Reflect, reinvent, rejuvenate: how the Unbound art exhibition showcases new opportunities through digital media
Launched in 2014, PhotoSparks is a weekly feature from YourStory, with photographs that celebrate the spirit of creativity and innovation. In the earlier 490 posts, we featured an art festival, cartoon gallery. world music festival, telecom expo, millets fair, climate change expo, wildlife conference, startup festival, Diwali rangoli, and jazz festival.
Unbound Oorja 2020, an online art show featuring around 100 artworks, is being held till September 30. Launched on August 15 and curated by MG Doddamani, it showcases 45 artists. See the exhibition website for more information on the artists, prices of artworks, and payment methods.
As the name aptly suggests, Unbound represents resilience and positivity in the face of adversity. The featured artists are from across Karnataka and other cities like Kolkata, Hyderabad, and Chennai. The artworks are priced from Rs 3,500 to Rs 1.5 lakh (see Part I of our photo essay here).
The artist lineup includes Ramani Mylavarapu, Ritu Chawla Mathur, Rosh Ravindran, SG Vasudev, Sathish Multhalli, Shirley Mathew, Shivanand B, Sunil Mishra, Sunita Pavan, Vanaja Bal, Vandana Naik, Vijay Murambikar, Viva Motwani, Yellappa S Kambli, and Zara Furtado.
“The artists of Unbound have merged the negativity of these times with their own ideas to create something new and beautiful,” says curator and artist MG Doddamani, in a chat with YourStory. His earlier exhibitions include Oorja (see our coverage of the 2020 and 2018 editions).
“Art and its environment are intangibly entwined. One must learn to overcome the challenges of the environs and cultivate what one needs in order to survive. All of us can benefit from this sort of environmental awareness and openness to the artistic sense of others. It creates new ways of surviving and nurturing each other,” Doddamani explains.
Unbound was launched online on August 15, an apt choice for a day that commemorates the independence the country. “The choice also marks the self-determination of all participating artists to remain ‘unbound’ despite the times,” he proudly says.
“As compared to the events we have done so far, this one is different. It acknowledges that artists are looking for new ways to show their work. Artists are no longer sitting back and waiting for the ‘gallery moment,’” he says.
Doddamani also offers words of advice for aspiring artists. “The younger generation has a lot of opportunity as they are very connected with the world, thanks to technology. They are very talented, and coupled with sincerity and hard work, they can showcase their works through digital platforms and art galleries,” he suggests.
They can also network with senior artists for future opportunities.
Before the pandemic, people seemed to have packed schedules and were working non-stop, finding it hard to even take a coffee break at times. “This crisis helped to retrospect and check on what was really worthwhile,” observes Rosh Ravindran. He has a mechanical engineering background, but is also an artist and curator.
Crises have different kinds of impact, he observes. “While all humans got impacted with this crisis, much of nature and wildlife were unharmed. It is as if they got an opportunity to reclaim their lost space,” Rosh explains.
But this space has changed so much for nature to reclaim. “My artworks capture that moment when animals come back to their lost space to see what has happened to their habitat,” he describes.
The Unbound exhibition website was designed internally by Rosh and the Oorja group. “We had acquired the domain a while ago, and started developing the website when we came up with this online exhibition idea. The hosting was provided by a Bengaluru-based hosting company,” Rosh explains.
Most of the artists are selling original works, and a couple of them are selling limited edition prints on archive paper. “We are not selling digital copies,” he adds.
Rosh says it is very essential for any creative mind to know how technology can create wonders for ideas. “Nowadays, technology is a part of our life. We must learn, we have to live with technology. We have to use it for good purposes and go further in this time of crisis,” he advises artists.
Many people turned to artists and indulged in their works during the lockdown. They flocked to services like Netflix, Hotstar, YouTube, and Instagram for creative content that inspired or entertained them. Artists play a key role in engaging people through their skills and messages in artworks, Rosh emphasises.
He also offers tips for aspiring artists. “I think this is the right time to hone your skills, or learn anything that caught your fancy in your childhood, like learning a musical instrument or writing a book,” he suggests, pointing to a range of online courses.
“Such engagement serves two purposes. It keeps you occupied and free from some of the turmoil that surrounds you. The second is that you learn a skill,” Rosh says.
“Art represents hope of a new life within our feelings and emotions. It connects to society during these tough times,” explains Sunita Pavan. This is also a great time to develop more eco-friendly habits and reconnect with nature.
“Art in different times has always brought people together, especially in tough situations. So art plays a very important role in this era of coronavirus,” she says.
Sunita completed her BVA from College of Visual Arts, Gulbarga and her MFA in graphic art with a gold medal from MSU Baroda. She has participated in shows and camps in Bengaluru, Mumbai, New Delhi, Bhopal, and Mysuru.
She was also awarded at the South Central Zone Cultural Centre (SCZCC) India Art Exhibition in Nagpur. Her works are in collections in India and abroad.
As an artist and educator, it can be a challenge to teach art online as compared to classrooms and studios. “There are fewer opportunities to showcase one’s work in a gallery and discuss works with other artists. But fortunately, online exhibitions offer some avenues,” Sunita adds.
For the Unbound exhibition, she prepared black and white drawings to reflect how life has turned so upside down. “But there is hope and life in everything. We should have a spirit of not giving up, and start again,” she says.
“Things will change and become closer to normal as before. As artists, we need to have patience and motivate others to be safe and not lose their self-confidence at this time,” Sunita advises.
“During the pandemic, art appreciation and creation helps us relax physically and mentally, and strengthens our focus with critical thinking,” explains Bengaluru-based artist Mallamma Patil. Her works are in the collection of private homes and art institutions in India and abroad.
“Because of coronavirus, people are dying or worried about getting seriously ill. The world is stressed out, businesses are in loss, markets are falling down, and there is recession,” she laments. In times of depression, stress and vulnerability, it is key to maintain a regular schedule, balance life activities, get good sleep, and eat healthy food.
“This is also a great time to develop interest in creative areas like music, drawing, painting, writing, and the like. This helps in keeping busy and also distracts from the stress of the pandemic,” Mallamma says. At the same, it is a challenge for art instructors like her to figure out how to effectively conduct virtual classes.
After every natural disaster there are always stories that emerge. “Our earth is growing, moving, flowing, and perpetually transforming, much like our own minds that change unconsciously. In this process of transformation, much becomes surreal and abstract,” she says.
She says her drawing series, titled Disaster emerged from her subconscious thoughts and deep emotions. They imitate the grim reality around us through black and white lines and forms.
“They are loaded with symbols of the universe as my inspiration. Creating intricate details and intense designs is a truly meditative experience especially when it transforms into patterns. These drawings reflect the reality of our world, and represent the precarious balance of life and death,” Mallamma says.
“Just as the wounds on our bodies heal with time, so also will nature. We will heal and move on. Everything that is born must decay and die. It’s the universal law of the life,” she explains.
She advises artists to continue to devote time and space to art, and explore and experiment with different techniques. “This pandemic crisis has brought the whole artist community together to a virtual mindset. Online exhibitions and social media connect artists even in remote areas,” she observes.
“Art can increase awareness about preventing the coronavirus outbreak. It also helps express love, affection and faith across society,” says Nagaraju P, winner of the Mysore Dasara Award 2019 for art.
The pandemic has posed a range of challenges for artists, ranging from procurement of art materials to education and discussions. “By staying at home, I have to think of more ways of creativity and new possibilities. But I also have more time for discussion with my seniors and experts over the phone,” he adds.
For the Unbound exhibition, Nagaraju prepared works called Pearl City and Old Memories, based on his memories of Mysuru. They feature daily life scenes of riders and park visitors.
He advises aspiring artists to work hard, sketch regularly and be socially responsible. “Develop your communication skills and utilise social media to improve and showcase your art. Do more research on the medium and subjects,” Nagaraju recommends.
Ritu Chawla Mathur
“Art can uplift moods in these trying times, both for the artist and the art lover. Working on an art project can relieve stress, strengthen critical thinking skills, and improve and sustain memory,” says Ritu Chawla Mathur, citing research studies.
She was in the hotel industry for 20 years before becoming an artist and entrepreneur. “Art helps stay positive and gives hope. Just simply viewing art can relieve mental exhaustion,” she enthuses. She even jokes: “Art a day, keeps the doctor away.”
The visual and performing arts industry, which used to operate largely from public spaces, is scrambling to reinvent itself online, Ritu observes. “Many artists have responded to this challenge with the kind of ingenuity you would expect from highly creative minds,” she says, pointing to live-streamed music concerts from home as an example.
Online exhibitions allow artists to continue to express and cope in these dark times. Many social media forums share daily art tasks and regular contests. “This helps staying current, active in mind and body, and adjust to the new reality,” Ritu says.
“The world has never been more distant – and closer, paradoxically! While physical distancing has become paramount, online media are drawing the world closer, and helping us reach inside homes,” Ritu observes. Artists can connect online to viewers, art galleries and art lovers, right from their couch.
For the Unbound exhibition, she prepared graphite pencil drawings on paper, called Mission: Breakout. “Drawings are the most basic of art activities. It allows for a freedom of expression, and is fun, easy and unpretentious,” Ritu explains.
“In these times, one needs to work at one’s own pace and time on stress-free projects. I attempt to convey the emotions of wanting to break free from the monotony and oppression of today’s times,” she says.
“Let art be our weapon, our shield that brings the shift in our thinking, overcoming the damage caused by the pandemic,” Ritu advises aspiring artists. They must continue to share their views and creativity, redirect negative energies, and let their hidden strengths emerge to create masterpieces.
“Prove that art is limitless and unchained, and is a means to health and well-being in these times,” she urges.
“I believe and am hopeful that human imagination and creativity will outshine the pandemic. Maybe some of the greatest works will be born from this crisis,” Ritu signs off.
Now, what have you done today to pause in your busy schedule and find new ways of harnessing your creative core?
Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta