All in a Day



“A day is a perfect piece of time to live a life

All in a Day written by Cynthia Rylant & Illustrated by Nikki McClure is a story of a boy who spends a day on his family farm, sharing joys and disappointments with his parents, a friendly chicken and a watchful squirrel.

The use of gentle verse to describe the gifts of a new day and Nikki McClure’s stunning, meticulously crafted cut-paper art, makes this picture book not only timeless but appealing to all ages.

The book illuminates all the things a day offers – the opportunities and the chances that won’t ever come again as well as a gentle message of good stewardship of our planet.

Gopa

Artist Mentor

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The Visionaries – 2

When we look at the historiography of Indian art and architecture the contributions of European administrators, collectors, and the self-styled archaeologists are valuable. But many of us are also unaware of the fact that the early European reaction to Indian art was fraught with a distasteful response to Indian art. In his seminal book “Much Maligned Monsters” art historian Partha Mitter talks about how the European travellers who encountered the sculptures of Indian gods and goddesses for the first time mistook them as the depiction of monsters and demons. They were also poorly judged for its lack of naturalism. Indian art was regarded as inferior to its western counterpart. He marks 1910 as “the great watershed” when Indian art became the object of respectful inquiries and studies “with its rehabilitation complete with the powerful affirmation of its aesthetic and not merely archaeological significance”. According to Mitter: “If one were to search for a name to give the credit for this extraordinary transformation, it would no doubt be that of Havell. It was his dedicated work which was in a large measure responsible for generating wide interest in learned circles.” E. B. Havell’s contribution in creating a counterpoint to the hegemony of western art and pedagogy is incredible though it came to much criticism later from the Indian circles itself. Nevertheless, Havell built strong foundations for Indian art education which foregrounded Indian art practices and enabled it to stand at par with the European art. His contributions in setting up institutions, revising curriculums and most importantly reviving the traditional Indian art forms was crucial in creating a nationalist response to the prejudiced sensibilities of the Europe. In this issue of Art1st’s “The Visionaries,” we introduce you to E.B Havell and his contributions to Indian art and education.

 

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E. B. Havell

Ernest Binfield Havell was an artist-educationist-reformist who played a significant role in repositioning Indian art in the history of world art. Havell came to India in 1884 to work as superintendent of School of Art, Madras. It was in Madras Havell began his career as an educationist and also turned into an ideologue and art historian. He reworked the curriculum of the school and introduced the study of Indian designs and decorative patterns into the course of study. In 1896, he was appointed as the Principal of Calcutta Art School, where he inspired his Indian students to get back to painting in their own style and tradition. Havell was making such assertions at a time when newer discoveries and studies on Indian paintings were made. New bodies of artworks, collections, and manuscripts were found through extensive field works by many pioneers. The nationalist movement was also slowly picking up the pace and was invested in an indigenous turn. Havell too came close to the Swadeshi ideas of art and culture.

 

After joining the Calcutta Art School he removed the European academic way of teaching. He remarked that ‘in India, painting must be Indian in attitude and spirit.’ Havell included Oriental art in the curriculum, which, according to him, should be the basis of all art instructions. He also introduced several new craft techniques such as fresco, stained glass windows, lacquer work, and stencils, so as to open a wide range of opportunities for which would allow students to earn a living. His aesthetic sense was strongly shaped by Indian philosophy and ideals of art. In his opinion, Indian sculptures, which are highly original and creative, could be ranked with the noblest creations of the West. It was these ideals and attitudes that had worked behind his reformative methods, which he introduced in the curriculum of art teaching.

His interactions and close connection with Abanindranath Tagore led to another significant chapter in the history of Indian art. The together pioneered a new visual style which was later on termed as the “Bengal Revivalism” steeped in Indian tradition. Ajanta paintings and Mughal miniatures were its inspiration, gouache was its predominant technique, Abanindranath its practitioner and Havell the foremost defender and ideologue. Havell wrote numerous books on Indian art and architecture emphasising the spiritual nature of Indian traditional art. In a report he submitted to the government, he stated that art appreciation has to be seen as a duty of every individual and not as mere pleasure. His recommendations were faced with strong opposition from the British regime. Despite this, he continued his crusade for pushing the ideals of Indian art. Eventually, Havell succeeded in convincing them of the importance of reviving the Indian craft tradition. Some of his important books are ‘Indian Sculpture and Paintings'(1908), ‘Ideals of Indian Art (1911), The Basis for Artistic and Industrial Revival in India (1912), The Ancient and Medieval Architecture of India: a study of Indo-Aryan civilization (1915), etc.

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Havell left India in 1905, on sick leave, and was later declared ‘unfit for service in India’ by the British regime. Havell’s removal from policy decisions did not deter him from voicing his vision for Indian art. He continued his campaign against the ignorance, philistinism and the arrogant cultural superiority of British administration in India.

Please read, share and discuss. Your opinion means a lot to us, so let us know what you think of this issue.

  • Premjish, Director-Outreach, Art1st

 

 

The Curator #5

In the last few issues we had introduced you to few important exhibitions and the curators of those shows. If you notice in the recent times the word curator and its usage has become very democratic. There are curated food festivals, music nights, books readings, curated trips, and so on. In all these cases the term curator is used to refer the act of selecting, excluding and making it consumable for an audience. Very much allied to its original meaning. But is that all curating about? What about the most important “taking care” part? Though one is happy to see the expanded usage of the term, one is also alarmed at how the usage is based on a selected reading of its function.
Then the important question to raise is how does one become a curator? Most of the senior and active curators in India have not done a course in curating. Most of them are art historians, artists, or have a background in literature. But their consistent engagement with the art world, their historical knowledge, exposure to exhibition practices, etc. played an important role in foestering their growth. Despite the strong presence of important exhibitions and shows curation has not been part of a full fledged academic program in India. It is very recently that certain art institutes have started offering programs on curation. Unfortunately these are not a masters level program, but runs through a semester and helps students to get an experience in curating a show. This issue of Art1st’s “The Curator” is about such an initiative. This post is about the “Where in the World” exhibition at Devi Art Foundation curated by the students of School ofArts and Aesthetics along with the faculty members Kavita Singh, Naman P. Ahuja and Shukla Sawant.

The Curator #5
Exhibition: Where in the World
Curators: Students of School of Arts and Aesthetics, JNU and Professor Kavita Singh, Professor Naman P Ahuja, Professor Shukla Sawant.

This exhibition was part of a semester long course called “On Curating” offered by Prof. Kavita Singh. The course introduced students to the history of museum practices starting from its colonial roots, to nationalist appropriation and its contemporary resurgence. The course took these multiple directions and introduced students to the institution of museums, galleries, curatorial practices. This course also allowed students to interact with curators, designers, light and sound technicians. Devi Art Foundation which has a strong colleciton of contemporary Indian art was involved throughout the project and gave the responsibility to the students to select the artworks for the show. A collaborative effort was required in these efforts to jointly discuss and debate about the inclusion and exclusion of works. Students were also assigned different tasks related to writing texts for the catalog, publicity, exhibition design, conducting interviews with artists, etc. They were constantly in touch with the Foundation team and were able to develop an idea about the space. Besides this students were also offered visits to National Museum, Crafts Museum, etc.

The exhibition was one of the biggest and critically acclaimed shows on contemporary art. It included works by A Balasubramaniam, Atul Bhalla, C. Nannaiah, ShebaChhachhi, Krishnaraj Chonat, Nikhil Chopra, Atul Dodiya, Anita Dube, Nicola Durvasula, Sheela Gowda, Probir Gupta, Shilpa Gupta, Subodh Gupta, Sonia Jabbar,Bharti Kher, Sonia Khurana, Susanta Mandal, N. Pushpamala, Jeetander Ojha, JagannathPanda, Srinivasa Prasad, Ashim Purkayastha, Gigi Scaria, Mithu Sen, Tejal Shah, Sudarshan Shetty, T.V. Santhosh, and Navin Thomas.

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The central concern of the exhibition was to reflect on the contemporary art and its influences and response from/to globalisation. ‘Opening out’ to the world has brought a range of new influences, opportunities, audiences, forms of circulation and means of production to Indian art in the last ten or fifteen years. What does the new Indian art look like? Whom does it address? And how will we remember this era in the future? These were some of the key questions that this exhibition addressed through its four sections. The first section, ‘Export,’ traces the strategies used by artists asked to enact ‘Indian-ness’ in their work. The following sections, ‘Outraged’ and ‘Outrageous,’ examine the ways in which artists engage with issues and the larger public beyond the artworld. And finally, ‘Uncollectable’ considers the movements of objects through markets and into collections.

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This course and subsequent exhibition was an important experience in our academic life. We were not only exposed to the nomenclature “curator”, but also provided hands on experience in handling works, logistics, preparing texts, designing catalog, desigining exhibition layout, etc.

The exhibition images and texts are accessible through a beautifully designed catalog. Some images are available here in this link http://www.deviartfoundation.org/content/behind-scenes-where-world

Have a wonderful weekend. Please comment, share and discuss.

  • Premjish, Director, Outreach – Art1st

 

Art from her Heart …. by Kathy Whitehead & illustrated by Shane W. Evans

Do not wait for the perfect time to create…

A picture book biography of the remarkable folk artist Clementine Hunter, who defied all odds for her passion of painting.

An awe inspiring journey of her paintings hanging on her clothesline to hanging in museums, yet because of the color of her skin, a friend had to sneak her in when the gallery was closed.  Can you imagine being an artist who isn’t allowed into your own show? That’s what happened to folk artist Clementine Hunter.

With lyrical writing and striking water colour illustrations, that capture the essence of her life and work, this picture book biography introduces kids to a self-taught artist whose paintings captured scenes of backbreaking work and joyous celebrations of a farm life.

Art from her Heart written by Kathy Whitehead & illustrated by Shane W. Evans is a book that gives younger readers the opportunity to learn about Clementine Hunter’s important contributions to folk art and the obstacles she faced as an African American woman artist. A picture book about, dreams fantasies and the real life challenges related to farm work, human resources, and discrimination.

 

Gopa

Artist Mentor

The Curator #4

In the last few posts we saw how curators weave a narrative around the existing collection to make it viewable and legible, and how some redefine collections. But how would you curate something which is not there? Something which is absent and whose presence is anticipated. Something which will appear much later in the curatorial process. These are complicated questions, but these were some of the important questions which Raqs Media Collective had encountered while curating the seminal exhibition Sarai 09. Earlier we had discussed about looking at curation itself as a process and how to not see the final exhibition as the most important aspect of that journey. Curation is a map of that journey, and the final exhibition is one of the halting points. But where does the journey end. That is another important question which was raised by Raqs, “When does curatorial work end?” It is an important question which draws our attention to the practice of curation itself. With the conventional form of exhibition making we assume that once the exhibition is open for public viewing it starts its life cycle and once the works are taken away on the closing day, the exhibition is over.

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Sarai 09, Courtesy: Raqs Media Collective

In Raqs Media collective’s own beautiful description, “To curate is to offer, metaphorically speaking, not just old wine in new bottles, or even new wine in no bottles, but also all that is entailed in so far as the cultivation of a vineyard, running of a distillery, maintenance of a cellar and the animation of a tavern are concerned, and all at the same time. It is to create the conditions necessary for the intoxication of what is called ‘rasa’ (aesthetic jouissance) in the Indic traditions to occur, and for sobriety to be called into question, as an aide and afterthought to the revelry, all the time. The curator is the distiller, bootlegger, tavern-keeper and barmaid of rasa, or aesthetic experiences.” Here we see the varied roles of the curator. As the world and the object domain of the contemporary art expands the functions of the curator too broadens.

In the fourth issue of “The Curator” series we present artist collective and curators Raqs Media collective.

The Curator #4

Raqs Media Collective: Jeebesh Bagchi, Monica Narula and Shuddhabrata Sengupta

Exhibition: Sarai 09 

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Raqs Media Collective:  (L to R) Shuddhabrata Sengupta, Jeebesh Bagchi, Monica Narula and

“The Raqs Media Collective enjoys playing a plurality of roles, often appearing as artists, occasionally as curators, sometimes as philosophical agent provocateurs. They make contemporary art, have made films, curated exhibitions, edited books, staged events, collaborated with architects, computer programmers, writers and theatre directors and have founded processes that have left deep impacts on contemporary culture in India. Raqs (pron. rux) follows its self declared imperative of ‘kinetic contemplation’ to produce a trajectory that is restless in terms of the forms and methods that it deploys even as it achieves a consistency of speculative procedures.”

 

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Sarai 09, Courtesy: Raqs Media Collective

 

Sarai 09 was stretched across nine months as a series of propositions, in an empty space, ‘like a blank space” which would eventually unfold into objects, situations, utterances, gatherings and questions. I had a chance to visit the final exhibition in Devi Art Foundation. The energy there was tremendous. Viewers moving from work to work, interacting with the artists, works, and performances. Even few of my friends who were part of the exhibition found the experience very useful. It helped them to see art making and participating in an exhibition as a process and a collaborative experience. The exhibition too featured different kinds of “works” which we do not see as art works in a conventional manner but which had a deeper sense of belonging to the contemporary world in terms of its content. According to Raqs, “the term “artist” got thoroughly dismantled and explored by each protagonist; it became elastic. Our role as curators in this situation was also to observe overflow.”

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Sarai 09, Courtesy: Raqs Media Collective

This democratisation of participation, the expanded notion of what is art, and the emphasis on the process and seeing curation as an ongoing journey has made Sarai 09 a memorable experience in Indian art. As far as the important question of when does curatorial work end. I would say curation is an incomplete work, it is an ongoing journey. Once started it keeps on traversing the landscape of art and history. It accumulates new meanings, interpretations, responsibilities, and attracts new “consumers”. The work of curation never ends.

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Sarai 09, Courtesy: Raqs Media Collective

The details of this exhibition could be found in the Sarai catalogue Sarai 09 with the proposals of the artists and the curatorial note of Raqs (http://sarai.net/sarai-reader-09-projections/). Here is another important interview with them on the exhibition which appeared in On-Curating magazine ( http://www.on-curating.org/issue-19-reader/interview-with-raqs-media-collective-on-the-exhibition-sarai-reader-09.html#.WZbaWfig_Mx ). The magazine is free to download and also look for other topics which interest you.

We wish you a happy weekend. Please share, comment and discuss.

-Premjish, Director, Outreach

Story, First..

 TAW-MP-coverThe Artist’s Way by #JuliaCameron

Story, First..

Books, leading to books is a calling.

A few years ago, when I picked up ‘Who will cry when you die’ written by Robin Sharma, little was I cognizant that it was my calling for a transition. Though it took a few years to realize it, the rusted levers were set in motion by the latent forces of nature, then.

Robin Sharma suggested two books to readers; Walden by Henry Thoreau and The Artists’ Way by Julia Cameron.

Unaware of the instant shift in FOC, that evening, I went to the book store and picked up both – it was not an easy decision because The Artists’ Way was a costly ledger – the trade off between entertainment, pleasure, and fun vs. addressing & rediscovering essential deeper self.

I took that chance then….

….and realized a few years later that NATURE could never go wrong. It craves for alignment, always.

I left Walden after fifty pages; my cerebral taste buds were not so accustomed to the compound and dense creation of art. So, I began reading The Artists’ Way which is much easier to eyes and brain. (Confession – I have not yet finished Walden, but plan to do it soon).

Reading through it, this is what I have come to learn about Creativity & how ignorant we are about it.

Let me ask you a questions.

As a parent, would you ever insult your own kid?

I know your answer, it is a big NO!! Isn’t it?
What if I say, You DO, we all DO it consciously or unconsciously.

Don’t believe?

Here is something for us to assimilate.

– We want to be a Singer, but we compare our voice with a celebrity’s voice, the moment we open our mouth.

– We want to be a writer, but we expect to match up to Stephen King or Lee Child, right from the time we write our first page.

….and so on and so forth…

Is this not an insult to our creative child?

Why we forget that time defines the evolution of an artistic flair. Why are we so unfair to us, not ready to give time and chance to the creative child to metamorphose into an adult.

Why do we deny the basics – pampering, grooming, nurturing and hand-holding, every creative child inside us deserves so badly.

Above all, many of us do not even realize that we have a creative child breathing inside us.

Book Review

A book that can be classified primarily as self-help by many but is more like common sense. It is designed to help readers reject the evils of self-doubt and seek for creative indulgence not as a profession or professional but as a form of therapy.

At the core of the book is a custom called “morning pages,” based on the belief that free-form writing, each morning, will unclog one’s mental and emotional channels of all the waste that gets in the way of being happy.

The other essential ritual involves taking oneself on an “artist’s date” each week – planning an outing to a museum or some other site of thought, free from the weight of responsibility or work.

Ending Remarks

Some day I will write a book on this master art, but today, I have to end my review here with two life changing lines by the Author and then my own comprehension of what this book has taught me over the years, and when I re-read earlier this year.

‘Practice Mystery, not Mastery’
‘Artistic people must learn how to emotionally guard themselves against the tides of negativity -both external and internal.’

Creativity is beyond the realms of semantics, a divine blessing guided by higher planes. Unfortunately, our limited intellect barely qualifies to decipher even a spec of it, unless, either it’s HIS will or our aspirations guided by the subconscious.

 

By Maniissh Aroraa