Creativity is not locked down as veteran painters use whatever is available at home to express their feelings about this strange chapter in human history
Visual art is always a reflection of the current times and society. A pandemic of this nature is surely going to make its mark on the canvas.
So how are the veteran artists of the country reacting to the current crisis? How are they creating their artworks in this period of lockdown?
From running out of canvas and papers to converting living rooms into makeshift studios, artists are finding their own ways of continuing the practice.
Giving us a peak into the studios and homes of artists, Delhi based Art Alive Gallery has put together a series #ArtForHope. A digital series shared across all its social media platforms, it brings to its viewers the work that artists are creating now. The initiative features videos of what the artists have to say about the times we all are living in, as they continue to work from home.
“The lockdown has changed our whole world. Over the last month, in my conversations with our artist friends, one thing that has stood out is the optimism in their thoughts. A hope for a better tomorrow,” says Sunaina Anand, director of Art Alive Gallery.
The ongoing series has already featured some noted veteran artists like Anjolie Ela Menon, Jogen Chowdhury, Sakti Burman, Maite Delteil, Krishen Khanna, Jatin Das, to name a few. More artists will be added to the list.
The initiative commenced with Anjolie Ela Menon, who unfortunately didn’t have many empty canvases left when markets were closed. She converted her living room, a place where she once entertained guests and caught up with friends, into a makeshift studio, Anjolie now spends part of her day painting with whatever material she has. Which is how a charcoal on paper titled Peace and Hope took shape.
Like Menon, artist Debasish Mukherjee is also making the best use of the available resources. “A lesson I have learnt is that one should always keep some material at home,” he says. Since his studio and home are in two different places, he has nothing more than just some A4 sheets and water colour. In an attempt to use everything that is around, he even did a small drawing on a soft stone.
“We are living in a history of strange time. Art might just work as therapy to retain our sanity. Fifty-plus days of lockdown isn’t an easy phase to deal with. Music, art, books and photograph, these have been my closest companions,” adds Mukherjee.
While artists mostly work indoors, for many of them working from home has not been much of a change. Artist Sakti Burman shares that he mostly works indoors as his works are not based on landscapes. “So I continued working the same way I used to do, but the only thing this virus has changed is the spirit of the painting. When we paint our thoughts get reflected in the work. The virus has given us time to reflect on our lives,” explains Burman. His thoughts have been put on canvan in the artwork titled ‘Gypsies’.
Every year, during this time Burman is back in his studio in Anthe, south of France but this year he is in India due to lockdown. Often his thoughts are reflective of the life spent between India and France and thinking about his children who are in France. He spends most of his time now in his studio painting and hoping for love and peace.
Apart from such hopeful works, the artists are also putting the limelight on the chaos that the crisis has brought upon. For instance, the drawings done by Jogen Chowdhury, during these times depict a fierce fight between the human kind and the virus.
Chowdhury’s set of six drawings is aptly titled ‘Corona vs Man -Man vs Corona’. Known for his ability to successfully marry traditional imagery with the spirit of contemporary painting, his works document the effect of sociopolitical conditions on mankind in a very sensitive way.
In the most recent video of the series, artist Jatin Das focuses on the issues of migrants that have been making headlines for over a month now. His ink painting ‘Exodus, 2020’ is based on the same. “Fortunately, I have a lot of paper at home, I did a series of ink paintings on the labourers, who are stranded and haven’t reached home. The horrifying, unseen virus has brought the whole world together to fight back. Life is more important than power and money. This really shows how fragile life is,” notes Das.
Taking note of the endless works of essential service and health workers, Paresh Maity’s works have been about life and colour. With optimism in his thoughts he says “we all know after the dark night, there will be a glorious sun which will come out with a lot of light and soon we will overcome this dark situation.” He salutes all those who are working effortlessly to serve the people during these difficult times.
Quite evidently, nature serves as an important aspect in the artworks as well. Artist Jayasri Burman’s work is about Dharitri, the Universe, which has been suffering. Similarly French artist Maite Delteil’s work ‘From my window’ is an ode to nature.
“When I look out from the window in my studio, the trees are fuller with many more birds, they definitely seem happier, enjoying their new space with less human intervention.”
Artist Gopi Gajwani has also referred to birds and animals in his work. His sketches have an element of humour. “It does not have any specific narrative of trying to show the hardships faced during lockdown. It has a different sense of humour, that shows what a person who is living alone is facing, the birds, animals and neighbours that one is surrounded with.”
However, not all are complaining about the current lockdown. “If I was young the lockdown would have affected me. At my age I don’t go out. I’m home and I paint in my studio, I enjoy that. I like to spend the day in my studio where I’m always surrounded by my friends on the wall,” says Krishen Khanna as the video gives us a good look of his studio filled with his works.
“Art has the power to heal and in these times, only being hopeful will help us tide over this difficult phase,” concludes Sunaina Anand.
(Cover: Artist Gopi Gajwani working from home)