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Art, The pandemic\’s survival toolkit – Part 2

In the second part of our discourse about art during the, we meet two artists who tell you what art during a lock meant to them, the Pothi team reports

The thing about creativity is that it tends to happen when there is some kind of strife or tension in the world. However, it is not necessary that inner strife makes for better art. In fact, many artists do better when their everyday lives are in balance. What we are talking about here is external conflicts like war, pandemic, political unrest and so on.

Some of the best poems were written in Latin America by poets who lived in the midst of bloodshed and political violence. Pablo Neruda was in the thicket of Chilean political upheavals, and the rise of Pinochet deeply disturbed him. In fact, about five years back Chile admitted that the Nobel Prize-winning poet was probably murdered by the Pinochet regime, and did not die of cancer. This incident is a substantial proof of the fact that art impacts the world far more deeply than we give it credit.

The lockdown probably has been the most influential event in contemporary history. As we said yesterday, the curbing of personal and social liberty, the helplessness due to a lack of a vaccine and the immense contagiousness of the novel COVID-19 virus drove many artists in all firmaments to express how they felt. The isolation created that requisite space for meditation and deeper thinking, and it resulted in some very poignant pieces of art.

Why not hear what the pandemic did from the horse’s mouth? Here is what two working artsist have to say about the lockdown and the subsequent influence of it on their practice:

Keep rebooting, never get stagnant

When the Covid-19 pandemic struck, a few artists like 31-year-old Ishan Kshirsagar had one thing on their side — they were used to constantly challenging their art practice and reinventing themselves anyway.


The young Pune-based creator, who has been freelancing as an artist for the last seven or eight years now, has a prolific list of artistic pursuits to his name — branding, designing, packaging, painting, interior design, antique refurbishment craft, wall murals, exhibitions, art heritage walks, children’s workshops and more. But despite him being an experimentative artist, the viral outbreak was not devoid of impact for him. “Suddenly, many artists were out of work, as were people in other sectors. Moreover, at least initially, everyone was conserving their buying power amid all the uncertainty,” shares Ishan.


“At this point, I had already decided long ago to never limit myself to a particular canvas that could get stagnant or frustrating. I always believe in broadening my perception of how to maneuver around art. And so, I decided to reach out to people, instead of waiting for them to come to me. I reduced the size of my paintings and began focusing on palm-sized watercolors, making at least one every single day. These were sold at throwaway prices that could be affordable to all, and in this process, I began creating something sustainable and consistent. At the same time, the pandemic brought an opportunity for people from all walks of life to go inwards a little bit and think about the spaces they are in, and why a little art could be essential to these places. In a way, it was a golden mean of sorts for art.”

Any lockdown trends he thinks will carry on? “One thing many people realized when they were cloistered at home was that they usually splurged a lot of money on retail therapy and unplanned buying in sales or online — which they didn’t always need to. People began to think a little about how and where they are spending. At the end of the day, art is viewed as a luxury. With more reluctant spending, art needs to step out of its gilded cage and connect with the masses about its essence in their lives. Artists should represent their art so that people want to come and buy it. If art spaces have shut down, community centres and cafes have welcomed art. We can always find new ways to collaborate as artists. All we need to do is be ready to reboot and never underestimate change,” says Ishan.

The challenge lies in teaching art online


In a way, Covid-19 was a great leveler of sorts. From young artists to established ones, they all found themselves caged in the lockdown, with uncertainty looming ahead. This was also the case with senior Pune-based artist Bharati Pitre, whose only saving grace, she shares, was the birth of her little granddaughter during the pandemic. While a few months of time were taken up by caring for the infant, soon the artist — who began her journey with art in 1998 and has since featured paintings, papier-mâché sculptures, installations and more at Kala Ghoda, Jehangir Art Gallery and the Kochi Biennale — felt the pull of artistic inspiration again. “Many artists were forced out of their cocoon at this point during the outbreak. I have been lucky to have some business experience in my career that has always helped me to put my art forth. But for others, this was the first time they had to sell their own work and stand up for themselves, amidst great economic doubt. Others started writing about their work and sole breadwinners realised they cannot hide away any longer. Best of all, many got some peaceful time to create art,” says Bharati.

Referring to the shifting post-Covid paradigm to the digital world, even in the sphere of art, she says, “There are also more tools at the disposal of artists. Virtual art galleries, for instance, can revolutionise access. However, one setback that has to be overcome there is the experiential aspect of buying art — it is less easy to buy it on an impulse if one cannot experience all its dimensions. But where there is a challenge, there is a way out!”


At the helm of the Devrukh-origin collective Olee Maatee (which makes creative lifestyle products of terracotta/ceramic, bamboo and papier-mâché for charitable causes), Bharati also weighed in on another challenge, adding, “Teaching art is also something that cannot be done solely online, in my view as a teacher. One needs the human touch to teach art, and it is also important for students to observe their peers and absorb from their styles and mistakes. This is a big gap that needs more discussion.”

As you can see from what these artists are saying, the fact is a new normal has arrived and it can be negotiated with a new mindset. The old must slowly give way to the new and we must embrace newer ways of thinking about art.