DELHI: Dissatisfaction led Arjun Sawhney, the curator of the exhibition, Ink, Reels and The Graphics Gang, to the point of exasperation. Just then an epiphany rerouted him to a new way of thinking. If he was going to be so aggrieved about digital art not getting its due, then he had to do something about it. The restlessness became an impetus to create a platform where digital art and pop imageries synthesize to give meaning to both, and that’s what Sawhney has done through the exhibition.
For the show he asked the artists to create art for a book and a movie. These are two mediums that are unrestricted by borders or boundaries. “Both can be translated and subtitled in several languages, making them culturally viable,” says Sawhney. An intersection of ideas emerged as the artists lent their perspective to the purpose of the exhibition. Some works are literal, while others are interpretational.
Artist Pushkar Thakur has taken two movies and one book, On the Road, Godfather, and Breakfast at Tiffany’s for his depictions. For his book, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, he has made a giant installation, the background for which, is a blue that’s iconic to the Tiffany stores. “Using that, he has created a map of Manhattan where the store originated and has used those as points of references around which his work is based,” says Sawhney.
Divya Thakur’s Pakeezah brings an iconic line from a scene in the movie where the hero, Rajkumar, barges into the first class railway compartment where Meena Kumari is sleeping. Her face is covered but her foot is visible. He is mesmerised. Rajkumar then writes the following lines on her feet—’inhe jamin pe na utariega, ye maile ho jaenge’ (Don’t let them touch the ground, they’ll become dirty). Using the same in her work, she has created a beautiful silk screen digital work with the actor’s foot, along with symbolic imagery of wings, to express the beauty of life.
Chetana Vij’s Five Go Gluten Free takes you on a clean eating adventure. The Famous Five, a series of children’s adventure novels by author Enid Blyton, has been a perennial favourite. The artist came across a series of Enid Blyton for grown ups where George, Dick, Anne, Julian and Timmy go on a clean eating adventure and that’s where her work gets its body.
Gandhi is the title of Himanshu Dogra’s work. Through it he shows the power of simplicity through Gandhi and Siddhartha (Gautam Buddha). “Simplifying the drawings to the most elemental lines, yet instantly recognisable, the art has been rendered with surface textures that celebrate the purity of their thoughts,” says Sawhney.
Initiatives such as these exhibitions serve good purpose but the underlying issue must be addressed, which is an overarching lack of discernment for design. “Indian businessmen are happy to go to a freelancer and pay `10,000, instead of reaching out to a professional and asking for quality that comes with research and thinking,” says the curator.
The other factor is that in other parts of the world you have the Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo museum and European museums that have extensively explored graphic art. “They have used illustrations, typography, digital art, graphic art and others. I noticed that nothing substantial has been done around these in India.
Having said that, he acknowledges that things are changing, allowing for talent to emerge. “Earlier, you were basically struggling for survival as a graphic designer so why would you pay attention to art and design? That’s why it’s taken so long for it to be recognised for its merit,” says Sawhney, who is also an art collector.
He remembers his mother telling him he would grow up to be poor as he spent most of his money on art. But for him, art wasn’t just something to be hung casually on walls. It was everything. His latest acquisition is a piece of work by Meher Shah.
Whether or not digital art will get its due, will be seen in due course of time, but Sawhney hopes that graphic designers will be utilised by galleries to give them a platform. He wishes for people to be curious about it.
We hope of a time when it seizes to be seen as a fringe element under the larger art umbrella and be viewed as a medium with distinctive character. Ink, Reels and The Graphics Gang: On view till November 20, from 11 am to 7 pm, The Lodhi.