Arunkumar HG: The Earth Above Our Feet

“I was born and brought up on a farmland, a tiny village in the Western Ghats of Karnataka State of India. This place is very close to India’s highest waterfall, Jog Falls. I am full of memories belonging to that part of my life, growing up with nature, trying to find answers from the nature itself for all those mysterious questions of childhood”.

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This is Arunkumar HG, who opened his Studio 76 for our children in Delhi. The children were excited about discovering this new world, which was beyond pencils, sketchbooks, colours and brushes. Little did they know, they were going to be questioned about their environment, the surroundings and their connection to it and that their experience of this connection would find its way in a visual, tangible form.

 The objective of the 2 days workshop was to look around and see what we usually look through- how powerful our environment is and how can we protect it. The choice of material was used/unused/discarded objects around us. The focus was on how art always surprises us with its fresh ideas and that’s one of the reason why we are engaged in this activity called art to find out ways of making it with things around us.

 The 10-12hour session began with interaction, power point presentation on environmental art by various artists such as Agnes Denes (Wheatfield) and Andy Goldsworthy (Rain Shadow) etc. followed by Arun’s works such as ‘Varaha’ (The Pig), ‘Bhu-janalay’ (earth dinner), and ‘earth dine’ (earth above our feet). Children’s observation was that each work of art had a story around it and there were several ways to visualize a single thought. He showed the children that powerful art could be created out of nothing and art has infinite faces.

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Each student came to the studio with discarded objects from home such as CDs, Bottle, headphone, blackboard, tube light frame, can, toys, blocks, empty medicine bottles, sea shells, pines, TT racket, pencil shavings, bubble paper etc. The artist took the students through a string of questions related to the objects they brought with them. They were questioned about their choice of object, what that object meant to them, and how would they relate that object to their surroundings and environment?

Delving deeper into the discussion they were asked to think about the difference between imposing an idea on the material versus the material being the idea itself.

The day was for experiments, explorations, ideation, and the one on one with the artist opened up their thinking doors. The children were set to explore new horizons and visualize waste material as useful material. Enthusiastically and proactively children claimed their space in the studio with their material scattered all around them. The studio was full of colourful energy and spirit. Each one of them created different provocative art pieces.

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The result of this mentorship was:

–       A smashed bottle on the glass without losing its meaning and essence

–       Frame of tube light with wires which is shown as the backbone of the society and how people are trying to climb it

–       Giant buildings taking over the empty spaces on the earth which is shown by steel pieces and carton

–       Pines in natural colour and how it loses its naturalness when it’s dipped in colour

–       Space and planets created by using discarded balls of different colours

–       CD, spreading a message “where do I go” (once discarded)

 By looking at children’s art work we were amazed that a child between 12 to 15 years could leave us with infinite questions such as what happens to a CD after its discarded? Where does it go? Why do we have to keep buying mineral water bottles when we know plastic is harmful to our environment? A small child needs balloon and food but more than that he/she needs our love, cant we just share that? The meaning of society, hunger, orphanage, water, huge buildings, dead trees and leaves, urbanization has a deeper meaning for these children when we see the art work created by them after two days of mentorship with Arun.

 (Arunkumar HG is a conceptual artist whose works cannot be understood without understanding his engagement with the material. ‘He resists the temptation of the readymade’ (excerpt from Different Takes. Matter of Art, September 2006). To know more about the artist please visit www.arunkumarhg.com )

 

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Shilpa Gupta: Multiplicity of Vision

The old adage goes, “There are two sides to every story”. The Greek story teller Aesop agreed. He said, “Every truth has two sides; it is as well to look at both, before we commit ourselves to either”.

Shilpa Gupta, one of India’s young contemporary artists, focused on exactly this concept during her two part- Partner a Master workshop. This workshop is part of a series of workshops being conducted by Art1st in association with Mohile Parikh Center to give young budding artists aged 12-15 years, the opportunity of engaging with some of the country’s finest artists in Mumbai and Delhi.

July 21st and 28th saw Shilpa Gupta host this workshop at her studio in Bandra for a group of students artists eager to learn from the masters of art. During the course of these sessions, Shilpa conducted simple yet meaningful exercises to convey to the students the power of perception. The workshop began with students sketching, writing and photographing their favorite objects. Each student was then asked to write about their perception of their peers’ objects. The objective of this exercise was two fold :1) to understand that people can have different opinions/perceptions about a particular issue and 2) she effectively got the students to listen to each other’s view points.

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The second session involved students sketching their objects under different coloured lights reiterating the idea of perspectives. This was followed by a short presentation on how information and imagery can often be used by governments to gain a political advantage or to influence public opinion. Meaning and significance of an object can often change because of its context. For example, an otherwise worthless lock of hair becomes valuable because it belonged to a celebrity. On the other hand, a seemingly priceless “original” work of art becomes worthless if it turns out to be “a fake”. Such are the powers of perception.

One might wonder how these concepts could be of any significance to students at such a tender age. The message that Shilpa tried to convey however,was simple and can be understood age no bar- Open your minds to different possibilities and multiple ways of looking at something.

What form these ideas will take in the young students’ minds, only time will tell. How and what we think often depends upon how much we know. Teaching them to appreciate multiple perspectives will only broaden their outlook and approach towards life.

(Shilpa Gupta is an interdisciplinary artist who uses interactive video, photography and performance to query and examine themes of consumer culture, desire, security, militarism and human rights. You can read more about her here.)

Partner a Master: Artist Mentor Program

We have had a very successful year with our programs gaining strong support from leading schools, students and parents in India. To further increase children’s critical creative thinking, we are launching a nine month long Artist Mentorship Program from July 2012 – March 2013.

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The objective of this program is to expose students to contemporary art. Selected students from leading schools of Delhi and Mumbai, will get an unique opportunity to interact and train under established, leading successful Indian artists. The following internationally renowned artists have agreed to support Art1st objectives of furthering art education:

  • Archana Hande
  • Arunkumar HG
  • Asim Waqif
  • Atul Bhalla
  • Jagannath Panda
  • Justin Ponmany
  • Manjunath Kamat
  • Prajakta Potnis
  • Reena Kallat
  • Saba Hasan
  • Sharmila Samant
  • Shilpa Gupta
  • Tushar Joag
  • Vibha Galhotra

These artists have also graciously agreed to coach the students, every Saturday, in their own studios. This would be a first hand experience of artists’ creative spaces and how great works of art are conceived and created which will immensely help the participants develop their own visual thinking abilities.

The entire program will be documented and the students’ works will be chronicled and published in a book as well as exhibited in a leading professional gallery. Participating schools will also have the opportunity to host these works as part of a moving exhibition. 

Our partners in this venture are Mohile Parikh Center in Mumbai and by Art Motif in Delhi.

Start with Art

The sky is not always blue. The clouds are not always white. The grass certainly is not only one shade of green. Art in its various forms- a photograph, a painting, or even the written word is able to capture these beautiful sights and moments accurately yet imaginatively. Art, thought to be a form of escapism, is actually a window to various shades of reality. 

More often than not art courses are considered to be “extra”-curricular activities. We don’t imagine anything serious coming out of them. This thought process can be attributed to a limited knowledge and understanding of what art education means. Our knowledge about art is restricted to a few names- Michelangelo, Picasso and perhaps for the Indian in us-M F Husain. Herein lies the problem. We associate art with something other people do. Truth be told artists can be anybody-poets,singers,actors,thinkers,innovators,you and even I. German artist Joseph Beuys, famously said, “ Everyone is an artist”. This was not to suggest  that everybody confine their life to art in the traditional sense of the word, but that we must all be creative in our own areas of specialization whether it be politics,law,medicine or homemaking.

This is where art education can play a crucial role in a person’s life, especially in the formative years. Research suggests that children transition from concrete to abstract thinking from 7 1/2 to 9 years of age. Art education has the capacity to develop intuition,reasoning,and imagination into unique forms expression. It brings various perspectives to the table. Only through exposure to different perspectives can one evolve into a sensitive and respectful individual. Contemporary artist KK Raghava says, “I cannot promise my child a life without bias, we are all biased- but I promise to bias my child with multiple perspectives”.

There are no rights or wrongs here. Art is just a means of exploring the world around you whilst developing your own comprehension and communication skills. This was the principal behind the founding of Art1st.

We at Art1st believe that art is capable of igniting passion and curiosity in children and adults. Art1st’s “Art Education Program” envisions a culture where the arts inspire subtle and sophisticated forms of thinking consequently grooming children to be reflective, creative and articulate individuals.

‘Imagination is more important than knowledge’- Albert Einstein