FEATURE: The Fields of Emerald Green / Krishi Kala Utsav / Sushma Sabnis
National Academy of Agricultural Research Management, Hyderabad organised an art camp with students of Sir JJ School of Art, Mumbai. The way science, art and technology synergised on the canvases at the camp, restores the hope of the agrarian community today.. writes Sushma Sabnis.
In today’s challenging times our education systems have chosen to categorise knowledge in the form of subjects which could be pursued for specific vocations. While the concept of specialisation suggests the in depth focus on a particular topic in a subject, it also creates an isolated way of thinking and we have in the past seen the drawbacks of this ideology. We live in today’s classified, hierarchical, globalised world, where subject specific knowledge is abundant but stands alone by itself adhering to inherent doctrines, immovable and claustrophobic.
However, Nature has been more than a teacher and our ancestors have taken valuable lessons, especially when one looks at the lives of innovators, discoverers, scientists or artists centuries ago, where an innate scientific temper and the volatile artistic temperament often blended and synergised in unpredictable ways and created some revolutionary ideas transcending the very essence of human perception in every era. This we recognise today as a ‘Renaissance’ period of human history.
Science and Art have often crossed paths in the past and still do even to this day. They are like long lost siblings teaming up with a single purpose – trying to pacify the restlessness of Enquiry. What if, Why not, When, Where, How, all such questions have over centuries lead humankind onto paths which were about finding answers to these quintessential questions. The visual element meeting with the functional element is what science and art brings together as a blend. Both the fields need a heightened ability to be imaginative and hence, scientists are known to be phenomenal artists, take for example Albert Einstein, who was a musician, and Homi Bhabha who also painted exquisitely. While some artists were lauded for their deep interest in science, like Leonardo da Vinci, whose human anatomical studies are referred to even to this day along with his engineering drawings of flying machines and bicycles. We have seen botanists with an impeccable hand and bankers with a deep understanding of art. This is how the human brain is entwined with so many different aspects that very few could predict any of its glorious abilities.
When science and art come together to create a different perspective and with a wholistic approach towards making the society aware of issues and addressing them in the language of art works, using culture as a backdrop, the results have to be different and worth noticing. Science with its ability to practically solve a problem, inspires art which has the ability to imagine the solutions in an art form, together they have the ability to deeply move the viewer simply with a potent visual.
The National Academy of Agricultural Research Management ( NAARM), in Hyderabad undertook a revolutionary step towards building this synergy of Science and Art in their campus, with the organisation of an art camp, ‘Krishi Kala Utsav’. The art camp was organised under the leadership of Mr Srinivasa Rao – Director NAARM, Mrs R Kalpana Shastry – Jt Director NAARM, and Dr M Krishnan – Program Director NAARM along with Mr Deepak Khogre, the resident artist of CIFE, Mumbai and Prof. Anant Nikam from Sir JJ School of Art, Mumbai. Last year a similar ‘Mastya Kala Utsav’ was organised in CIFE, Mumbai. Taking this dialogue between art and science further, the Hyderabad camp was organised with the intention of rendering an artistic and creative touch to an otherwise mundane environment of an agricultural research institution.
Dr Krishnan expressed his absolute joy in being part of such a venture again, in Hyderabad and he believed that it brought science closer to the public and this bridges the gap, creating a dialogue with the viewer. He also says “..we have farmers and huge student communities who frequent our campus and we believe these art works become a point of interest for most of them..” Mr Khogre of CIFE along with Prof Anant Nikam of Sir JJ school of Art planned this five day camp from the 30th October to 3rd November 2017 with 20 students from the illustrious Sir JJ school of Art.
When one addresses the problems of agriculture in a country like India, one is left clueless most of the time even though today, technology seems to have bridged the chasms that once were felt between the rural and urban divide, yet, some of it surfaces in the form of food shortage, famine, failed crops, acid rain, price hikes on vegetables and fruits etc. The farmer communities in our country have faced a wide range of oppressions at the hands of the landlords, middlemen and even misguided government laws which have caused farmer suicides on the rise in certain parts of our country today. But the students want to bring hope into the picture and they mirror it through their experiences at the Krishi Kala Utsav.
One is left speechless at the interpretations and flight of imaginations of the young artists. The landscape plays an important role in the works of many artists as they explore it from different vantage points like in the works of Kinnari Tondlekar, Arun Unhalekar, Omkar Mankame, Gauri Ambekar, Pooja Shinde, and Prashant Kuwar. Kinnari’s landscape shows concern for the importance of ground water in any form of agricultural venture and she brings to the viewer the farmlands as if shaped like dried up seeds of a potential crop. One sees the hint of technological references which could change the fate of those drying farms; Arun Unhalekar, takes a birds eye view of the whole land with a range of colours like mosaic formations with crops at different stages of growth and harvest, also adding small pond like forms filled with fish, hinting at integration of farming and fishing practices to survive the lean months. Omkar Mankame’s emerald green dominated canvas brings to mind what once was the colour of the entire landmass on earth, before human intervention. In an innocent style Omkar dreams a pristine blue sky and a red earth fertile with warmth, as a hope for the future of the green cover on earth, as does Prashant Kuwar who at first paints the campus of NAARM, followed by a painting where the greens of a happy field await the dark grey water laden clouds at a distance, a farmer’s dream sequence seems to manifest in this work, and yet another work where the silhouette of the farmer or the artist seems to have become one with the landscape, a defining moment of the hard work and its success making the human. Pooja Shinde makes an attempt to create the concept of integrated farming practices where fish/ prawn farming could fill in the spaces between the fields and become an alternative source of income for the farmer in lean months as well as returning the nitrates back to the soil. Gauri Ambekar tries to bring to mind the past of an agrarian origins in prehistoric times. She portrays the humble bullock, once a wild animal, domesticated by humankind to help in cultivating lands. Gauri also paints a farmer resting next to his farms, after the sowing season, in prayer and hope like a reclining Buddha.
Technological advances in the field of agriculture have broken the notion that a farmer relies solely on the unpredictable monsoons and the strength of his cattle. We have come a long way since then and today, mechanised farming, irrigation methods, rain water collection, dams etc and serious research about the viability of seeds and soil quality has become a matter for extensive research. Institutions like NAARM work towards the reduction of the unpredictability factor and the uncertainty that the farming community lives with.
Some of the participating artists come from farming backgrounds and they understand and completely relate to the technological advances which their families have adopted and moved towards a better living. In the works of artists Abhijeet Ghodvinde, Devidas Agase, Aniket Vishwasrao, Atul Bangal, Hemant Gavankar, Sachin Manchare, Saloni Agarwal, one encounters the futuristic view of the artists’ interpretation of the farmer’s world. Abhijeet Ghodvinde paints a picture of a mechanised rice husk thrasher machine, which he believes is a technological advancement from the earlier times where the husk is trampled upon tediously by foot to release the grains. This is from his own farm and he expresses a sense of in-depth knowledge of the machine as he illustrates it as a marker for technical help in farming practices. Aniket Vishwasrao also reminisces about his farming experiences and paints a microscope which finds the flaws in the seeds in the work. In another work, Aniket shows the reflective surface of the fish scales, where the green cover of the earth reflects, referring to the innate connections between the organic practices.
Atul Bangal brings in the imagery of a coin, the commercial side of the industry where he shows the crop displayed on the coin of the country and how the country depends upon its produce to export and import from other countries, hence building upon trade and commerce. A smiling farmer is a rare sight and Devidas Agase captures it in his work while his other work shows the image of a brain with an encroaching urban jungle threatening to take over the farm lands. Hemant Gavankar, portrays a beautiful concept with reference to the very campus limits of NAARM. He shows the campus of agricultural research as an oasis, a place which is green and still retains its purity while on the fringes one seed the impending arid doom of urbanisation and the environmental pollution, held back only by a boundary of mangroves. The chip taken from google maps of the campus shows its greenery and the artist brings that view of the pristine unpolluted campus as a reminder of how the whole earth could be someday and how the institution aims for it. In another work he portrays the concept of integrated farming, like poultry and sheep rearing as alternatives for farmers during the dry months.
Sachin Manchare blends the concept of electricity as a metaphor of technology and uses it as a guiding light to better plan crops in the future. He paints a tree like a light bulb wired to light up not just the air, but also the lives of the farmers who opt for futuristic methods of farming. Artist Saloni Agarwal paints a cotton sky, almost making each pod itself rising to the atmosphere, and creating a canopy on the earths surface like the green trees cover does now. In another work she portrays the clouds-like soft cotton being filled in baskets to be made into items of mass consumption almost breaching a hole in the carpet cover, like the ozone hole over Africa. Chandrahas Jadhav in his terracotta works believes that the human brain is like a seed itself which can sprout a medicinal plant or a poison ivy, depending upon what it is made of. He also creates a brain ploughing the fields with ink pens on a fertile imagination. Prachi Ghanekar’s works in terracotta talk about the value in alternative farming practices like poultry farming as she carves out a flock of hens and a rooster with a backdrop of eggs and other edible poultry hinting at the million dollar industry in our country and abroad. Anamika Singh brings in her interest in the fish form, as she explores in various ways the fishing industry especially the ornamental fish industry in her colourful works.
Artists Sagar Kamble, Anil Chouhan, Sneha Varhadi and Vijay Yennawar bring a flair of colour and styles in their works. Some choose a narrative element like those in miniature paintings, especially Anil Chouhan’s works which urge the humanity from the urban spaces to move towards the villages as life is better there in today’s times, while Sagar Kamble gives an overview of how much agriculture has impacted our country which has relied upon an agrarian economy for ages. Sneha Varhadi reminds one of the miniature styles of the Moghul’s while she depicts in a documentation style the simultaneous existence of various types of farming practices, fish farming, crops, flowers, poultry etc. Artist Vijay Yennawar in his Warli lexicon, depicts an agrarian society from several generations ago. The simplistic style is easy to interpret and brings to mind the hard work put in by the generations gone by. Artist Deepak Khogre in his works which he made during the camp tries to bring out in his abstract language the essence of fish farming. Influenced by the imagery of fish kept to dry in the hot sun by the fishing community, he takes these imageries and endows them with a fiery sun lit tone. Prof. Anant Nikam’s work in this camp brings about the merging of the positives and negatives of any practice. Be it farming the traditional way or using technological expertise, the limits of mother Nature can never be surpassed and in his abstract works he tries to depict the balances which work towards the harmony of the living and the non living.
Prof Nikam reiterates the importance of these camps where the visual understanding of the environment changes for students and artists as well, “.. the campus brings a tremendous amount of greenery to light, in a metro like Mumbai, the students crave to witness this kind of surrounding, hence it spruces up the imagination of the students, making them more aware of the possibilities of hues, shades, colours, forms, ideas, etc. It also helps them interact with people form all walks of life unconnected to art, this changes perspective flooding at things ..” Deepak Khogre reflects upon the camp and its purposes and believes it has been one of the most enriching experiences of his life as the students gain from it and the institution also is enthralled by the imaginative prowess of the young artists.
“It has been a wonderful experience for me and I would love to share it with anyone and everyone who walks into this campus..the students have changed and charged the atmosphere of the campus with their art works..”Dr Krishnan says. This could be a beginning of a trend as more and more institutions try out such integrated programs, ventures and camps, which become mutually beneficial to the students, and to the involved institutions, therefore creating a visual culture and harmonious dissipation of knowledge and addressal of issues in the process. It is quite heartening as science and art walk hand in hand into the sun-lit horizon of the future.