He is a painter, sculptor, philosopher and organiser. Born in 1961 in Mangalore, Sudarshan Shetty is a man to reckon with in the art circle across the world. Curator of Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2016, he is a well-known name and recipient of the 2017 Artist of the Year Award by India Today.
A fellow of Kanoria Centre of Arts, he is also a visiting faculty at National Institute of Design (NID), Ahmedabad. A recipient of Charles Wallace India Award to work at the Art Space, Bristol in 1999, he completed his BFA in Painting from JJ School of Art, Mumbai, in 1985.
Recently, the artist was in the City of Temples, Bhubaneswar, as a part of his pre-event visit for the Bhubaneswar Art Trail – 2018, which is scheduled to be opened for public from November 20 to December 20. Besides having several visits to the 1.3 km trail, which starts from Mukteswar Temple and ends on the banks of Bindusagar Lake near the beautiful Emar Math, he threw some light on his art, vision and how people connect to art in a brief conversation with Bibhuti Barik. Excerpts:
Welcome to the City of Temples. We hope this visit could provide you the needed insight and exposure with regards to BAT-2018.
Thank you. I love the way the Old Town of Bhubaneswar is spread. The old monuments and the greenery across the city are all a powerful combination and I am looking forward to a nice experience at BAT. I have done several rounds of surveys and seen some materials to be used in my work. As I have to come here again by the second week of October, I send across the sketches/drawings first.
Is this your first visit to Bhubaneswar?
No, I visited this city two years back. In fact, I stayed here for some time on my way to watch a cricket match at Barabati Stadium in Cuttack. But this time the encounter with the Odisha capital was a closer one and during the art installation the stay would be more meaningful.
The brief bio of yours says that you had a transition from a painter to a sculptor, perhaps after your Scottish Sculptor Workshop, under Mobil Visual Art Project in 1996. What would you say about the transformation?
Putting up something for a show or doing a sculpture is a form of expression. The creator inside an artist tries to justify the `role’ of the person in the society and how he/she see things and this functional `social role’ is very important. In the process of doing something meaningless, meaningful concepts just emerge and at times the artist steps back to his/her childhood and the subconscious creates the work. However, the intensity of thought of the artist is very important as from these intense involvements and by reaching a certain level, he/she creates beautiful pieces. I would always summarize this with a Kabir doha ‘Lagan bin jaage naa nirmohi’ which means `the unattached one will not awaken if you have no devotion. Love without feeling is indeed like washing oneself with dew-drops’.
You are known for your success in Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2016. Say something about that experience.
Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2016 was perhaps the biggest art movement in India and perhaps one of the biggest in the world after the oldest one from Venice, which is also the oldest with 150 years of history behind it. The event was popular as the entire region, the state of Kerala, and all the people were participating in it. Even common vendor selling eatables, rickshaws bringing visitors with free rides and the fishing community near the seaside were a part of the event. We hope that the BAT-2018 would have that type of response here.
We have so many heritage structures and cultural traditions around, but now-a-days people and especially students are not fascinated by it, even art students are not showing any interest in the traditional aspects, any comment?
The resultant is due to the western canon and colonisation of the education system in India. As the institutions are more concerned on creating literates and not knowledge-based individuals, the policy ideas in education are still that of the old school of thoughts. We have to emerge out and try to know, understand and cultivate our culture. More and more school students should be made aware of the art, heritage and architecture so that our own elements would emerge in the minds to ignite. The same is good for the art schools and institutions as well. For example, children find Indian Classical music very boring but with age and understanding of the subjects people try to love, indulge and immerse in the ocean of the musical journey.
After listening to your example on Classical Indian Music, now let’s have an understanding about art from you. Do you think that common people can actually understand or just connect to art? What’s your take on this?
Art as a whole is not a simpler linear understanding or as perceived, any scribbling by an artist would also not become an art. Understanding art is a two-way process and people have to do some thinking and intellectual legwork to connect to the art. On the other hand, artists should have a point of mediation like guides to make people understand the meaning and value of their art. In other countries, they have free hours in galleries or museums when students can have free entry and the guides would explain them about the art work. This in long term helps kids to love, understand and pursue a career in art and related disciplines.
What is your message to budding artists and art lovers?
Popularization of art would be possible only if we have more events like BAT-2018 and through this we can have more artist-public connect in the society. Through expert or professional guidance, we can help people understand art and vice versa.