24 artists, 80 artworks, 10 days: Oorja 2020 exhibition celebrates creativity and purpose

In Part I of our photo essay on this ongoing exhibition, we showcase some of the outstanding artworks along with artist insights on their creative process.

1st Mar 2020
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Launched in 2014, PhotoSparks is a weekly feature from YourStory, with photographs that celebrate the spirit of creativity and innovation. In the earlier 450 posts, we featured an art festival, cartoon gallery. world music festivaltelecom expomillets fair, climate change expo, wildlife conference, startup festival, Diwali rangoli, and jazz festival.


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This week, the Taj West End Art Corridor in Bengaluru is featuring an exhibition by 24 artists titled Oorja (‘energy’ in Sanskrit). See our interview with curator MG Doddamani here, as well as our three-part coverage of the 2018 edition of the exhibition.


Spanning paintings and installations, the artist lineup includes Adhya Menda, Basuki Dasgupta, Neelam Malhotra, Nivedita Gouda, Gurudas Shenoy, Hina Bhatt, Jyoti Gupta, Kanthi V, JMS Mani, MN Murthy, and Prabhu Harsoor.


“It’s been a heady journey between Oorja 2018 and Oorja 2020,” explains artist and retired teacher Neelam Malhotra, in a chat with YourStory. Participating in a series of exhibitions gives confidence and inspiration to artists, she adds.


“As the name oorja or energy suggests, it is very energising to be part of this group of artists. To have my work sitting alongside works of senior established artists is an honour,” Neelam enthuses.


In the earlier exhibition, she exhibited paintings of camels from the Thar Desert in Rajasthan. This time, the theme is sunsets. “Sunsets are the greatest show of unparalleled grandeur that magically unfold every evening,” according to Neelam.


She loves to watch the spectacle of light washing the surroundings in every setting possible, from sea and forest to mountain and window. “At that moment I like to be sitting by myself, with my eyes riveted to the changing light till the very end. Sunlight creates its own artistry,” she explains.


Her current works are priced at Rs 35,000 and above, and some have already been sold. “It’s humbling to know someone actually liked it enough to take it home and see it every day,” she says.


Neelam makes it a habit to paint with regularity. “There is always a canvas in progress. Over the last year, many big and small works have emerged in this way. Exploring different mediums is very rewarding and exciting,” she says.


“However selling art is not easy. Pure art is for the love of it, but survival requires we acknowledge the inevitable commercialisation of art,” she adds. “Let that not sadden us, for the artist will always have the license to choose their own way of expressing an idea,” she emphasises.


Another artist exhibiting at Oorja for the second time is Nivedita Gowda, who is also a hardware engineer. “My style has been evolving continuously, although I have stuck to the Buddha series of paintings,” she explains. She started with flowing colours and sponging, followed by texturing with a palette knife.


“For my latest work, I have used sand for texturing. I have added various elements into my Buddha theme to make the work look interesting,” she adds. The messages that she wants to convey are getting deeper in accordance with Buddha’s teachings.


Nivedita participates in at least three to four exhibitions a year hosted, by different organisations. These include Rotary Club, Kala for Vidya, Oorja, Poshwaves Gallery (Women’s Day special), Artmantram, Samanvai Gallery (New Delhi), India Art Festival, and Chitra Santhe.


Her artworks are priced from Rs 25,000 to Rs 1 lakh. “One of my paintings was also shortlisted for awards and exhibition by the Karnataka Lalit Kala Academy,” Nivedita proudly says. “I have attended workshops in California to work with US-based artists and spread creativity,” she adds.


Nivedita also teaches art on a regular basis, mostly to children. She conducts workshops on sculpting as well, usually to teach sculpting clay Ganesha idols during the Ganesha festival.


For the Oorja show, she exhibited a panel of five paintings, of Buddha and his four noble truths. She came up with ideas for depicting suffering (man twined up sitting on a cut tree trunk), cause of suffering (attachment to child, family, money, fame), cure for suffering (hand held out to collect dew drops), and path to end the suffering (man walking eight steps to nirvana).


“These took most of the time as they are original. The main piece of work which consists of stone Buddha is done using actual sand on canvas. The tree branches and peepal leaves are textured with modelling paste,” Nivedita says.


“Adding the bowls to the panel was mostly to depict the evolution and convey a message. The begging bowls of Buddha in the series start off with clay and coconut shell, and later cast iron, bronze and plastic,” she explains.


The final plastic bowl is turned upside down. “That implies we don’t need it and we can live with simple natural materials found in nature – basically go back to old forms,” Nivedita adds.


Participating in the Oorja exhibition was a very rewarding experience for Nivedita. “The team of artists share a very loving relationship and help each other in a collaborative rather than competitive manner,” she explains.


“Our mentor Doddamani has given us an excellent platform without which it’s very hard to survive and thrive in this field,” she adds. Her work was appreciated by peers, senior artists and the general public. Sales of the works give encouragement as well, along with feedback.


“This gives me a lot of inspiration to experiment more with colours and techniques, and bring out even more interesting works with fabulous ideas,” Nivedita enthuses. She is working on some commissioned works with the same Buddha series, and also preparing for her final BVA exams.


She calls for greater appreciation of art in India. “The public needs better education on how to value art. Today in the digital world, art is copied and shared with the latest technology, which makes it hard to differentiate,” she laments.


“Many artists take short cuts in creating art using technology. This is hurting hard-working artists who painstakingly work to bring out new ideas. Their originality is getting stolen very easily,” Nivedita cautions.


“Also the newer generation is not exposed as much to painting as a means of conveying messages, as in older times. The Internet has become the source of all things. Therefore, it will be essential for artists to evolve to make art interesting enough to add allure for younger generations,” she explains.


Nivedita and Neelam both offer words of advice for aspiring artists. “Work work work, practice practice practice, never give up. Stick to your originality and let your work be your unique expression of experiences,” Nivedita emphasises.


“Regularity is the mantra, I would say to aspiring artists. It enables you to be analytical of your own works and that is the biggest learning,” Neelam explains. “If your work communicates joy, someone is bound to notice. Work regularly and make each piece your very best one,” she signs off.


Now, what have you done today to pause in your busy schedule and focus on unearthing your deeper creative voice?


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Jyoti Gupta

Got a creative photograph to share? Email us at PhotoSparks@YourStory.com!


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