REVIEW/ FEATURE: A Farmer’s Prayer, A Scientist’s Vision, An Artist’s Dream / Krishi Kala Utsav- NAARM/ Sushma Sabnis
As the country’s farmers march for their basic rights in the capital and the environment squirms to survive abuse and pollution, a group of like minded artists and scientists work to reverse the widening schism between nature and nature-dependent humans employing a balance of art aesthetics and scientific vision at the Krishi Kala Camp organised at NAARM, Hyderabad writes Sushma Sabnis.
The world we live in today is quite unpredictable and uncompromising for an artist involved in a genuine art practice. While in the bygone years we often saw that artists were heralded as the soul of the land, the voices of critique and the ones who stirred the conscience of a society with their literature, paintings, sculptures, architecture, music or dance. These highly sensitive individuals were cared for by the governances and state and through this patronage, art thrived and redefined visual aesthetics which could be seen centuries down the line. As time and governances changed, such patronages dwindled due to lack of funds and basic will power to generate a specific culture through art. In today’s times we see art galleries functioning as mere marketplaces and shops for selling art works, with the sole agenda of a commercial gain. Therefore it is very refreshing when certain non-art related institutions come up with innovative ideas and programs to bring Art within their contextual narratives and try to induce a synergetic visual culture into society through this kind of activity.
The ICAR-NAARM (National Academy of Agricultural Research Management), Hyderabad, is one such institution which has been instrumental in carrying out annual art camps called ‘Krishi Kala Utsav’. This camp was formulated originally by Dr M Krishnan ( NAARM) who has a keen interest in art, along with inputs from CIFE in-house artist Deepak Khogre and Professor Anant Nikam of Sir JJ School of Art and first pilot project was carried out at CIFE, Mumbai a few years ago. Seeing its stupendous success and the benefits it awarded both the artists, the institutions and the public, this camp was held at NAARM, Hyderabad under the guidance and blessings of Dr M Krishnan (Program Director) and Dr Ch.Srinivasa Rao (Director ICAR-NAARM) along with their esteemed colleagues at NAARM who have become accustomed to the young artists and their quirky imaginations by now. A group of 23 student artists ( some ex-students and some current ) along with one senior artist, Shilpa Nikam, were participants of this camp held between 27th October and 2nd November 2018.
There is art in science and there is science involved in art; when one understands this concept, one gleans the true nature of this event. It is heartening to see the artists line up for this camp each year, eagerly as in the past few years. Some of this year’s participating artists were, Abhijeet Ghodvinde, Anamika Singh, Aniket Vishwasrao, Anil Chouhan, Arun Unhalekar, Charandas Jadhav, Devidas Agase, Gauri Ambekar, Hemant Gavankar, Kinnari Tondlekar, Kumar Misal, Mukta Vaidya, Omkar Mankame, Pooja Shinde, Prachi Ghanekar, Pranoti Malkute, Prashant Kuwar, Roshni Talan, Sachin Manchare, Sagar Kamble, Vaishnavi Naik, Sneha Varhadi, and Vijay Yannawar.
Firstly it would be prudent to mention the phenomenal work done by the ones who conceptualised, organised and successfully executed these camps. Dr M Krishnan of NAARM has been instrumental in directing the art camps at the NAARM campus and is an agriculture economist and has numerous interests not just in science and agriculture, but also the sustainability in environmental projects which are less burdensome on the natural resources. It is quite easy to understand how this scientist who wears many hats could be interested in the visual language of art to elucidate agriculture, aquaculture and other nature-run industries for the benefit of the lay person. Dr Ch Srinivasa Rao, Director of NAARM is a soil scientist with a keen interest in the chemical aspect of agriculture. This interest also expands to aspects of climate change, rainwater management and conservation. Deepak Khogre is a senior artist and an employee of CIFE ( Central Institute of Fisheries Education, Versova), and his work has over the years been connected to the field of marine fisheries and the abstractions of the elusive sea creatures, which show up in his vibrant works. Professor Anant Nikam has been inspiring students of Sir JJ School of art in particular, and students all over the country with his highly evocative, yet tranquil renditions of the concepts of faith and beyond in his abstractions.
What one has to understand is that these scientists along with their remarkable team of scientists chose to broaden their horizons to embrace the aesthetic of art and visual culture. One can see that they are not the quintessential ‘scientists’ who pore over microscopes and alienate themselves from society, but they are people who wish to share their findings, in the hope of educating the public through the subtle language of Art. This in itself is a commendable feat in today’s times where knowledge is being cordoned off and categorised as today’s generation tends to know more and more about less and less, leaving them brimming with information but lacking in pure knowledge. This wholesome approach to art, science and technology could ensure the future of a green resourceful earth, and the stability of our future generations independently.
Growth and sustainability are two factors which are of prime importance in any human beings’ life, be they scientists or artists or farmers or accountants. This cycle is always subject to change and hence the artists in this camp choose to depict various facets in a farmer’s life. These two aspects have been visually explored by some artists in their works. Artist Aniket Vishwasrao presents a very positive and contemporary language in his works which deal with the usage of green energy and numerous technological advances over time which have created a respite in the lives of the farmers over the years. Though its far from being resolved, the plight of farmers seem to have eased a little using techniques of modern farming.
Artist Arun Unhalekar brings to the fore the fusion of old time tested methods and emphasises the blend of the new age and old technologies to create a more conducive environment and better yields. Using subdued and very neutral colours and mediums, artist Anil Chouhan stresses the need to create a coalescence of the concepts used in earlier times which relied mostly on farmer’s experiences than scientific monitoring of the weather or crops. Anil’s works are minimalistic and remind the viewer of the numerous imaginative agencies an artist and a farmer could apply positively to ensure stability.
Artist Sagar Kamble chooses to create a large work which blends in the numerous possibilities of agriculture, aquaculture, animal husbandry and other farming avenues which directly and indirectly build the individual, the society and the nation. Sagar chooses to narrate his ideas through a tribal / folk art lexicon which is quite effective in evoking a keen insight into the interconnectedness of these various activities which constitute a symbiotic relationship between nature and humankind.
Artist Hemant Gavankar deals with the comparison of the concepts of painting and agriculture, trying to articulate the similarities and dissimilarities of physical and metaphysical spaces and their interactions. A personal note is struck by artist Kumar Misal whose parents are farmers themselves. His work introduces the intimate relationship they have with the soil they till and nurture and the soil that in turn nurtures them.
Artist Omkar Mankame’s work is quite direct in depiction as he chooses to portray the spread of technological advances in the agrarian world as a farmer is seen communicating on a mobile phone; technology and its out reach can be gleaned from this work. An optimistic view is presented by artist Vijay Yannawar of a happy farmer and his family. The works present an everyday picture of the farmer and his live stock, with his family who cherishes these gifts and responsibilities with smiling faces and attitudes.
The Egyptians were the ones who left behind enough evidence of agriculture and farming in their hieroglyphs and innumerable monuments during every pharaohs’ reigns. This inspires the works of Charandas Jadhav who paints in an impasto style with quite rich and vibrant strokes to portray the exuberant Egyptian agrarian culture of many eons ago as a tribute.
Artist Gauri Ambekar’s work tries to bring to the fore a picture of tomorrow’s dystopian world if care is not taken by humankind. The image, starkly demarcated at the centre seems like a reflective mirror composition, where the two sides reflected are starkly opposite, above is burgeoning nature and the below is infertile land. Gauri believes that the onslaught of human greed is taking its toll on Nature and hence the generations of tomorrow could inherit mere grey tones, not the green covers we inherited, a brutal price we paid for hegemonic progression.
Similar philosophies are depicted in the work of artist Sachin Manchare, for whom the farmer’s life and work is like a game of chess. While he contends that the old world farming methods blended with the new technological advances could ensure a win for the farmers.
We live in times of world water crises as the fresh water resources are depleting by the minute; such concerns about the dependencies on water resources and the apparent abuse and pollution of it vex the mind of artist Devidas Agase as he creates an artistic grid form of a water cycle and the sustainability of it through careful planning and conscious usage. The work appears like a puzzle to the viewer as the pieces are still in a flux to be fitted correctly to ensure balance.
Artists Roshni Talan and Prachi Ghanekar bring to the viewer their depictions of the role of domesticated animals and the importance of these animals in the lives of the farmers. Roshni tries to incite a decorative visual in her work on the masculine form of the bull figure, embodied with strength and endurance and draped with skeins of the numerous blossoming fields which it has tilled and ploughed on its proud back. Prachi tries to create a narrative of the cattle rearing industry and the numerous intricacies and all aspects of animal husbandry along with human dependency on it.
Choosing to create an aesthetic which could be mistaken for merely a decorative and painterly style, artist Abhijeet Ghodvinde brings to the viewer the delicacies of nature. The colours, forms and the absolute ephemerality depicted in his work are a real success in capturing nature’s fragile strength as seen by an artist. Artist Anamika Singh tries to pay attention to the profundity of the entire field of aquaculture and the intricate networking fields which advance into agriculture, and other subjects. She depicts a large whale enclosed in a circle (earth) almost occupying it completely and housing every aspect of farming innovated and devised by humankind.
Artist Vaishnavi Naik is fascinated by fisheries, and her works deal with the forms, colours and the very essence of the floating and swimming bodies inhabiting the oceans and water bodies of the world. She tries in her decorative, figurative style to depict the interconnectedness of the moon, tides and the denizens of the sea.
Senior artist Shilpa Nikam in her unique lexicon chooses to depict the semblance of boats and fishes in her works. The essences of nature are hinted at and most of the works seem like gentle reminders of a coastal lifestyle. In the works of senior artist Deepak Khogre one would find a conscious engagement with the fish form and other piscine entities yet rendered in absolute vivid colours and without any strict adherence to details of form. This creates a kind of visual blur and a colourful one, like a school of fish rapidly moving under water when seen from a distance.
The poetics of space is explored by the artist Kinnari Tondlekar for whom the demarcated fields are patterns reflected in many urban settings or edifices. These imageries lose their original contexts and she chooses to isolate them into stand alone patterned and tesselate entities free for the interpretation of the viewer. Similarly in the works of senior artist Anant Nikam one would find the allusions to farming patterns, field maps with varying shades of green as the crops mature, the serenity of an actual field could be experienced in the artist’s tranquil works.
The farm produce has inspired a few of the artists’ works like artist Mukta Vaidya who tries to capture the changing hues of the farmlands in accordance with the seasons, also through still life depictions she enhances the focus on the season-reliance of a farmer’s life style. Artist Pranoti Malkute in her work tries to focus intently on fruits, as her series deals with fruits. In her works at NAARM, Pranoti brings to the fore the importance of fruit, seeds and the cyclical nature of Nature itself. The dependency of humankind on these seeds and the sensitivity of the cotton fields in bloom bring out her attention to detail.
Artist Prashant Kuwar takes this thought a step further to create an all encompassing tree, which could bear all fruits at the same time, all through out the year. He believes this could someday be a reality, brought about by superior scientific advances, depicted by the human torso which the tree takes root in. There is an honesty to this work and a singular train of thought as the artist’s apparent optimism revels in an innocent child like wishful thinking.
There is a substantial role that women folk play in the farming industry, especially in field work and sorting and lading arena. Artist Pooja Shinde and artist Sneha Varhadi, hone their creative lens on those women who work in the fields. Pooja tries to bring to fore a subtle feministic view based on the attire of the women working in the fields, namely, they wear a shirt, over a saree and a head gear to protect from the sun. This attire neutralises their feminine identity, and they blend in with the male folk at work. This could be an interesting anthropological study about the women workers in the fields the world over and their attire while at work and its apparent patriarchal versus feministic stance. She articulates this thought beautifully in her works.
Artist Sneha Varhadi articulates the rural working women gathering to pick cotton from the flowers to make bundles to be sent to cloth mills and industries. There is an unspoken camaraderie and bond that elevates their mere existences within this circle. Sneha hints at the reach of technological advancement within these women by adding a laptop and a tablet which two of the women are seen using, while another woman captures it on her camera set on a tripod. Sneha breaks the perceived image of the rural, field working woman by making her a rural, informed, field working woman.
We live in fragmented times when not just our soldiers, but our farmers have been forced to march for basic human rights denied to them by muted political will of governing agencies. In such a scenario, it becomes the responsibility of the artists and the scientists to restore the balance where justice, politics and religion have failed. Science and Art both find their muses in the eternally balanced teacher and guide, Nature. It is through these multiple perceptions of Mother Nature that we learn our lessons in reason, rationale and unbridled imagination. It is the same nature-inspired imagination which urges the most evocative poetry about the sky in William Shakespeare and the aeroplane in the Wright brothers alike.
When different individuals from different walks of life recognise this truth and work from it together towards a common goal, a synergetic society is born, one which weighs talent and intellect equally, aesthetics and vision equally. The Krishi Kala Camp held at NAARM, Hyderabad was one firm step taken in this direction towards forming such a balanced society and nation.