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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