City painter Subhash Shorey who has been teaching art at Government Model School in Sector 16 for years would place an object on a brick for students to paint still life. Recently, he decided to do an experiment in installation with making bricks a subject of art. With broad brushes and bright acrylic colours the students started painting some two dozen bricks wondering what the outcome would be. Soon they had bricks painted in red, black, green, blue, yellow, orange and one in silver for good luck.
Next came the task of arranging them and the school assembly ground was chosen to create a circle with the bricks with the one painted in silver getting the coveted place in the centre. While most of the bricks were placed horizontally, four were placed vertically facing one another across the circle. The classroom exercise was carried forward by placing a banana on each of the bricks and the fruit on the privileged brick in the centre was half-peeled.
The students had an exciting time outside the walls of the classroom and the fruit of the labour was that they got a banana each to eat. When asked what the concept behind the installation was, Shorey says, “I was introducing the concept of Installation Art to the students. But in the larger sense, bricks are a symbol of the human endeavour to build edifices; painting the bricks signified the embellishment that people add to their environment. The message going to the young ones was perhaps that life comes with bouquets as well as brickbats and you have to make a choice as to what you want.”
More artists are engaging with bricks in installations to create a metaphor of walls built brick by brick and sometimes brought down with just a kick. In another recent show, painter Ram Pratap Verma built walls with bricks commenting on human habitation and interestingly one wall had candles aflame with the wax dripping down. What was the significance of that? Verma’s reply was that it was history melting down the remnants of crumbling walls.
Yet another interesting visual with bricks and a wall at the centre of theme was a photograph composed together by Delhi-based photographer Uzma Mohsin and art writer Charu Soni, which now is the cover picture of the latter’s timeline on Facebook. The scene of the photograph is the exhibition of ceramic sculptures in a gallery, and by a wall built of ceramic bricks was a sign reading ‘Do not touch’. “It was here that I was tempted to enact a mock kick and Uzma captured the moment on camera,” says Charu. Isn’t it said that sometimes walls surround us just to see that who will have the courage or the strength to break them. As far as bouquets and brickbats go, the choice is not easy. Collect the bouquets and revel in self-love but the strength of change-makers is shown by the number of brickbats they get. Rarely have prophets or those who have brought about radical changes in a society’s way of thinking and perception got flowers. So here is a thought worth pondering over by artists on how would they handle this in the brick installations to come.