Abirpothi

India’s only daily art newspaper

A throwback to our most-read profiles (Part 2) #ArtWorld2021 #YearEnder2021

Bringing to you our year-end series where we rewind to some of our most-read and most-viewed stories! In this article, we get you the excerpts of the profiles of Brinda Miller, Seema Kohli, Amit Ambalal, Jagannath Panda, and Veer Munshi 

Brinda Miller

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Twenty years after it first began, one of the most well-known annual celebrations of art in the country went wholly online this time round, in February 2021. The Kala Ghoda Arts Festival (KGAF) of Mumbai managed to embrace the unforgiving digital transition amid the ongoing pandemic, and took what is traditionally a vibrant ‘mela’ of attendance and translated it into a buzzing online variation. So is this how things are going to be permanently now with the famous event?

When asked, honorary chairperson of the Kala Ghoda Association and a well-known artist herself, Brinda Miller, says, “While I do prefer the real-life version, there is bound to be a digital path ahead. It will be a combination, I think. These days, everything is hybrid anyway, and it will slowly come to that, even when Covid-19 goes away. People will still be talking about some aspects online, and some on-site. It is more because you start getting used to a certain way of doing things and can’t let go of it. That is one reason — the second is that this will let you try and take the best of both worlds. There are some plus points. Earlier, we had some people coming late to the festival saying they got stuck in traffic, now they may not be able to — but now there will be others who say they could not attend because their internet was not working! [Laughs] But yes, one can say this is better because at least someone in America or London can see our festival if they want to. That is one huge advantage of digital. And yet, the fun is in actually being with people. That is the one thing I miss, meeting people this way.”

Catch the entire profile here

Seema Kohli

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Epic, magical, mesmerizing, surreal and infinitely intricate art that celebrates the feminine — this just about embodies the vast multi-disciplinary oeuvre of Delhi-based artist Seema Kohli, who has meticulously presented a stunning range of creative expression to the world for over three decades.

But when one marvels to Kohli that her work is fascinatingly complex, she simply says, “So is life!”

Born in 1960, Kohli has always considered herself an artist, she professes. She was painting right from her childhood. “It is what I express myself best in, and I feel it is easier for me to relate to people with my images. Even when I was very young, I have always been interested in stories, which continues to be the basis of all my work. One is either telling a story or listening to one and depicting it. Growing up in Delhi, I belong to a spiritually inclined family — both my parents, my grandfather… we were not religious per se, but believed in the Advaita philosophy, with the Hindu way of life. We did not have idols in the house, but there was always conversation, an inquiry on different faiths, cultures and traditions. We would talk and discuss a lot of different things — even as a child on the dining table, we had questions of god and atheism and all these queries that would be asked and responded to! It was a wonderful childhood.”

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Amit Ambalal

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With the pandemic raging all around us, we need to redraw the lines of our lives and figure out how we can continue doing art. Amidst the mayhem, artists have to find a way to document the history around us. So, it was only natural for us to reach out to veteran artist Amit Ambalal for inspiration, as he keeps working every day. He lives his life through his art and finds a way of coping with the pressures around him.

We asked him how the pandemic and the lockdown affected him and he appeared to have a Zen method of looking at it. “Actually, in one sense I am not unhappy. Of course, I am worried a lot because of all the bad news that is coming in. But I am okay remaining in the house. It does not disturb me at all. I am totally relaxed in the sense I am able to paint daily. I enjoy my painting.  The only thing that I cannot do is that when I decide I don’t want to do paint today and I want to go visit a museum, I cannot do. So, that way I only enjoy my work in the quiet of my studio,” he says.

He follows his routine religiously and conducts his work like he generally does. “Daily I go to the studio at around 9.30 am to work, and if the work has begun nicely, in a way I like, then I want to finish that and I am in the studio again in the afternoon. Then, maybe afterwards, I sit in the garden and watch the birds. It’s a very satisfying time for me in that way,” he adds.

Read the entire profile here

Jagannath Panda

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The rustic charm of Jagannath Panda is undeniable. Even more so his deeper understanding of the artistic process. The first thing that comes to my mind as I go through his birds, a series of paintings that he has made, is the mysterious allure of these works. But since my job today is to talk to him about the disruption in art, I head straight to the question. What does Jagannath Panda think of disruption? “Disruption can be seen in many ways. It can be both positive or negative,” he says.

In order to understand what he means by disruption, we have to go back to his early days, a young boy who dabbled in the arts more seriously than others. “My journey from Bhubaneshwar to M S University, then to Delhi, and then to other countries, were filled with a lot of interesting experiences. I think disruption helped me understand myself and the existential space I occupied.  Disruption in your art practice can always help you understand that you need to be active and understand the times you live in. That brings you a lot more enthusiasm and that enthusiasm can sustain your creative energy,” he says.

He believes that true disruption has a positive effect on every artist. “Each individual when they move and explore, there is a sense of curiosity and quest. The understanding they come to and as well as the confusion around them because of this, the frustration and the celebration, happens in a psychological space. Hence, it can open many doors,” he says.

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Veer Munshi

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There are enough instances in the history of the human race that shows that conflict mothers great ideas, events and art. The thinking human being always looks for an anchor when they find themselves in circumstances inundated by dark waters of violence. Artist Veer Munshi’s story seems to mirror this historical precedent with great fidelity.

Before we begin, one needs to define the versatility of Veer Munshi. He is not just a visual artist, but also an accomplished curator and an agent provocateur. His art, more often than not, is political and gives voice to the minority, their hopes and dreams that seem to blur out in the din of populist politics and viewpoints. With that in perspective, let’s take you through a journey of Veer’s album of memories, right from the time when Kashmir, his original home, was peaceful and beauty its default setting.

Due to the restrictions of the pandemic, this writer met with Veer over a telephone call. The languid drawl of his measured tone did not give away the turmoil of exile that informs his artistic practice. In fact, the very first question was met with a chuckle:

Writer: “What is your earliest memory?”

Veer: “My earliest memory is of my mother’s womb.”

With this starting point, it was clear that one would have to be incisive while conversing with this keeper of a people’s conscience, the excavator of the complexities of exile.

Read more here