Already damaged by vagaries of time, the paintings of legendary artist Sobha Singh housed at a family-run gallery in Andretta are facing another challenge - high humidity level in the region.
Humidity, if higher than desired level, could severely damage the works of Punjab's celebrated artist who settled down in Andretta, near Palampur, after the Partition, creating many a masterpiece.
Sobha Singh's grandson, Hirday Paul Singh told Hindustan Times that high humidity in the Palampur region has started affecting the paintings kept in the art gallery, and the Sobha Singh
Memorial Art Society needs dehumidifiers to save the paintings.
Singh said that high humidity leads to growth of fungus on materials such as paper, wood and leather.
"Fungus is a living organism and it starts eating up the things it grows on. Fungus damages both canvas and paper paintings," said Singh, adding that fungus affects both the mediums differently.
"While paper starts decaying with the growth of fungus, in case of canvas the colours start fading due to fungus. If the fungus growth too much it can even damage canvas which is made of fibres," said Singh.
Singh said that the ideal humidity level should be 35% to 40% with the temperature between 22 and 27 degrees Celsius.
"Though there is not much variation in the temperature in Himachal, particularly this region, the humidity level, 70% to 75%, at this time of the year is almost double than other seasons," said Singh.
Singh said that the international artists who were at Andretta to restore the damaged art works in March this year had suggested installing dehumidifiers and air conditioners (ACs) to keep the conditions under control.
"They had also suggested restricting the number of visitors and some architectural changes, and we have already started working on those suggestions," said Singh, adding that dehumidifiers could not be installed since the society does not have resources for that.
Singh said that one dehumidifier would be installed at approximately Rs 4.7 lakh and the gallery needs three such appliances.
When asked if he has sought help from the state government, Singh said that he has no hope on that front because the earlier promises were never fulfilled.
"Once we had sought some financial help and the department of language, culture and art instead of taking any initiative had suggested the society to approach the central government," said Singh, adding that some patrons of Sobha Singh's works had proposed to generate funds and the society is working on that.
Singh said that art buffs had also proposed to shift the gallery to another state. "They were even ready to bear the cost of construction of the gallery but we can't do that as Sobha Singhji lived here for 40 years and we are emotionally attached to this place.