From pause to purpose: how artists of the Unbound exhibition have bounced back in the online medium
In our third photo essay on the art exhibition curated by MG Dodammani, we showcase a range of creative works along with curator and artist insights.
Launched in 2014, PhotoSparks is a weekly feature from YourStory, with photographs that celebrate the spirit of creativity and innovation. In the earlier 495 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.
The online art exhibition Unbound Oorja 2020 is being held till September 30. Inaugurated on August 15, the exhibition is curated by MG Doddamani and features 100 works by 45 artists (see Part I and Part II of our earlier coverage).
The name Unbound is intended to represent 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.
The artist lineup includes Ajnabh Kiev, Anaya Engineer, Anil Kumar HA, Anindita Roy, Babu Jattakar, Basuki Das Gupta, Chandranath Acharya, Chetana Ravi, Dayanand Kamakar, Evanka Thimmaiah, Girish Kulkarni, Gourishankar S, Harshitha Vishnu, Jagannath Bellad, and JMS Mani.
“In these tough times, for any creative person, we are giving a new shape to all the negativity around and helping them think positively. This gives a reassuring message to society to stay hopeful and positive during the chaos and crisis,” says curator and artist MG Doddamani, in a chat with YourStory.
“The exhibition is like meditation for artists and audiences. It is therapeutic. See creative works time and again, and you will be able to start reading colours, forms and concepts. This brings joy and happiness to the mind,” he adds. His earlier exhibitions include Oorja (see our coverage of the 2020 and 2018 editions).
In keeping with the times, Doddamani is exploring new frontiers in digital media. “I have befriended technology to display art and engineering, as admirable equals rather than with the disdain some may see from the art world,” he explains.
“We are very much at the heart of very exciting times where technology is beginning to change the way artists show their work, and the kind of ease with which art lovers discover them,” he says.
“Furthermore, there’s an overall acceptance that the world we live in now demands both the digital and the tangible, the virtual and the physical reality,” he adds. His future shows will focus on other forms like sculptures, graphic arts like lithographs, wood cuts, lino cuts, and etching.
The feedback to the Unbound exhibition has been extremely positive. “The artworks are refreshing for the minds of artists, art lovers and the public at large, thanks to channels like social media. It is being perceived as a good initiative, and shows on drawings are relatively rare,” Doddamani says. Artists have appreciated that the show has engaged them and kept them active and positive in these trying times.
“Art was a lifesaver when it came to being homebound for an unusually long period. Before the pandemic struck, life for most of us was quite fast-paced – meeting deadlines, battling notorious traffic jams, and so on. During this trying period and with so much of time available, creativity really helped in maintaining a sane and cheerful disposition and led to some fulfilling experiences,” explains Vanaja Bal.
She has a master’s degree in economics and has also worked in the healthcare industry. “The pandemic did not hamper my creativity. On the other hand, I was able to constantly improve my craft,” she says.
For the exhibition, Vanaja presented works in pen and ink on paper, titled Humility (about those helping the needy) and Life in Adversity (with the human hand reaching up towards a flying bird).
“Adversity can be changed into opportunity. Embrace change and keep an open mind when it comes to learning. Constant hard work helps in creating and honing skills,” Vanaja advises aspiring artists. Despite the lack of physical interaction from an art show, online platforms can reach larger audiences, and represents a different experience and huge learning.
“The pandemic has given everyone the opportunity to slow down their lives and take a moment for themselves. They are exploring things that they usually wouldn’t, whether that is cooking, reading, or art. I think art can help bring peace of mind during this stressful time, for both makers and admirers,” explains Viva Motwani.
Being with her family has helped cope with the crisis. The 18-year-old Bengaluru based artist plans to pursue her education in art in the Rhode Island School of Design, and has been forced to take a gap year due to the travel restrictions. “Even though I will be missing out on that, I plan on starting a creative project, as I have the free time,” Viva adds.
For the Unbound exhibition, she created an artwork inspired by machinery from Russell Market in Bengaluru. “I used charcoal to mimic the metallic surfaces. I created another composition of a Russian doll inside a lemon squeezer. The odd pairing is meant to challenge the viewer,” Viva explains.
She advises aspiring artists to experiment as much as they can during this time, with different mediums, surfaces, and subjects. “I think all they need is creativity and to open their mindsets and approach,” Viva recommends.
Art has many meanings, according to Anil Kumar, a graphic novelist, art historian and writer, who also teaches contemporary art practices at Srishti Manipal Institute in Bengaluru.
Art helps define the meaning of what it means to be alive, and will always be a “healing act of making and looking.” Throughout history, plagues and pandemics have given rise to outstanding art and design, Anil explains.
“The pandemic has put a brake to the breathless situation of contemporary lifestyle,” he says. We have to learn to cope with the “uncertain timelessness” as a lesson.
Anil observes that due to the pandemic, the usage of technology has been on an immense upswing, whether in education or entertainment. Though some charm has been lost, there is more time available to make art.
“This pandemic has made me rethink the scale of the picture frame. Making art has brought in the aspects of auto-therapy, self-solace, and a more focused purpose to the sense of being,” Anil evocatively explains.
He prepared four drawings for the Unbound exhibition, with layers representing states of sleep and awakening. “I prefer the ambiguity of visual rhetoric,” Anil says. He wants his drawings to appeal to emotion and intellect.
“Those who make art now, during the existential crisis, are the true and genuine artists. It is easy to make art when everything is alright and the platform is set, but not when your life itself could be at stake,” Anil explains.
Aspiring artists should believe in their own preparedness to make art. Art can be discursive, and not always realistic. “Treat dialogues and communication as inevitable to your art,” Anil advises.
“If you want to make art that pleases others, let others do it. Make art for your own sake and find out what that purpose is, even if it is nowhere on the horizon now. That’s the best way to lead an artistic life,” Anil emphasises.
The new mindset needed is to consider oneself as a part of everything else. “Being an artist is easy but belonging to an art community is not. The use of technology also should not be directed only towards oneself,” Anil advises.
“Being techno-illiterate is no fun since art, first of all, is educated literacy of our sensory experiences and the ideas it evokes. An aspiring artist’s range between modesty and confidence should be filled with the idea that an idea can change the world and the world has been witness to too many such ideas,” Anil explains.
“Art is and always has been a liberating experience. It is fulfilling for an artist and also touches viewers. Art is limitless and has the power to instil positivity in the viewer,” says self-taught artist Nivedita Gouda. She also has a master’s degree in computer hardware design, and has participated in the India Art Festival in New Delhi.
“With many people homebound during the pandemic, art can bring about joy and positivity. It can transfer you to a different world,” she adds.
Nivedita, unfortunately, lost her father-in-law during this period. “All of the grief and tension from the crisis eased up once I got involved in art. My creative work helped me through. Unbound was a great opportunity for me to keep focused on art,” she gratefully explains. It also helped deal with other challenges like disruptions in the normal routine and extra work at home.
For the exhibition, Nivedita prepared works titled The Departed (with crushed torn paper and hands reaching out) and Constant Change (with a newspaper plane).
“Keep creating – creativity knows no bounds, unlike the pandemic which has made us bound to homes. It has the power to liberate and fulfil you,” she advises aspiring artists.
“Take advantage of the thought process, create works that can touch and heal others. Nature has blossomed in beauty around us, take that as an inspiration and let the creative side in you blossom as well,” Nivedita signs off.
Now, what have you done today to pause in your busy schedule and find new ways of reinventing your creative core?
Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta