INDIAN CONTEMPORARY ART WORKSHOP
The first edition of a new and unprecedented artists’ workshop in Rajasthan brings together traditional rural artists and urban international contemporary artists for approximately 12-14 days to create art and exchange ideas.
This project, called ‘Sowing Seeds’ (in Indian, ‘Beej Bonna’) is an interactive artists’ workshop and is to be held annually in an Indian countryside village every December with the aim of facilitating the ‘rise of a new era’ in Indian visual art.
The 2009 ‘Sowing Seeds‘ program became a reality after six years of hard work, and plans for the December 2010 workshop are already underway. Art Radar catches up with the lead organizer of the programme, Mr. Vagaram Choudhary, to learn more.
Why did the camp start, and what is it intended to achieve?
“Nowadays in India, contemporary artists tend to work in big cities and display their work in urban galleries. Therefore, Indian village people have few opportunities to interact with contemporary art and artists. In rural areas, there are artists who are traditionally sound but their awareness of creating contemporary art is lacking due to a scarcity of contemporary cultural knowledge. Thus, many rural artists lose their talent when they work only for commercial purposes. We hope these artists and communities can learn and enrich themselves through this camp. We are trying to sow seeds between the rural and contemporary art worlds… Our main motto to is to explore this idea on fairly nonprofitable grounds.”
“As an alternative art space in India, we have accepted the challenge of organizing and welcoming different art forms that would help develop traditional Indian artists and society, as well as the emerging contemporary artists.”
Who started the camp?
“This camp was planned by a small group of artists from Rajasthan, in northwestern India. The first ‘Sowing Seeds’ project was handled by myself, [Mr. Vagaram Choudhary.]”
What are the main objectives of ‘Sowing Seeds’?
We have 5 main objectives. They are:
- Create meaningful connections and interactions between rural and contemporary artists
- Develop interrelationships among artists from different geographical locations, creating an environment with varied social, religious and cultural perspectives
- Develop contemporary art ideas using traditional materials and emerging techniques so that it could connect artists to the current global art scenario
- Foster collaboration, encourage experimentation, exchanges and dialogues among practicing and emerging artists
- Serve as a platform for regional and international exposure
Is the program associated with a gallery?
“Yes, we are in partnership with the Kaman Art Gallery in Jodhpur. The gallery owner, Mr. Mitendra Singh, provided 40% of the financial support for this camp and also space for the exhibition. The remaining sum was financed by a group of artists.”
How are participating artists chosen?
“We released an open application for artists to participate in this camp. This was done online. We received 128 responses from all over world. Out of these, we selected 80 prospects. We appointed 3 senior artists as the jury, and they selected our final 13 participating visual artists and 1 performance artist.”
Do the artists create art individually, or in groups?
“Each artist works in conjuntion with village people, local sculptors, carpenters, tailors and other craftspeople help to create his or her work.”
What are the future plans for the programme?
“We plan to organize one camp a year in different village locations in the province of Rajasthan, India. If the opportunity was presented, we would ideally like to send a villager artist in an exchange programme to another country to learn new technological art techniques and ideas. This would greatly help these artists nurture their creative side.”
When and where is Sowing Seeds 2010, and how many participants will be invited?
“Sowing seeds 2010 will be held at a village near Mount Abu, in the Indian province of Rajasthan, from December 12-25, 2010.”
This year we will invite 15 artists:
- 6 Indian visual artists
- 6 visual artists from anywhere in the world
- 1 art critic from anywhere in the world
- 1 performance artist from anywhere in the world
- 1 senior artist from anywhere in the world
Who were the participating artists in 2009, and where were they from?
In no particular order:
Terue Yamauchi, Japan — Maria Rebecca Ballestra, Italy — Lucrecia Pittaro, Argentina
Judit Hettema, Netherlands — Corina Gertz, Germany — Bhupat Dudi, India
Aditi A. Kulkarni, India — Vagaram Choudhary, India — Rajesh Pullarwar, India
Nilesh Shidhpura, India — Chiman Dangi, India
Can you describe the activities that artists participate in while completing the workshop?
“Rural + Contemporary,” was the theme for the ‘Sowing Seeds’ camp held between 12th to 22nd December 2009, in which participating artists from Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, France, and India got first-hand experience living in the remote Indian Sar village, in Rajasthan. This colourful, dusty, dry village with day and night temperatures fluctuating between the extremities had the perfect ambience for a camp that could provide fodder to the creative minds. Indeed, a wonderful opportunity had been presented to the visiting national and international artists to unleash their creative spirit. There was ample material locally available to experiment with. But the real challenge and learning happened while creating artworks that would reflect the theme of the camp – “Rural + Contemporary…”
“Local raw materials such as clay, paper, cow dung cakes, mud, wood, pottery pieces, cloth, threads, jute ropes, metal plates, powdered colours, etc., were innovatively used to bridge the communication gap between the ideating contemporary artists and the local people. Initial feelings of insecurity and apprehension gave way to a budding and blossoming friendship, thereby opening channels of interaction and understanding between cultures alien to each other. The villagers responded with overwhelming love and affection, providing tireless technical labour and assistance, tailoring the artistic creations effortlessly…”
“Every day was a new day, where the artists would be off to the village and nearby areas for realizing their artworks; the evenings would be delightfully graced with local cultural entertainment such as folk song and dances, and the late nights would be spend resting on a cot in inviting tents under the open sky. Deeply cherished moments were the ones around the bonfire where discussions of culture flowed in from people across continents in the cold mornings and nights. It never ceased to amaze each artist as to how a simple parallel world existed side by side to their seemingly advanced world!”
“…This camp beautifully brings out the understanding and the sensitivity of the various artists to the responses and nuances of the human mind such as emotions, fears, thoughts, relationhips, such as bonding with people and nature, the problems faced by humanity, and the causes which can enhance or destroy the human existence.”
Interested parties are encouraged to contact Mr. Vagaram Choudhary and check out Sowing Seeds for more information on this intercultural arts program.
- “The Empire Strikes Back – Indian art Today” at Saatchi Gallery: critics’ review roundup– Feb 10
- A common man uncommonly direct – Indian contemporary sculptor Subodh Gupta in conversation in Hong Kong– Dec 09
- The Singapore Tyler Print Institute – international art collaboration at world-class print studio – profile– Nov 09
- Indian contemporary art reaches a new stage of development– Dec 08
- International artist collaborative in Laos ends after 4 years – July 08