Role of COVID-19 in Innovating Visual Arts
Quarantine Blues have shadowed the spellbinding world of Visual Arts. Visual Art, which includes painting, sculptures, design, photography and craft, has seen a sharp decline in exhibitions and sales. The galleries once lined up with art-aficionados, artists and of course, the art (under scrutiny or appreciation) are now empty, the halls missing the familiar footsteps and the walls devoid of art.
Art is a form of expression and emotions such as anguish and anxiety are at the forefront. Artists, through their artwork, have always united people in the face of crisis, a way to heal and cope. COVID has tied people to their homes, making the most menial of tasks difficult and leaving them desperate in search of a creative outlet. As the lockdown continues in some states, and despite the unlocking procedures in others, people are sceptical about venturing out. They also want to experience art they can relate to, at the comforts of their home.
COVID has inspired artists and painters to innovate their art, in order to showcase their emotions during the pandemic, which resonates largely with their audience. Galleries are adapting to showcasing paintings online through images or a 3D representation of the gallery. The pandemic has been a global learning experience.
Dhruvi Acharya, a Mumbai based painter, painted a series of ‘watercolour on paper’ paintings, depicting an existence governed by masks and a sense of fear. She also pays tribute to the health care professionals and documents the perils of migrant workers. Acharya’s paintings are psychologically complex, and she believes that COVID will give rise to innovation in art and maybe, birth a new art movement.
Sangeeta Kodimyala, a Vishakhapatnam based artist, pays tribute to the household staff, sweepers, cleaners and other daily wage workers through a series of portraits. Anita Rao’s diptych painting depicts a volcano with two sides- the good and the bad. A negative painting, this piece of art points out the recession, death and violence as well as the hardworking healthcare sector, moments of leisure and clean air. Upcycling daily use objects with artwork is another trend artists have devised, as they spend an increasing amount of time staying indoors.
Folk art is another genre that has undergone reinvention. Kalyan Joshi, a phad artist based out of Bhilwara, has discarded the traditional depiction of Gods and painted the COVIC inflicted world from an artist’s perspective. The bright colours compliment the gloomy themes and the messages are reaching a wider audience, this time to stay as a part of their home. Pattachitra artist Apindra Swain has modified his artwork to accommodate the usage of masks and to follow the various sanitization procedures.
Galleries have taken up the initiative to hold auctions and share artwork through online platforms. Art Curator Chaitanya Dhanvi Shah believes that lockdown has led people to explore art, giving artists a global exposure. Kolkata based Experimenter gallery has launched Experimenter Labs to promote research and experiments in the field of visual arts. Rohan More’s ‘Vilayti Shauk’ reflects the idea of the captor being captured, locked away at their homes, as the environment recuperates with the loses it had to bear. RMZ Foundation has set up an elaborate and detailed scheme to help the audience appreciate art better, as well as follow the rules of social distancing. Gallery Ark has taken display once step further by devising a 3D layout of their gallery, giving the audience a virtual experience of walking through the halls and viewing art.
The #ArtChainIndia initiative by two Delhi-based artists enables artists to connect to a new audience and buyers via Instagram. The unique aspect of this platform is that each artist pledges to spend a certain amount of money on a fellow artist’s work, thus creating a ‘chain of support’.
Artists, while they fail to see the light at the end of the tunnel, are trying hard to encourage themselves and peers to keep creating paintings. The audience has shown an increase in interest towards art and galleries are coming up with innovative ideas to make artwork accessible. Financial-aid has become the top concern during this pandemic and it is wonderful to see people coming together to help artists and spread awareness.
BY MRIDULA GUPTA