By Vinay Seth
Since 2016, Abir has been annually inviting artwork entries from emerging artists from all over India, whereafter the entrants are shortlisted for displaying their works in a group show. From these shortlisted exhibition finalists, the top few — 10 this year — are selected for the First Take award, carrying an honorarium.
First Take 2022 opened its gate for entries on 23rd May, and closed the submission round on 14th July. Abir was overwhelmed by the positive response, with around a 1000 entrants participating from over 300 cities across the country. The entries needed to be shortlisted for the exhibition though, and Abir was delighted to get on board esteemed personalities from the world of Indian Contemporary Art for the jury. This team of five comprises the notable artists V. Ramesh, G.R. Iranna, Manjunath Kamath, and Manisha Parekh, and the art historian Jayaram Poduval.
The jury was invited for the shortlisting round to the office of Abir group’s art magazine, Abir Pothi, in New Delhi, on the 21st and 22nd of August. We were pleased to host them, and felt grateful to them for having sacrificed their Sunday — 21st August — for the sake of contributing to the future of India’s budding artists. One of the esteemed jury members, V. Ramesh — who lives and works in Visakhapatnam — came all the way from Chennai just to tend to the jury selection, and headed back in the evening of 22nd immediately after the duty was done. Jayaram Poduval, got stuck with some commitments though, and unfortunately couldn’t attend the event in person. He made up for his physical absence, however, by going through the entries by himself, and sending us the pen drive containing his verdict.
This first stage entailed shortlisting from hundreds of entries. The round was opened on Sunday the 21st, with Abir founder, Ruby Jagrut — an artist herself — briefing the jury over a video call on a laptop. After exchanging warm greetings and a note of thanks, the team wasted no time in getting to work. The task was carried out expediently by the jury with the aid of our sub-editor Rajesh projecting soft copies onto a projection screen, from our office computer. The team did an excellent job of shortening down to over hundred entries for the final display. The artworks sent varied in mediums, ranging from painting to sculpture, from oil on canvas to mixed media, and from bronze to terracotta.
During the process, Manisha Parekh emphasised that even though the jury members held their own distinct views about each entry, it was important for them to peacefully come to a consensus. For this reason, the four worked in tandem, going to the lengths of holding a separate round just to finalise on those contestants for whom everyone wasn’t on the same page during the first viewing. They took great pains to ensure that the process was fair, and that as many deserving candidates got shortlisted as possible. The four eminent artists were very giving of their time. G. R. Iranna, in fact, had to get his measurements done on Monday for an art-cum-fashion show he was to soon model for. He got that preponed to early Monday morning, so that he could attend the jury process on time.
Our team managed to shoot V. Ramesh and G.R. Iranna on camera, recording their reflections over the two days gone by. Iranna was highly appreciative of Abir’s founder Ruby Jagrut, as he felt that artists are otherwise generally a bit lazy to connect other people in the field. He expressed that he felt it his responsibility to encourage initiatives like Abir and First Take, so as to serve as a helping hand to the next generation of budding talent in the country. V. Ramesh stated that he had heard about this event from his artist-friends, and had been looking forward to contributing. Both expressed their slight disappointment though, over the deterioration of art education in the country, reflective in some of the entries sent. We in the Abir group hope to remediate this issue, by doing our best to support emerging voices of contemporary art in India.
We are looking forward to the jury assembling again in the coming months, for the selection of 10 entries to be given the First Take award. Stay tuned to Abir Pothi for the next First Take update!
In case you submitted your work for First Take 2022, you can check whether you were selected, on Abir’s Instagram post.