home page
art for wear rugs & weaves textile art hand crafted print design exhibition articles teaching
Sept. 2007 ] 


The phenomena of art as a way of life traversing through the sacred and the profane, is the essence underlying the unique collection of 20 original art work specially made by a select group of 40 creative individuals working together in pairs. Vistaar in its concept, approach, range and aesthetics' takes forward the rationale of art as a complete human activity upheld by two of our great art historians and cultural experts A.K. Coomaraswamy and Rabindranath Tagore,where artist of all form and designs, be they painters or sculptors, designers of products, fashion or jewellery, visualisers of advertisements or installations, architects or new media practitioners, companies or group engaged in the business of artistic creations, craftsmen and others experts; in an expensive and inclusive range, collaborate to represent the vision, vitality and plurality of living arts of contemporary India is an ongoing continuum that threads the dual domains of classical civilization as its roots and new age concepts and technology as its fruits . The importance of dialogue, teamwork and an open door policy in assimilation of the ethnic and the modern is perceived as a necessity conducive to democracy. Its impact on the cultural development of multilingual societies with heterogeneous ethnicities and veritable worldviews such as India has been high lighted also by eminent modern thinkers including Amartya Sen. Searching the roots The intertwining of art and life at a high level of sophistication continues to be reflectede in the beautifully designed terracotta birds perched on thatched rooftops in rural Orrisa, painted interiors of Madhubani folk hamlets, Gond tribal men and women adorning elaborately embroidered clothes, the intricate jewellery in beads and silver worn by people of desert land, incredibly designed wooden toys for children from Uttar Pradesh, exquisitely produced house hold items from Gujarat, amazing temples carvings at Khajuraho, detailed cave paintings at Bhimbedkar, perfectly proportioned religious figuration in bronge from Karnataka, elaborate stone sculptures of damsels from Mahabalipuram, architectural marvels such as Taj Mahal at Agra, handmade illustrated manuscripts from Rajasthan and numerous other beautifully designed and immaculately produced high quality arts-facts; exemplifying the inextricable interlinking between arts and life in India since ancient times. This unique feature of holistic creativity and arts as a way of life continues to be reinterpreted in newer form and aesthetics in today's globalised urban India honing the creator and the rasik (beholders's) intellectual sensibilities to transcendental level.
By Sushma Bahl

The interconnectivity between different art forms and cultural streams-architecture- craft-design-music- dance-literature is described in one of the early Puranic texts Vishnudharmottaramm through the story of vajra who once approached sage Markandeya with a request to teach him idol making for worship. But to learn handling of stone or metal he was advised to first learn how to paint, then to dance, followed by a rudimentary knowledge of instrumental music and literature before starting to paint or sculpt. The legend highlights the association and interdependence of deferent arts forms the spring from a shared sensibility, aesthetics, terminology and practices all of involve intuition, creativity and its manifestation in a holistic form where inner vision and outer embodiment come together in a perfect harmony. The final work of art so produced must be a self-realization for it to turn into an organic discovery that may delight both its creator and the beholder or owner/user.

Sifting through an art historical context and its theortical analysis, aal artistics expressions appear to mirror the times and the society from which they emerge. Artseems neither accidental nor incidental and neither superfluous nor supernatural. The spring for art is often an urge to create for self release and it is essentially the product of one's meditated efforts to give shape to abstract ideas and dreams or to recreate real life experiences of joy/anger/disgust in a tangible form. Or an artist may wish to create works of arts for numerous other social occasions or festivities or for utilitarian or decorative purposes or for name or fame or wealth or to protest for personal or political reasons or to communicates or instruct or inform. What art does is to bring the subjective onto an objective plane inclusive of its intrinsic feelings and sensibility. The rasas that an art work exudes emanate from the magnificence, energy, sensitivity and vigor that go into its making while underlying external considerations add to appeal and zeal.

The history of artists and designers working together in teams across different disciplines can be traced back to the epic of Ramayana that was enacted in multi disciplinary performances stretched over days. Designers who enhance the utility, efficiency, look, appeal, functioning, and value of what they create or design- be it a decorative piece or usable object; are essentially artists working in varied media.

Vistaar team includes artist from Mumbai, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Paris and Delhi; Some senior and other younger-working together in a confluence to dismantle rigid disciplinary patterns and set their own cannons to give shape new idea s. Through a wide range of art deco creations they bring art, craft and design closer to contemporary life style and to each other an form that are attractive, seductive, playful clever and useful in a mix and match of symbols, media, shape, palette, textures and forms. They instill a re-defined appreciation and application of the traditional practices with high value additions and aesthetics to encompass the spiritual with earthy, simplicity with glamour, exclusivity with exclusivity to create arte-facts for living and for contemplation.

Unfolding VISTAAR

Placing the nexus back between the applied and fine arts, Vistaar brings the artist in designers and designer in artist out of their closets to works in collaborative milieu and create something different and unique that might exude all the 'six limbs' or characteristics as prescribed for art in classical Indian texts with a fresh perspective or pose a challenge to it by creating art that breaks set notions to stand apart. It is the surprise elements and the added bit in a collaborative work that makes it more than the sum total of each one's individual creativity. It is also this playfulness that uplifts the creative spirit to an eclectic level. The finesse and exquisite quality that the artists in the show have brought to their work exudes a sense of joy with a touch of class.

Looking at the incredible range of work specially created for Vistaar multimedia seems to be the name of the game where versatile contemporary artists spurred by spirit for innovation experiment with a whole lot of new ideas, materials and techniques with remarkable confidence and renewed appreciation for classical, folk and tribal arts of India. There is an assemblage of art, craft, design, product and new media in an extra-ordinary convergence of the elite and living arts of India. The diverse forms and types of art in the collection re-present the rich repertoire of traditions and skills in folk arts, newer forms and aesthetics for today's audience. A perfect formation and technical finesse floes through the smooth veins of the works adding to their sublime sensuousness, beauty and drama in a mesmerizing display of realism in an interface with their functionality immersed in magnificence and imagination. The freedom to play around with each others creativity allowed the artist to let their imagination blossom and create art in style and with luxury.

A Return to tradition By Gopika Nath

Is Art making about invention and innovation or is it reflective of a state of being? Is this collaboration between artists and designers contrived or is it the result of a natural evolution of our sense of aesthetics? Considering the implications of these questions one unravels the intention, behind artistic practices of nation in the history of humankind. In examining this legacy, we formulate and comprehend our sense of aesthetics in current practices, defining and re-defining its ideals of pursuit.

Working as a textile designer in India, has posed many challenges. One has had to complete with a vast but threatened heritage and complement it. One has had to nurture a creative impulse driven by global experience and exposure, but temper it with the constraints of indigenous production capabilities. In working with saree printers, I discovered that the more sophisticated the design, the greater the difficulty in implementation, not in terms of the complexity of form, but in replication of colour. It was not about skills. But they could not appreciate value of this painstaking labour when they saw the subtlety of the resultant design. In Kasmir, the chain stitch and crewel embroidery artisans found it tedious to embroider the rich tapestries to exact specifications. Habituated to doing loosely worked stitches in catering for cheap produce for price competitive export market, few cared for perfection. Straight lines were wavy and curves became geometric. In short, skill was either compromised or not compliant with their sensibilities and value thereof.

A designer does not work extraneous to cultural constraints and traditions. In the Indian context, these provide a certain inevitable direction, precisely because of the legacy we inherit. Creativity drives the instinct in the artist and designers. Working in underdeveloped environments, there is such vast disparity culturally, socially and intellectually between the conceptualizer and artisan or producer. This disparity compromises excellence and the artist/designer remains dissatisfied. In the present context, the designer and the artist work in tandem because the hitherto mentioned disparities do not exist. Their compatibility works to enhance the product and excellence gets a new lease of life.

Historically, the artist works in isolation, alienated from the world, anguished by its lack of understanding of his or her vision. Van Gogh's story is a horrific reminder of the kind of tragedy than emanates from this. Freud may have attributed the creative instinct as wish fulfilling of fantasies of an unhappy human being, "a correction of unsatisfying reality.either ambitious.or erotic ones", bit contemporary research and writing on creativity contradict this and attributes the legendary angst not to some demons than give impulse to the creative spirit but the ill-informed environment. "It was not their creativity that did it but an artist scene that promised much, gave few rewards, and left nine out of ten artists neglected if not ignored."

Today, the artist is not as alienated from his environment as he once was though he still works in relative isolation and his sense of aesthetics is not as much a part of everyday life, as he would perhaps like it to be. An artist is an idealist and a visionary. He does not wish to speak through his canvas or sculpture, to just a select few but the whole world. Reticence may have set in, owing to the evolving changes in the cultural and intellectual environment because of mechanization, digitalization and the booming capitalist economies around the world. The ruthlessness of the business world is to harsh for the subtle sensitivity of the idealist. He therefore prefers seclusion to confronting values that preclude his sense of ideals.

Designing is considered a glamorous profession, not because of the work designers do, (most will tell you how wretched it can be) but because of the scope of influence of there work and ideas. The utilitarian dimension of a designer's product makes it integral to daily living, while art is not, which has relatively esoteric value. This collaboration brings together the spirituality in art with the functionality of design. 'vistaar' (expansion) is therefore, defining a return to tradition. It gives greater utility to the artist' work and provides enhanced creativity to the designer, whose spirit lies buried under the dictates of trends and the daily regours of production. The collaboration thus 'expands' the scope and view of both the artist and designer.

In ancient Indian society, the potter and the weaver were the most respected member of a village community. The designer today, serves a similar purpose. However, the crafts person then was not divorced from the making of the product such as the designer/artist is today. A craftsperson embodied the duel role of conceptualizer and maker, with perhaps some guidance and suggestion from enlightened patrons. Handcrafting presents the concept of utility with a sense of aesthetics in its making and adornment. Devotion inherent in the traditional practice of handcrafting, where the craftsperson was required to become one with the spirit of his being to perform the ritual of his craft with competence. Thus, a spiritual temperament became synonymous with the creation of excellence in skill and diversity seen particularly in Indian textile.

Such indulgence is unthinkable today when in every dimension of craft/design we are competing with price lines and deadlines. A stronger currency rate means a dip in profitability and not adhering to deadlines means cancellation of orders. The world is our competitor, not just the weaver next door. The uncertainty presented by the expended notion of the world as a global village, provides larger scope and opportunities and business. However, the pace of work deters one from the kind of contemplation the ancients upheld as integral to any artistic practice. Contrarily, it should necessitates this precisely because the plethora of information now available is non-computable in linear ways of contemporary thought processing. Each learned analyst has a differing point of view, generating confusion. Such dilemmas can be resolved by cultivating one's intuitive ability and tap into the larger dimension of spirit, going beyond the limitations of cognitive of mind.

A civilization, imbues its accrual of vast and deepening experiences, imbues its people with a sense of aesthetics which becomes their 'style'. The India of today is not the great civilization she once was. A she is still too young to have developed a style and therefore is in the process of evolving her own sense of aesthetics. Mesmerized by the sleekness of modern design that glorifies the power of consumerism, and of mechanization and digital technologies, we do not realize that this is robbing us of a vital aesthetics and spiritual quotient. In making us accessible to each other, dependent upon 'things' and machines for daily living, we distort the balance of our mind, body and spirit, narrowing the scope for sustainable fulfillment.

We live in an age that defies the dictates of time. Technological advancements have made us, if not virtually incompetent to. Then certainly reluctant to work with our hands, if we can help it. This reflects upon our attitude and frames it perception of the culture of handcrafting that has been an inextricable part of this nation's heritage, exemplified by the fact that craftspeople do not get much value for their contribution in making of any product. This erosion of values has huge implications for the survival of the practices of handcrafting as a cohesive living movement. This in turn has greater socioeconomic implications as well as cultural ones.

The history of ancient Indian art provides ample evidence of the merit of the philosophies that governed its artistic practices. But time has eroded the relevance of this wisdom. Art in ancient India was not profession or an activity divorced from other spheres of living. It was a way of life that nourished the man "corpus anima et spiritus". There is contemplation in a physical dimension, where "the culture of thinking requires a culture of hand as a subtle, sensitive organ. If the hand can open up, if it doesn't just work, but play as well, if it perceives, then the mind will open up more freely as well. The hand's plasticity is the plasticity of thought; the concept is what is conceived. "This Affirms the sagacity of artistic practices ancient times, clarifying the concept of human devotion towards and for the ultimate power of being, where the physical dimension augments and compliments the process of mental contemplation. In my own personal experience, of working with the hands, as an artist/craftswoman, I have noted, that beyond providing opportunity for excellence in creativity, it also allows time, space and dignity of pace, to come to terms with being human and all that it entails including the capacity to retain some emotional balance in an otherwise frenetically paced world, as well as finding purpose and enjoyment in the chaos of existence.

It is the concept which marries action with contemplation that takes one back to ancient times, for then, aesthetics was much more than just pertaining to the creating and/or presenting an object with a visual sense of appeal. It was intrinsic to the very act of creativity and by extension, to living itself.

Today the craft people, who represent the creators of our inherited artistic wealth, are almost completely alienated from the creative realm, relegated as mere skilled labour. They are largely uneducated and the global village concept, with its relatively alien life-style choices and vast, non-computable information thwarts their creativity more than it provides them with enhanced business opportunities. This effect their self-esteem, their livelihood and therefore the nation's aspiration for creative excellence. Skill alone cannot manifest excellence and creative concepts cannot be physically manifest without the skill in production. We need excellence in both spheres, which requires having a vision or the passion and do not share the sensibility. The hard reality is that for them bread itself is tough to come by. There can be no room in a brutally sparse existence for the subtle nuances of creative sensibilities, the passion to envision ideals or live out another's The present collaboration between artist and designer as conceptualizer and producer, direct us towards a re-defined return to traditional practices that imbued life with a sense of aesthetics which encompassed the spiritual with its physicality of being, creating artifacts used for living and contemplation.

I evolved from being a designer, to craftsperson and artist, through the passage of my experience in the professional domain. It is with pride that I acknowledge the amalgamation of artist-crafts person-designer in my work, for it places me within the context of tradition, in a contemporary world. It incorporates a vision that seeks to preserve the practice of handcrafting, imbuing it with creative excellence and skill, redefining tradition. Re-turning towards because the culture of 'crafting' bring info being a sense of aesthetics that promises wholeness to an otherwise fragmented state of being. However, it is only when enough creative people get motivated and confront the challenge of reconciling traditional practices with modern concepts of thinking that an evolution of culture will emerge. Towards this, the present exposition presents myriad possibilities that return us to traditional ways of being, seeing and living that have left an enviable legacy we all take great pride in being a part of, where "an artist was not a special kind of person, but everyman a special kind of artist otherwise less a man.

Anthony storr,
The dynamics of Creation, penguin,1972
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, creativity, harper Perennial 1997
Ananda K Coomaraswamy