On December 7, Art1st MPC and Delhi Art Gallery hosted a collaborative Open Minds session – a walkthrough of the exhibition ‘Retrospective of the Progressive Artists Group’.
On a sunny Saturday morning
As participants trickled in, making way through the by-lanes of Kala Ghoda on a Saturday morning, the ground floor of the gallery started filling up with curious students, teachers and parents of students, and soon bunches of participants got scattered in observing paintings.
It was wonderful for participants to stroll at ease, through the sunlit three-storey gallery, with wooden floor, white windows with pretty grills, and be absorbed in original paintings by the Progressive Artists Group, one should consider fortunate to be able to experience up-close.
Engaging with the paintings
Soon, our moderators Amrita Gupta Singh, Program Director, MPC and Tehezeeb Moitra, Research Associate, DAG began the session, speaking about each painting, moving from one master painter to the other. The moderators spoke of the painting style of the artist, content of the painting, background and nuances of the painters’ life that influenced their paintings, emotional influences on an artists’ work, historical background and analytical remarks on each painting.
The moderators took the participants through works of M. F. Husain, H. A. Gade, S. H. Raza, K. H. Ara, S. K. Bakre, F. N. Souza, Bal Chhabda, V. S. Gaitonde, Krishen Khanna, Tyeb Mehta, Mohan Samant, Akbar Padamsee and Ram Kumar.
For many of the teachers, it was the first time visiting an art gallery. They mentioned that, to begin with, the session simply helped them to understand how to look at a painting, what aspects to consider while analysing and got aware of perceiving an art work. “I always used to wonder, why I liked certain paintings but never knew how to articulate the reasons for liking them. This session has brought clarity in that aspect”, said one of the participating teachers.
Even unconsciously, any visitor would walk out informed about the Progressive Artists after strolling through the Delhi Art Gallery, Kala Ghoda, which is surrounded by places like Artists’ Centre, Samovar Cafe, Jehangir Gallery, which were ‘adda’ of many of the Progressive Artists in the days.
Presentation and discussion
The walkthrough was followed by a presentation on the fourth floor of the gallery, which has a small sculpture room. Beginning with a few examples from paintings from the early 1900’s, the moderators set base to explain what was happening in the art scene in India before the Progressive Artists’ Group came about. Visual examples realistic paintings by Pestonji Bomanji, Abanindranath Tagore and Raja Ravi Varma led the presentation of the modernists.
Questions of nationalistic purpose of the Progressive Artists Group, Eastness, Japanese traditions, articulation and the artists’ thrust on the need for Indian art to have its own modernity were discussed.
The presentation took the participants through more visuals of each of the artists that they had discussed during the walkthrough, sometimes drawing comparison with European masters, with similar style and subject matter. Quotes from each of the artists added in understanding the artists understanding and intention further.
When asked to react to Souza’s paintings that show distorted heads, one of the participants, a school student, said, “Souza has taken the element of distortion to a level where one cannot just sit and not react. The paintings look ugly, but demand a reaction.”
“I will try to be more open-minded and not stick to the classical definition of beauty.”
“The manner in which artworks were analaysed makes me realise that artworks have immense emotional effect on the viewer.”
“I will apply this in my classroom and have an art appreciation session for my students.”
“I want to know much more about Progressive Artists now and will read more books on art.”
“I will step out of the conventional way of giving classes. I will get students to delve into art at personal and shared levels.”
“It was good to visit the gallery and go through these artworks, which we otherwise would not have seen. Usually we have seen contemporary art. I will go to galleries with an open mind now.”
“Freedom of expression is most important.”
Facilitator- Vidhya Shivadas |Open Minds, DELHI | Indian Art: An overview of the Modern and Contemporary art movements in India | Tuesday the 17th of Decmber @ The Shri Ram School, Vasant Vihar
The Open Minds session on Nov 30 on Visual Thinking Strategies was conducted by Ellie Cross and Louise Conway at Ascend International School. 20 participants among them teachers who teach various subjects at different schools, some parents and some students attended the session.
What do you see in this painting?
The session began with an interactive exercise where all participants shared individual thoughts on a painting in front of them. Take a minute to look at this picture. What do you think is going on in this painting? Why do you think so? What do you see that makes you say so? What more can we find?… So on and so forth. This interaction set the tone for the session.
The thrust of the exercise was to emphasise on two things – that children look at and talk about an artwork through their own experiences and that the facilitator has to paraphrase the child’s thoughts with the use of important and correct terminologies and language. Part of the exercise was also to learn to prompt the children to think more while not using explicit praises for anyone in the classroom.
A short video on VTS explained the resulting factors such as sharpened observation skills, flexible thinking, critical thinking and enhanced communication skills in children.
Being the facilitator
After some insights into the history and research of VTS, its application in different subjects in the classrooms, such as mathematics and literature, it application methods in art-related settings, the group of 20 was split into two for hands on experience of becoming facilitators themselves.
Most of the participants became facilitators, asking co-participants to interpret and share thoughts on different artworks.
Most of the participants who tried to facilitate the session, felt and expressed that it was difficult to be a facilitator, to ask the right questions, to not bring in one’s own thoughts and inclination while probing and asking questions. And all of them felt the need to practice a bit before taking it to their classrooms.
During the question and answer session which concluded the session, some engaging questions were raised and discussed. Some of the questions were:
– How guided does a conversation have to be in a classroom?
– What if one wanted to use a three dimensional object for such an exercise and not a painting?
– Has VTS been used for the visually impaired by having 3D impressions and objects?
– How can one apply VTS as a parent at home?
– How does one paraphrase if a child is trying to open up and share something uneasy that the child may be going through?
– Does a teacher him/herself spend enough time in looking at and engaging with the artwork so as to ask the children to do so?
– Does a teacher have to know the historical background and facts about the artwork and should they talk about it in class during VTS?
The purposeful session inspired many a teachers to take VTS-inspired classes in their classrooms! Let’s see what the children have to share?!
Open Minds Seminars, MUMBAI| Exhibition walkthrough and discussion| Saturday the7th of December @ Delhi Art Gallery, Kala Ghoda |Facilitators- Amrita Gupta Singh & Tehezeeb Moitra