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Don't shackle creativity

The production of artwork can happen best in the comfort of one?s own home, where many an artist burn the mid-night oil, writes KT Ravindran.

india Updated: Dec 15, 2006 03:45 IST

The front-page news on Wednesday in the Hindustan Times listed 12 more professions that may get the legal nod apart from the four professions already permitted in residential areas. This is indeed welcome news. A significant omission from this list is however the case of artists. Delhi is home to hundreds of artists who migrate to Delhi to make it in the city’s flourishing art environment. For every artist who commands millions abroad, there are ten struggling, young and old artists who cannot afford commercial studio space. Only the Government owned Garhi Studios offer some facility to them in Delhi, that too for a small group.

The production of artwork can happen best in the comfort of one’s own home, where many an artist burn the mid-night oil. They often work day and night, steal some time to sleep and eat, and work months on end on a single piece of art. Artists invariably work alone in introspection and reflection. Their journey is inward, undisturbed by human interaction. I also live in a house where the legendary artist BC Sanyal used to live and work from. He lived literally in his studio and undisturbed physical environment was a basic pre requisite. The deft strokes of the brush or even the chisel that shaped a sculpture thrived best when other people left for work or in the silence of the night. I cannot imagine BC Sanyal working from a shopping arcade or from a District Centre!

Or take the case of a dancer or a musician. Other than the well established, this kind of performing artists often earn a living from classes held from their homes for children and adults. A photographer, a documentary film maker, a poet or a Reiki practitioner, a yoga teacher or a film editor: the number of soft professions that need to work from non-commercial spaces are many in the complex urban milieu of the metropolis. The diversity of professions is directly proportionate to the level of modernity a city can claim. Delhi is no exception, and all these artists would have no place to go if the law refuses to recognize their presence in the city.

One can also not forget that the power- intensive kiln of the ceramic artist has no place in a residential area, nor the mushrooming art galleries which are at the commercial end of art production. In other words the important factor is the scale of artistic activity which needs to be kept small in the residential area. The only way out is to regulate the negative elements that will affect the residential quality, strain the services, or generate excessive parking.

People who interrogate society and deflect their response through a work of art are the markers of a city’s evolution. Providing them space to articulate this response is an obligation every civilized city must meet. Delhi’s ceiling drive was certainly pitched around commercial activities and trade and it is only natural that political engagement on the issue is also centered around these. But our lives are not only driven by trade and commerce. We need the artist to hold the mirror in front of a brutalizing city.

Negotiating Delhi’s harsh public areas, a hostile public transport and finally ending up in a commercial complex is certainly not conducive to any art production. If the society owes them anything, it is a tranquil space within their homes to work from. It is imperative that artists be included amongst the professionals who would be permitted to work from their home.

(KT Ravindran is an urban planner and dean, School of Planning and Architecture)