When they touch clay, clay touches them

By Sukant Deepak

New Delhi, Oct 16 : Smiles seldom leave their lips as they pose with the art work for photographers. After all, it is a big day for the four teenagers whose original pottery work is being exhibited at Alliance Francaise, as part of the second edition of ‘Shape-2019, an initiative by artist Probir Gupta, showcasing a module on how to help and train the underprivileged towards sustainability.

Originally from Kolkata, Delhi-based Gupta, who graduated from the Government College of Arts and Crafts before proceeding to study at Ã?cole National Superiere de Beaux-arts in France, and is known for bringing forth narratives of political struggle and contemporary social realities in his work, insists that his NGO ‘Muktangan’, which he launched in 2004 not only aims to bring the students in the mainstream, but also help them get over trauma and hurt. In fact, one of the students who suffers from autism has shown remarkable progress in a short time.

“Art as therapy has been widely acknowledged across the world. I want these youngsters to stick around for three-four years so that they can be equipped to crack entrance tests of any major art school in the country,” he said.

For someone who has been actively taking art appreciation classes for school children for years now, initiating children into the arts at an early age assumes much importance.

“And that doesn’t mean that we need to do that with the aim of making all of them artists. Art teaches us to ‘see’, observe and acknowledge different perspectives. Sadly, many schools have done away with art classes altogether. I am not propagating classroom teaching of art, but in fact a scenario where children are taken out of the cube and encouraged to find subjects that interest them. Not just fine arts, they need to be exposed to different art forms including theatre, music and cinema too.”

One of the few contemporary artists, who does not mind talking about his politics, Gupta, who grew up in Kolkata during the peak of Naxalite movement, when most dreams carried the essence of colour red, elaborates, “It was also the time of the Bangladesh war, something that taught us social activism – we were writing songs, taking out processions and studying. The social and political climate became instrumental in shaping my worldview and therefore art. And that is why I believe that my work has to have a strong social context else it would be superficial.”

With participation in major art festivals around the world including the 4th St. Petersburg International Biennale of Contemporary Art (1999), International Art Festival in Perth (2000) and the last Kochi-Muziris Biennale, the artist feels that India definitely needs more art festivals including smaller ones in Tier II and Tier III cities. “The same would ensure that people across geographical boundaries and cultures are exposed to varied thought processes,” he concluded.

‘Shape-2019’ will conclude on October 18.

(Sukant Deepak can be contacted at sukant.deepak@gmail.com)


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