Shakuntala Kulkarni: Decoding your subconscious

The session had barely begun and already, senior artist and mentor Shakuntala Kulkarni’s dynamic personality had flowed into her Santacruz studio and enveloped the students into a warm trance. She started off by speaking about her work and life experiences and how these experiences have led her to do the work she does today. The most prominent theme that her body of work revolves around is Protection and hence the question ‘Do I feel free?’ became the corner stone of her project with the participants.


An open discussion ensued where the participants voiced what they thought disturbed them the greatest when they were out in public. Shuttling fluently between three languages she engaged everyone’s attention and gently urged those who were holding back to open up. Collectively they all shared their trepidations, inhibitions and fears. She asked them to ponder about the manner in which their bodies alter their actions or behaviour, subconsciously, in response to the social environment. After giving it a thought for maybe the first time ever, they realised how their body language changes outside their awareness. They were then posed with questions that tapped into the psyche of their mind and their emotions.

The three main questions that collectively arose were:

-‘How would you fight the feeling of discomfort in an uneasy situation?’

-‘What would help you triumph your anxiety?’ and

-‘How would creating a symbol of protection change your approach to the situation?”

The answers to these question then went on to build the participants’ main area of work.

Kulkarni gave them the option of highlighting either the nature of their fear or a method in which they would battle their fear. While some opted to mould their creations from sticks, cloth and wire, others chose papier mache.  The concepts spanned from the lack of freedom of speech to the absence of space in our city.

“People are constantly looking for approval in other people. This t-shirt depicts the state of people’s minds who are insecure. It is tangled and twisted, like the wire on my t-shirt.  In the wire words that reflect this paranoia and obsession are nestled.  

                                                                               – Renna Palia


As the kids worked, Shakuntala spoke to them about the difference between the symbolic and the real and how even though their creations wouldn’t be able to protect them in reality they were making a statement and having an interaction with those who looked at the works, who probably faced the same situation. At the same time she explained to them the importance of being confident and making their own decisions. The children wallowed in the warmth of her strict but hearty persona as she spoke about the phenomenon of making mistakes. Making mistakes is a part of growing and evolving as a human, and sometimes a mistake can take you down a completely unexplored avenue that might ultimately be what you were destined to create all along.

Through this workshop the kids got to discuss their fears and face them. They got to create something that was relevant to them but also to a lot of people out there on the roads, in their houses, across the world. The aim became about establishing a connection through their work.

Learning about art and, on a broader perspective, life from a seasoned and experienced artist as Shakuntala Kulkarni, in the safe, lucrative environment of her own studio is not a chance many will get.


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