Toeing the line of conscientious artistry 

The best in anything emerges within an environment of sovereignty.

Published: 23rd September 2018 11:25 AM  |   Last Updated: 23rd September 2018 11:25 AM   |  A+A-

Artwork by Mayank Shyam,

The best in anything emerges within an environment of sovereignty. In art, a practice that thrives on creativity, ingenuity, innovation and imagination, defending artistic freedom in an environment of increasing auditing, is not only important but imperative. But much too often we limit art. How? Simply by defining meaning to it, done frequently through thematizing. The utopian ‘best’ of an artist seizes to emerge in this case. What comes to surface is a restrictive best.

Defending this artistic liberty is potter Rahul Kumar, who has conceptualized an exhibition, Ascending Roots, sans a framework of ‘theme’.

 Curator Rahul Kumar, artwork by Jignesh

Ten indigenous and urban artists are fostering dialogue based on passionate artistry. Joining Kumar on this project is Anubhav Nath, Director, Ojas Art Gallery. The context in which the works are set is clearly defined by the title, Ascending Roots. “Roots normally go downwards. Their purpose is to provide strength. But to succeed, one must fly. An ideal wish is to get deep roots and large wings, thus referencing growth along with rising strength,” says Kumar.

The term roots also refers to folk and tribal traditions that Ojas Art Gallery has been working closely with. An example of this is seen in their Satrangi annual exhibit at Jaipur Literature Festival. Every year, the gallery scouts for tribal or folk artists, promotes and highlights their work through the year, and then showcases their effort at the literature festival. An award is also given to an indigenous tradition celebrating their uniqueness. This year, for instance, has been dedicated to Bhil art.

Each work in Ascending Roots is widely differentiated from the other in terms of the pouring of the self. The theory lies in the maker’s unique renditioning. It’s for the viewers to see if they can find the strong existential reason behind them.

Whether it’s urban traditions or indigenous, both don a contemporary veil. They’re set in modern day with comments and concerns about the present time. Every artist is acutely aware of the social reality that surrounds him. There is also a certain uniformity in perspective. For instance, subjects like gender equality and care for ecology are common threads. The difference is in the style through which they talk about these issues.

For instance, Mayank Shyam paints ideas close to nature and seasons. In his painting, characteristic features of Gond, a folk and tribal tradition, is visible through the inner and outer lines, dots, dappling, and use of colours. The thought, however, talks of a contemporary issue.

Then there are artists like Abhishek Verma, whose concerns revolve around the idea of socio-political conditioning and personal insecurities. He has tried to transmute these together in his works with reference to popular idioms, myths and stories.

Artist Jignesh Panchal’s practice references to his cultural atmosphere as he grew in a very dense, intensely vernacular atmosphere, and He uses urban elements from city life as a multi-layered idiom.
Artist Shahanshah Mittal, on the other hand, comes from a small village. “His works are a reflection of his soft spokenness,” says Kumar. They are minimalistic, monochromatic, abstract, and fully open to interpretation, he adds.

Whether it’s the traditional language that these artists speak or a modern one, the narrative is the same, hyper-relevant and utterly stimulating.  September 30: 11 am to 7 pm, at Ojas Art, 1AQ, Mehrauli.


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