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Making art accessible

A huge curved wall with numerous doodles is the most arresting feature of the studio-like exhibition area at the Piramal Museum of Art. As one walks in, one notices drawings and paintings on the floor too. Slowly you realise that these are ‘works of art’ created by visitors. Landscapes, faces, slogans, still life, human and hybrid beings all jostle for space on that surface, even as they offer evidence of a few joyous minutes spent by their makers. It is hard not to dive right in and use the numerous pencils, crayons, paper, canvases, brushes and paints that lie liberally around the place.

Art evades definition because of its vastness and ephemerality, and yet it must converge and manifest at the level of its medium and material. The voice of a singer, the limbs of a dancer, the brushes of a painter or a chisels of a sculptor – these may yet answer the how art is created, if not what it is. Materials and technology, then, form art’s most tangible aspect, and yet is one that remains most under appreciated. Any artiste will tell you that mastering an art form is really mastering the medium, but as lay persons we are so taken by the end result, that we seldom pay attention to the process. An ongoing art show, at the Piramal Museum of Art in the city hopes to change this.

The show, Making Art: Materials and Technology, curated by Ashvin E Rajagopalan, Director, Piramal Museum of Art, and art historian Vaishnavi Ramanathan is aimed at educating visitors about the timeline and spectrum of art materials. It also offers them a chance to use these materials in a studio-like setup.

“When we say ‘Making Art’, it draws the attention of any layperson because it neutralises the didactic approach of most art exhibitions in a museum and opens up a more approachable experience by those intimidated by art,” says Rajagopalan. The aim is that, “The next time that these audiences go to museums or other venues where art is displayed, they will be able to read the artworks with a renewed lens – through the understanding of materials and a different perspective on how art is made,” he elaborates.

Starting from the pre-historic period when charcoal and natural pigments were used for cave paintings to the present day where we see projections and holograms in art projects, the show traces the history of art materials and technology. We are acquainted with mediums like charcoal, ink, organic and inorganic pigments and paints, sculptural modes like stone, clay, wood, metal and fibreglass, printmaking techniques like woodcuts and lithographs, photography, and other digital technology.

To demonstrate what kind of art is made from these materials, art objects (and replicas) by well-known artists like KG Subramanyan, Jehangir Sabavala, Manjit Bawa, P Perumal, Laxma Goud, Ranbir Kaleka, Jitish Kallat, Reena Kallat and Archana Hande have been displayed.

About creating a space that was part gallery and part studio, Ramanathan says, “We wanted this space to be open and welcoming so that even a first-time artist feels like trying their hand at it. A circular design which is partly closed on one side with the rest of the space being open emerged as the solution to this. It balanced intimacy with openness and safety of original art works with a workshop-like messy environment.”

To make this experience truly 360 degrees, the museum has organised a number of workshops over a four-month span. Meant for different age groups, levels of proficiency and organisational affiliations, these workshops will offer a vast range of artistic experiences. These include workshops on printmaking, digital and mobile photography, graphic design, making your own pigments using natural material, and more.

The exhibition is ongoing at Piramal Museum of Art, Lower Parel, until June 15.

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