When Mumbai girl Sheetal Darda got married and moved to Aurangabad, she was keen to invest in art but was unable to find a suitable gallery or art space in the city. She found it surprising since a lot of artists and art students visited Aurangabad to sketch the Ajanta and Ellora caves.
Realising that there was a wealth of untapped talent, she started Shlok, a platform for upcoming artists to showcase their work. It has been seven years since. After hosting 18 exhibitions in Pune, Kolhapur, Aurangabad, Nagpur and Nashik, Darda is finally hosting Shlok’s first exhibition in Mumbai.
Titled Rethinking the Regional, it’s an ambitious project spanning a century of artworks (from 1900 to 2000), and showcasing paintings and installations by 175 artists from across Maharashtra.
Landscape by SH Raza, watercolour. (Picture courtesy: Central Museum)
“Artists from small towns rarely get the opportunity to showcase their art. We wanted to connect artists with viewers. We have shown in smaller towns where there are few galleries and little awareness of art,” says Darda.
At the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA), the exhibition presents art from regions like Konkan, Marathwada, Khandesh and Vidarbha, alongside works from Mumbai and Pune. The highlights include paintings by SH Raza, works dating back to 1890 by Abalal Rehman, and paintings by acclaimed artists like B Prabha, Shivaji Tupe, and MV Dhurandhar.
It took Darda 18 months from conceptualising the exhibition to executing it, especially since it involved sourcing works from collectors, museums and families. “It took time getting permissions and approvals. We had to approach around 30 museums and trusts, as well as art institutes and studios like the Abhinav Kala Mahavidyalaya in Pune, the Nagpur Museum and Nashik Kala Niketan,” Darda says.
Fest, oil on canvas by Rajendra Kapse. (Pratham Gokhale/HT photo)
While small towns lacked a platform, it was never short of talent. “A lot of artists also got a push from rulers like Shahu Maharaj (1874-1922)who promoted art, commissioned family portraits and established art institutes. The art community was also helpful, so if one person learned something, they taught others,” observes Darda. She cites the example of artist Bhaiyaji Goswami, who was a friend of SH Raza and painted with him but was never in the limelight.
The show also features letters written by artists, photographs, and books pertaining to regional art.Darda is now planning to document the show and screen the recordings in art colleges across Maharashtra.
Paa, acrylic on canvas by Manoj Sakale.
(Pratham Gokhale/HT photo)
=> Rethinking the regional
The exhibition is on till September 20, 11am to 6pm (closed on Mondays)
Where: National Gallery of Modern Art, Sir Cowasji Jehangir Public Hall, MG Road, Fort
Call: 2288 1969
The entire exhibition can also be seen on shlokart.com
The artists to look out for
* Abalal Rehman
* MV Dhurandhar
* SH Raza
* VG Kulkarni
* B Prabha