An artist-run space, the identity of 1Shanthiroad continues to remain fluid more than 12 years into its existence. Once the childhood home of Suresh Jayaram, this house (located on 1 Shanthi Road) has morphed and expanded while remaining at the centre of alternative art practice in Bengaluru. The non-commercial art gallery also houses multiple residency studios for both local and international artists while continuing to remain home to Suresh Jayaram and his extended family of friends since it was established in 2002.
Jayaram, who was recently at Pune’s FLAME University for a lecture organised by the faculty of Fine and Performing Arts, spoke on ‘Making Space for Art’.
An artist, art historian, and arts administrator and the founder-director of 1Shanthiroad, Jayaram’s art practice covers a range of subjects including painting, urban mapping, and archiving. He was a professor of art history and dean at Karnatak Chitrakala Parishad between 1993 and 2007, retiring to manage 1Shanthiroad full time. Excerpts from our conversation with him...
What led to the formation of 1Shanthiroad and the climate in which it emerged?
1Shanthiroad is the name of the street and also home for me. When I started 1Shanthiroad, I was an artist and art teacher. I started this to build up a private space that can be utilised by people to interact. It was like an ‘Art Adda’, an art space purely for experimental work and work that was not seen in any gallery context. I had an agenda and the vision to create a space with the studio — a working place, two courtyards and a home for myself as well as for artists, so that people who come to 1Shanthiroad can connect with the local artists. It is located centrally in the city, making it convenient for artists. It is internationally known now with artists from around the globe visiting 1Shanthiroad. Anyone who wants to experiment something new can come.
1Shanthiroad has its architecture as its defining work. Could you tell us about what went into its building?
Architecture plays a very important role because it is built upon my parents’ home. I gave the entire responsibility to architect Meeta Jain. According to her, I was the best customer of hers as I didn’t interfere in her work, let her do what she wanted while I only shared my ideas. According to me, food unites people, and unity brings up conversations, so I started hosting food parties and get-togethers at 1Shanthiroad.
The doors are always open with no security guards. The architecture of the space is designed in a way that gives privacy to the artist while working but at the same time they are not allowed to cook in their rooms, so every time they feel like having lunch or dinner, they have to step into the common dining room. Sometimes we also have celebrities like B V Doshi but no one is treated as a VIP at 1Shanthiroad.
What according to you has been the defining function of 1Shanthiroad?
Just imagine the entire city buzzing and here is a place where something or the other is always happening — artists are having conversations or working on a piece, there is lunch, or tea or you can just come cry on my shoulders and go. Sometimes you don’t want to talk to anyone and just sit and smoke alone, so here is the place for that and no one will judge you. It’s not any official place like your college or office, so you can just do what you like. The function is defined by what you want to do. There are times when nothing happens and it’s just a quiet day.
How has your relationship with art education been and what role has it played in 1Shanthiroad’s development?
We let people choose what they want to do freely. So if you are experimental, creative, want to try something new, we are the place to be at and we will also probably show you how to do it. Being in art education, I couldn’t let any student go against the education system, so I decided to quit art education when I was the dean at Chitrakala Parishad and I continued to put all effort in building 1Shanthiroad which was exciting and challenging and I could also live a creative and artistic life happily here. A life beyond academics, examinations, submissions, marks — this was the life I dreamt of and started living. A good teacher will also learn from the student and be the student’s best friend, that is what we follow here at 1Shanthiroad.
How was the financial management for this project done?
I began the space by mortgaging my mother’s property and by taking a loan that I then paid off in monthly instalments through my salaried job. Once I began to get a little more money, the space expanded to include a residency programme.
Currently 1Shanthiroad is a loss-making unit. We are a not-for-profit space, but it doesn’t mean that everything is free. So when foreign artists come to 1Shanthiroad, they pay a certain rent which is then used for maintenance. So making the place sustainable is the greatest problem. If I rent it out to someone I can earn profits, but I don’t plan to do so anytime in the immediate future.
What do you think have been some landmark shows or events at 1Shanthiroad?
Khoj at 1Shanthiroad was very important. It was a collaborative project that brought together artists from the subcontinent through networking with other spaces like 1Shanthiroad in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri-Lanka and Nepal in an attempt to create a South Asian network.
The Ree-Look talks hosted by Somberikatte — an institution run by artist Pushpamala N — has been crucial for Bengaluru too. Also the summer residency programme in which local artists are invited and hosted by 1Shanthiroad (it had begun as a trial project) was quite a catalyst. It brought together four diverse art practitioners from around the country, all of whom collectively responded to each other and to the large environment of exchange.
Your talk is about making space for art. Who all need to contribute to making space for art?
I mean to open doors, windows and opportunities to the city. Technically, speaking of making space for art itself is a part of the process of sharing art and to have creative conversations is like building bridges between different cultures and individuals or institutes.