Think, talk and visualise

Debarati Palit Singh
Tuesday, 28 May 2019

‘Thought is also a matter’, a conceptual art work displayed at Monalisa Kalagram, makes you contemplate on various aspects of art. Curator and artist Raju Sutar and artist Vaishali Oak talk about the concept

Five creative minds from Pune have come together to put up thought-provoking art installations at Monalisa Kalagram, Koregaon Park. The artists — Hrishikesh Pawar, Rajesh Kulkarni, Sandip Sonawane, Vaishali Oak and Raju Sutar have worked on the theme — ‘Thought is also a matter’. 

Each installation including a video demonstration is a personal interpretation of each artist who has worked on different mediums. Sutar and Sonawane have chosen to paint, Oak has dabbled in fabrics, Kulkarni has worked on terracotta and Pawar’s is a dance performance. 

The series curated by Sutar, is underway till June 15. Says Sutar, “This was part of Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2018. Lisa (Pingale) requested us to have the show here. Many people who couldn’t travel for the Biennale, wanted to see it. Back in Kochi, we had enormous space and therefore not everything has been displayed here.”

The theme, ‘Thought is also a matter’, says Sutar, is a sequel to an earlier edition (2016) at Kochi. “The series was called Routes to Roots. That was first show in Kochi by Pune artists. When you go to places like Kochi Biennale, there is lot of emphasis on conceptual art and new media. There the shows do not happen in galleries but in spaces which are in public domain. The nature of exhibits is a little different and I wanted to challenge that idea. It’s a propaganda by certain section of artists, when they call painting as traditional media. I was challenging that idea.” 

Thought behind the thought
It was that challenge that gave birth to the idea of ‘Thought is a matter’. What is concept?, asks Sutar and then proceeds to explain, “It’s a thought. There is an article by an American scientist which says that thought is also a matter. So concept is thought and thought is matter, then where does the conceptual art stand?”  

The artist adds that everyone came up with their own perspective and then for one year they discussed and challenged each other. He also conducted a few workshops for the artists to help them understand the concept.

Throwing light on the concept underlying each artist’s work, Sutar says, “Sandeep’s approach was that just like artists who break down simple lines and forms, a thought can similarly be broken down. Rajesh was working on 1,500 to 1,800 pots which were suspended in space. His idea was literally on thought. It was about the electro and neuro connection in the brain; Hrishikesh came up with the idea, ‘I travel, I arrive not’. It means you keep on thinking but it’s not necessary you will arrive somewhere. He collaborated with 48 Kalaripayattu artists.” 

As far as his approach was concerned, Sutar pondered on ‘What is not a thought’. “I have been practising for a long time, so for me ‘not to have moment of thought while painting’ was the idea. I should be very spontaneous, so I painted this in Kochi. The moment of now, is where you have no thought. There is possibility of mutation in the ‘moment of now’,” he adds. 

To this Oak adds, “The basic challenge was, ‘if I think something, I have to convert it into visual media. Thought is one thing but when you are a visual artist, you have to think visually’. I understood that everyone has a thought and if I like your thought, I take it from you. Like a seed, it keeps growing. My installation has many seeds created from fabric.”

Connecting the ideas
But how much did the thought undergo change when they were brainstorming? 

“So many times. That’s exactly what we were trying to do. I used to challenge their ideas because the immediate thought that comes to our mind is mostly superficial. You can always go back to the initial idea after working on every possibility. That happened in case of Rajesh. The visual depiction has changed completely,” points out Sutar. 

The basic idea was connecting the thread between the different concepts. “I have worked with artists whom I know very well. It is also important to make them work in different realms, which they haven’t done before and I have tried to do that.” 

Sutar believes that the end project is not important but the process is. “Even if the work is not ready for display, it’s okay. I may display the process,” he says. 

Evolving as artists 
Working on a concept with artists who believe in similar thought process helped them evolve as artists, believe Sutar and Oak. “I believe art can be learnt by sharing. That is something which is not happening. We also need to have cross faculty sharing. Curation is like becoming a meta artist. The entire show becomes my artwork and these artists become element, which definitely helps,” says Sutar, to which Oak adds, “It helps us to grow together. It helps us understand many aspects of the same thing. I have grown as an artist in the last two years. It was a beautiful process.”

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