. This was the first of six exhibitions being planned by Aparajita under the collective name First Showings. Helping her to put this clutch of exhibitions together is curator Deeksha Nath. Together, they’ll attempt to spot talent fresh out from the art colleges.

On display at the first show were three Chennai-based artists, Kumaresan Selvaraj, Aneesh Kalode Rajan and Sarvanan Parasuraman. Selvaraj works with surfaces and textures. So you had works with a number of layers on every surface — some were plain but stunning and you could feel the textures.

What we see conceals a lot behind it by Kumaresan Selvaraj

Rajan had interesting works called Perspectives. In these he imagines what he, his cousins and Michelangelo see in a group of clouds and how these images are dependent on their present preoccupations.

I was also impressed by Parasuraman who uses a variety of mediums like vinyl stickers, ball bearings, sand, silicon and fibreglass. He had done a rope sculpture using sand and silica and from a distance it looked exactly like a rope. Also, he had done a work made by ball bearings forming a pattern.

The good thing about the show was the freshness of the ideas behind all the works which was very stimulating. Also, there was the crucial fact that the costliest work was for Rs 95,000 and most works were in the Rs 40,000 to Rs 60,000 range.

It was art that I enjoyed!

Kapil Chopra is Senior Vice President of Oberoi Hotels & Resorts. He writes for the "The Telegraph" newspaper and specifically for the Sunday magazine "Graphiti" which has a readership of over a million readers. In Delhi, he writes a column on the art market in "The Mail Today" newspaper and also has written for the "First City" magazine.


anangsen said...

It's all very well to appreciate passion, but one needs to see precision and perseverance to rate things as above average. It's lovely that people are able to still be sensitive to nature and feelings, but to make it special and collectible requires a higher plane of execution. The works you have featured, in particular of the student of Mr. Broota, are nice but hardly noteworthy.

It's harsh of me to say this, but let's call a spade a spade. There is a difference between good bathroom singing and the singing of a person who has agonised over every note and has spent sleepless nights honing their skills in trying to build a path. It just has a different ring to it. The works featured in this blog are not up to the mark, I am sorry to say. The artists need to go much deeper and much further to merit the praise you have showered upon them.

That's my honest opinion. Sorry if it is offensive, but these artists need honesty at the moment and I would be doing them a disservice by sugarcoating the truth and lulling them into a false sense of security. I wish them more progress and greater efforts, and hope that they gear up to challenges beyond the run-of-the-mill.

anangsen said...

A very pertinent observation about the 'manufacture' of art. It does indeed 'process' the soul out of the whole thing, and it is very anticlimactic to go close to these so-called artworks and see sloppy and uninterested application by bored, routine assistants. Only a person with a direct and impassioned connection to an idea can do it justice, and an employee can hardly be expected to substitute for the artist. A pity that artists have taken the easy way out because art is not about short cuts but the uncompromising expression of ideas, even to the extent of being impractical. Art has no practical use, that is left to the crafts. Art is purely of the mind and for the mind. Money is incidental. But it is is sad that a lot of artists have turned this priority upside down.

Kapil Chopra said...

Dear Anang,

I believe art, music and cuisine are some of the most personal tastes that a person can have. You don't like these works that is completely acceptable as it is personal. The take of this blog was not to promote these artists as exceptional but the fact that they used a key ingredient like passion to practise their skills over the years.Today, the problem that I have is that every important name in the Indian contemporary space is using studio assistants which makes me very upset.

Artists more than anyone else especially in the top 20 so called bracket are the most commercial you will ever met and sell art like a commodity, I am privy to so many deals, that now I think 20 times before buying a work.

That the show priced at this level appealing to a different segment of the market sold out was also a testimony to the fact that people who wished to genuinely hang these works had bought them as there would no premium in the secondary market for a non auction market.

I exposed the dirty underbelly of the Indian contemporary space in my last few articles and that artist again featured in the last auction recently and the works were again sold, I suspect bought and sold by the same parties, this is a different take on the space. I write what I feel appeals to me. Criticism especially by someone equally if not more passionate is always welcome !



anangsen said...

Actually, I kind of agree with all that you said in comment no.3.

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