From the hills, with love
The Lalit Kala Akademi presented a truly representative exhibition on the North-East this week in New Delhi.
TRADEMARK Tiangrokhuma's Meeting (from Mizoram) that was mounted at Pragati Maidan.
Art transcending boundaries is not an unmixed blessing. If it transcends boundaries to travel to different countries, it's fine. But, if in an attempt to transcend boundaries, artists start to compromise on their work, it is an indication of desperation. It presents less than a rosy picture of the art scene of a particular region. Recently, New Delhi saw an exhibition of five Nepalese artists. Their works had a global touch with the trademark bright Indian colours, but barring one or two, none of the works seemed representative of Nepal. So an art-lover who might have gone to see that exhibition with a desire to have a peep at Nepal, came back disappointed. The works, in isolation, though had maturity of content and treatment.
In recent times, Delhi doesn't seem to remember any truly representative art exhibition. But this week, this monotony was broken as the Lalit Kala Akademi presented Octave 2006 - Celebrating the North-East - at Pragati Maidan. The weeklong festival was sponsored by the Ministry of Tourism that showcased music, dance, painting, theatre and cinema from the eight States: Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura. The painting exhibition titled Call of the Bamboos, designed and curated by Alka Raghuvanshi, deserves special mention. Carefully selected paintings and wooden and stone sculptures by artists from these eight States truly represented the local ethos. For instance, Debasish's Biswas' Beauty of Tripura in watercolour, Santobai Yebnkokpam's Soul Figure and Effigies, Y. Gunidro's Two Women and Tiangrokhuma's Meeting, and so on. These were a break from the so-called paintings with a global touch.
What made the exhibition more interesting was its design. For instance, each painting was set against a huge wooden panel embedded with bamboo mats from Assam. A panel made from bamboo mats from Tripura supported it from beneath. A phanek - colourful shawl from Meghalaya - hung next to the paintings enhanced their brightness. Spears from Nagaland pasted diagonally across on the main panel indicated warriors from the State. Octagonal bamboo bowls, representing eight states, contained chits with the names of the artist. In addition, big bamboo boxes were placed under wooden and stone sculptures. All these undoubtedly, imparted an ethnic touch to the exhibition.
Unfortunately, designing an exhibition in a representative way is still in the nascent stages in India. Says Alka, India's first recipient of a Charles Wallace scholarship for curation 25 years ago, "People tend to ignore the ambience in an exhibition hall as they still have not been educated on it. Hence designing an exhibition, especially of paintings/sculptures/photography, has so far not been treated significantly. Moreover, art and craft are still considered separate entities by many, which is ridiculous. How can you separate the two in a country like India, where a crafts person is also an artist and vice-versa?" Those who have missed the exhibition will soon be able to view it at Lalit Kala Akademi.
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