Phorum Dalal recalls her experiences from last year’s Chitrashaala artist residency
After a two-hour drive to Parsoli village, there’s still a boat ride to reach Justa Lake Nahargarh Palace, in the middle of a quiet lake. The hotel is home to hotelier Ashish Vohra along and his wife, designer Deepika Govind’s week-long art residency programme, Chitrashaala. Last year, the residency was organized by Narrative Movements – a group of international artists headed by Bibek Santra that promotes contemporary art.
Forty artists from all over the world including India, converged at the residency to paint the truth. Take, for instance, Ahmed Abou Zainah from Syria, a country that has seen the death of millions of citizens, or Juman Nimri from Jordan who used the symbolism of puppets and cacti to draw attention to women’s issues. “We face problems like honor killing, and have not been given all our rights either,” said Nimri. “But I believe that a woman, no matter what, has the power to survive.” Her paintings featured cacti as a metaphor for her true self. “People tell me I am a tough person, but I grow the thorns to protect myself,” she said. “I am a soft person inside.”
Another artist, Reiner Langer from Germany, painted black angels who made the world a better place. “At the moment, we are living in very dangerous places. For the past 30 years, I worked with artists on projects that raise a voice against war, for freedom, food for all,” he said adding that his country has a refuge crisis. “I am inspired by surrealist painters such as Dali who is 1920, decided to exchange their works rather than give it to agents [to make money from them].” Langer’s project titled ‘Mail Art’ used social media to connect with artists all over the world. He has also worked on creating awareness of water scarcity in Africa.
Kolkata-based artist Dhiraj Choudhary created art using patchwork figures, stitched by villagers from the Sundarbans. Choudhary retired from Delhi Art College as an art teacher after 40 years. “I [travel] to villages in Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan and give them cloth, needle, and thread,” he said. “Then, I paste their work on my canvas and paint around it. In today’s world, an artwork sells depending on the sign it holds. This is a joint project, and I call it ‘needle and brush’.”It was 2016, but Puducherry-based Manoj Dixit still signed his canvas with a date a year later. “I am a little lost with time,” he said laughing. Dixit’s work followed an experiential collage. “My work [talks] about how fragile we can be sometimes,” he said. “The work is a personal journey of trying to connect to my core and get away from it. I work with newspapers, and torn effects, as I am inspired by torn posters stuck on walls in India. If we take out the dirt and look at it as a two-dimensional work, it is a beautiful, layered work. I stick a newspaper on the canvas and then create the collage effect. The newspapers are not for reading, but to create an impression of shapes, texture, and abstracts,” he said.
The upcoming fourth edition will be curated by art critic Anirudh Chari and supported by ‘Holding Hands’, a group of practicing artists formed in July 2016 that works towards artistic cooperation in all spheres. This year, the list of international artists includes Elham Huq from Dhaka and Remon Refaat Sabry Saweres from Cairo, among others.
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