Saturday, February 18, 2012

Art workshop for the tribal school

My artist friend Raju Deshpande and I are just back from an art workshop we conducted for the residential primary school located in the Bhimashankar forest area, around 200 km away from Pune. ‘Vanadev’ school is a residential school with around 40 kids (from std. 1st to 4th) from Mahadev-Koli and Katkari tribes. It is a fantastic small school run by the social organization ‘Shashwat’, and is one of their many initiatives for the tribes in these parts. Shashwat is an organization of highly passionate people who really understand the ways of these tribes and have expert knowledge about the terrain.

Raju and I were quite excited about this workshop and were looking forward to spend a day exploring drawing, painting with these kids. When we arrived at the school we realized a very interesting aspect of the way the school is run. The teachers informed us that this workshop would not be mandatory for the kids, and the kids were free to opt out of the drawing exercises we conducted. I thought it was great that this freedom of choice was offered by the teachers to such a young age group. Thankfully almost 95% of the kids decided to participate, and that was good news for us :) Many of our participants were using the painting brush for the first time, but they picked up the skill fast and were soon coloring away with water based liquid colors on paper and were making graffiti on the wall. The paintings and drawings were very beautiful and diverse as you can see from the pictures in this post!

The kids were free to choose their subject and style. They drew ponds with floating lotuses and large fish like the typical sweet-water fish that are normally found in the lakes nearby. The kids painted houses with decorative doors very similar to the actual houses in the village, and they drew snakes, monkeys, peacocks and trees around these houses. Some unusual subjects like people travelling in small trucks with luggage loaded on top, or the mammoth wall of the dam also made an appearance in the paintings. All very beautiful and very colorful!

The kids enjoyed the workshop and so did we. It was very interesting to see how the kids translated their surroundings into their drawings. Here are pictures of some of the fun moments from the workshop. We will certainly be visiting our young friends again and hope to explore more art and ideas with them! :) 

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

R.I.P. Antoni Tàpies (13 December 1923 – 6 February 2012)

One of the geatest Spanish artists from the post war era, Antoni Tàpies passed away on 6th February 2012 in Barcelona, Spain at the age of 88. R.I.P dear Tàpies.

It is difficult to choose the right words to describe Tàpies’s work, and to classify it only under ‘Art Informel’ or ‘Tachisme’ feels inadequate. I think he is one of the greatest expressionist artists of our time. Some artists leave their influence over the generations to come, Tàpies is one such artist. Not just Spain but the entire art world loved him and cherished his fantastic paintings.

 Marble dust, sand, rags, earth and all the other materials that Tàpies used in his art have created an artistic language that speaks about a fundamental understanding of our own existence. His work is pure, honest and a very stark statement about our constantly changing surroundings. Wars, atom bombs, politics, industrialization – all part of our changing world demand a huge toll on our sensibilities. Not that everyone has to take a note of it, but many artists attempted addressing these concerns across the world. I feel Tàpies belonged to that generation and is among the very few who really succeeded in expressing these views boldly.

Shades of grays, muddy browns and stark black- all sifted from different  material powders were Tàpies’s armada of colors in his long and dedicated journey as an artist. He molded colors and forms to speak his language, and what was created was truly majestic.

A dedicated museum in Barcelona called ‘Fundacioantonitapies’, holds one of the largest single collections of Tàpies’s artworks. 

There is quite a bit of literature about Tàpies in books and on the internet. Also many of his very interesting paintings can be found online. I recommend you to ‘discover’ your own Tàpies in case you have not done that already!

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Michael Whiting: The ‘Dynamic’ Pixelation

Dynamic pixelation – now this really sounds contradictory doesn’t it? If you were brought up during the times of the early generation computers with their economical interfaces and old time gaming graphics, you will probably remember the dithered, pixelated imagery of these machines. These machines were the cutting edge of technology then and most of us rejoiced at this pixelated stuff. But it did not take very long for technology to evolve and that minimal pixelated graphics simply disappeared from ‘everyday gaming’.
Michael Whiting is an American sculptor based in San Marcos, CA who preserves those good old pixels in 3 dimensional metal sculptures. These sculptures are simple and wonderful and he succeeds in giving that old imagery a technological retro feel in quite a monumental fashion. I have seen Mike’s sculptures online several times, and have always wished to see such beautiful sculptures in public spaces in India (which is otherwise dominated by dead politicians or historical heroes molded in conventional bronze. If not these then there are the ghosts of forgotten wars in the form of rotten tanks and airplanes which hog the public gardens. But that’s altogether a different story; we’ll keep it for some other time.)

Mike takes his inspiration from early generation computer graphics, but it is evident that this works as a point of reference for his work and is not a subject. He has transmuted this basic inspiration to create a fantastic minimalism and a clearly legible visual language. I feel that it is his great achievement. Sometimes ideas can be simple and perhaps easy to execute but their impact on the viewer is long lasting. Mike’s sculptures clearly belong to this category.
 Mike creates his sculptures with welded steel sheets and industrial enamel paint. Birds, animals, people and everything else is re-imagined in a pixelated style, welded using steel and painted with nice bright paints. Alongside the sculptures he also creates paintings which follow a similar theme; you can see these on his website and blog.

I hope you will enjoy Mike’s work as much as I did! I’m definitely going to see his sculptures for real in my next trip to the US whenever that happens!
Thank you Mike for the permissions and for sharing the images with the blog. Mike is represented by Edward Cella, LA and Plus Gallery, Denver.