‘Lockdown is for the people, not for creativity and imagination’ – insights on resilience from the Chitra Santhe artists
Launched in 2014, PhotoSparks is a weekly feature from YourStory, with photographs that celebrate the spirit of creativity and innovation. In the earlier 510 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 18th annual Chitra Santhe exhibition features the works of over 1,000 artists from India and overseas. The virtual exhibition, hosted by Karnataka Chitrakala Parishath in Bengaluru, has been extended by one month till the end of February. The festival website provides artist contact information and artwork prices.
See Part I, Part II, Part III, and Part IV of our coverage, featuring Somya Pathak, Aiko Higuchi, Edem Elesh, Geeta Arya, Archana Patil, Bharathi Senthilvelan, Dariusz Kaca, William Dayabaran, Ashrith V, Binod Pradhan, Gayatri Sivaramakrishnan, Harini Narayan, Abhishek Deheriya, Agata Nowak, Qureysh Basrai, and Akkiraju Ramana.
See also YourStory’s coverage of six earlier editions of Chitra Santhe: 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016 and 2015, as well as compilations of Top Quotes of 2020 on Art in the Era of the Pandemic, Indian Art, Art Appreciation and Practice, and Beauty and Business of Art.
“Rather than saying that I create art, I would like to say that art is moulding me into what I am,” explains Bengaluru artist Ashwini R, in a chat with YourStory. She is an ENT surgeon as well as a self-taught artist.
“These pandemic times are really hard for all of us. Being a healthcare professional puts me in the frontline. We are almost always stressed out. The fear of developing the disease or worse, spreading it to our loved ones, is constantly on our mind. I can safely say that art is the only way I am still maintaining my sanity,” she explains.
“The process of creation entails focusing all my energies in a way that reflects my thought process into the art being produced. It is a meditative and engaging process,” Ashwini adds.
“The satisfaction of having completed a piece of art successfully is a reward in itself,” she describes. “No amount of monetary success or awards can give me the kind of dopamine release that the process of creation gives,” she enthuses.
Ashwini calls for greater art appreciation in society via frequent exhibitions, online platforms, and engagements where artists explain their creative process to audiences.
“Though the global pandemic was full of distraught, it gave us some extra time to do what we love the most,” she recalls. Almost all her works displayed at ChitraSanthe were completed during the lockdown period.
“Being a doctor by profession, my work sometimes drains me out mentally and physically. Art for me is an escape from reality,” Ashwini says. She focused on themes like colourful birds, mothers’ love, and tiger cubs, in oil paints, watercolours, and colour pencil. Her artworks are priced from Rs 5,000 to Rs 20,000.
“Shifting the annual Chitra Santhe exhibition online during the pandemic is a very safe bet,” Ashwini says. But the charm and the energetic vibes of the physical exhibition are unrivalled, and sorely missed.
“You just need to begin somewhere. It’s never too late to do anything. Everything paves its way and you will definitely reach where you aspire to be,” she advises aspiring artists. “Half of the work is already done when we start doing it. But nothing comes easy, so never give up,” Ashwini adds.
“Art is my religion. I believe in colour and the power of symbols, signs and forms that accompany us from the beginning of humanity,” says Polish artist Anna Krzemińska. The symbols help understand our roots, express our feelings, and solve inner problems.
“Thanks to them, we can move our mind, intellect and soul to a higher level of consciousness,” she adds. “The biggest success for me as an artist comes from the creation of strongly expressive paintings that have influence and can move and touch the soul of others,” she says.
Paintings can convey more than 10,000 words, she evocatively describes. “They can touch these deeply hidden spheres of our soul, which are indescribable but which we can just feel,” Anna adds.
She calls for more art appreciation in society through education and media analysis that goes beyond cheap and shallow entertainment. “It is a task for the teachers, artists, people from cultural institutions, and government,” she adds.
“Real art needs our active intellectual work to solve problems or think about new ideas connecting humanity. The real masterpieces need time for admiration and contemplation,” Anna emphasises.
For Chitra Santhe, she presented works inspired by European and Asian myths, archetypes and symbols, priced from Rs 40,000 upward. “They explore the story of the beginning of the world, and depict female and male elements,” Anne explains, citing Carl Gustav Jung and Mircea Eliade as influences.
She is based at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw, and has participated in over 50 exhibitions across six countries. But the coronavirus pandemic forced her to cancel plans for a project with CKP College of Fine Arts in Bengaluru, in cooperation with Prof Tejendra Singh Baoni.
“On the other hand, I could concentrate on my own progress and creativity, and promote lectures and workshops online. Despite this difficult situation, it was a very interesting time and gave me new experiences and possibilities for development,” Anne explains.
Since Chitra Santhe is being held online this year, the artworks and artists received broader exposure. “The exhibition can be enjoyed in a calm atmosphere at home, with more time to focus on the works,” she observes.
“What is missed, of course, is the personal contact and viewing of original works in their real size, which are important in the perception of art. I miss this great, colourful, crowded Indian celebration of art in the physical form, as in the past two years when I participated,” Anna recalls.
She also offers advices to aspiring artists. “I want to recite this sentence in Latin from Ancient Rome: Per aspera ad astra, which means Through the hardships to the stars,” she explains.
“These words are always encouraging me to work hard, never give up, and achieve goals. Only by hard work can we achieve real success,” Anna emphasises.
The pandemic and lockdowns affected a number of artists like Kayal Vizhi. “I decided to break the cycle and stay positive, the best non-prescription medicine. I do like calmness while I paint. It enhances our creativity more and has a direct connection to nature without any interruption,” she explains.
“There was a strange calmness during the lockdown. Lockdown is for the people, not for creativity and imagination,” Kayal adds.
“Art is my language to express my feelings and imaginations in canvas. I always loved nature, its calmness, lush greenery, and the nativity in villages, which are portrayed in my paintings,” she explains.
“Nature connects us to the inner soul and gives us pleasant emotions and colours that always refresh us. All I had to do was close my eyes and create a collage of the locations I had come across from my recent travels,” Kayal says.
“The viewers and buyers too got refreshed by seeing my paintings and found the serenity through my artworks,” Kayal proudly says. Her artworks are priced from Rs 7,000 to Rs 30,000.
“Physical interactions at an exhibition give goosebump moments to the artist and viewers,” Kayal describes. Though it was initially disappointing to hear that Chitra Santhe would not be held on Kumara Krupa Road, it was a relief to have it online.
“We should make the best use of the time we have and adapt to this new context,” she suggests. Though it took a while initially to work out the website and online interaction, people began to enjoy the virtual experience. Social media also helped in this regard.
“Art is peace to me. It is a happy place which is very much my own space, where I can express all my emotions and feelings in the form of colours without any boundaries,” explains Anjali Gupta.
“I am on the journey of exploring my limits. Each artwork is a reflection of the time and phase I am going through,” she adds. She sees success in being able to express herself with any creative medium and readily convey the emotions to the audience.
“For Chitra Santhe I wanted to prepare something which depicts myself. The only thing which played in a loop in my mind was Weird me,” she jokes, explaining artworks featuring a frog wearing spectacles and conveying the message of accepting oneself along with all the odds and vulnerabilities. The artworks are priced from Rs 4,000 to Rs 20,000.
“I miss an exhibition’s physical interactions with like-minded artists and the joy of explaining my artwork to audiences. But online is a great platform for easy and wide reach, and art lovers don’t have to physically visit the exhibition,” Anjali adds.
She calls for a stronger support system within the artist community so they can learn from each other, as well as more forums and branding. She recalls that in her earlier days she was hesitant to display her artwork, but then decided to come out of her cocoon.
“Please do share your art work on all available platforms. Accept and learn from critiques of your art work,” Anjali advises aspiring artists.
Now, what have you done today to pause in your busy schedule and find new avenues to apply your creativity?
Edited by Kanishk Singh