Just as the hint of summer tints the air, it is time to look at the hills and seek cool mountain air. And if you are the artistic type, what could be better than to camp with easel and paints in the happy camaraderie of fellow painters: painting, exchanging notes and making merry. A trio of city artists: Jaskanwal Kaur, Sadhna Sangar and Satwant Singh Sumail are back from one such gathering at Dhanaulti beyond Mussoorie, and paint they did, literally, in the midst of the clouds at a fine forest resort, the camp having been organised by the Uttarakhand Forests Department. “When one transcends boundaries and works in a new environment then something new is bound to emerge. This camp like the many others that I have been attending since my art college days in the Seventies gave me fresh energy,” says Jaskanwal.
Artist camps have been very much in vogue since the Seventies and even though they are structured in a short period so the artists may not paint their best works at such conclaves, but it provides an opportunity to artists to watch each other work, discuss techniques and bond. Thus, they fill a gap that glares in the eye in the given art scenario and more so if the artists are situated in the hustlebustle and growing art markets in the metros.
Leading painter A Ramachandran had once commented very aptly that when money came into the Indian art scene much changed. “Earlier we would visit one another’s homes and studios, look at the works and discuss them but now the only question we put to the other is: ‘What price is your work fetching?’ And this is a great loss.”
The second casualty Ramachandran said was that the artists had forgotten to laugh as they were now required to make a show of taking themselves too seriously.
Now these changes are certainly for the worse as they go against the very grain of the illuminated souls of those who create art and it is here that the camps play a small role in providing a common space to share more than just prices and also unwind and laugh with abandon. And who are those who organise and sponsor these camps?
A pertinent question no doubt, but the list is long and varied ranging from national and international art academies, art galleries, airlines, hotels, educational institutions and even individuals. The concept, says Sumail, is to bring together artists from different parts at one place and thus bring about their interaction with one another as well as lovers of art. The bargain is that the organiser gets works of art and the artists a working holiday of sorts. Not a bad bargain, really.
The city has had its good share of artists’ camps, including one of environmental sculptures curated by veteran artist Shiv Singh and the sculptures still dot the Leisure Valley in Sector 10. The Kalagram in the city has rows upon rows of sculptures made at their regular camps. If the artists are young they benefit more at camps by getting exposure and interacting with the seniors.
The enterprising Sadhna Sanghar, who is the moving force for the citybased WE group of women artists, recently held a camp for young artists with challenges. Besides, for several years she has been organising an annual camp for artists young and established at Khajiar where the artists pay their fare and are given local lodging and hospitality.
In the past, the Kasauli art camps by Vivan Sundaram in Ivy Lodge at Kasuali enjoyed a lot of prestige with many well-known artists from home and abroad participating in them. Of late painter Aradhna Tandon has revived this in Kasauli with a group of young artists camping in her summer home and painting.
So a beginning has been made this April at Dhanaulti, and as the mercury sores there are bound to be more cooler destinations for the painterly lot to literally chill out!