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S G Vasudev is an interdisciplinary artist – an artist whose works are deeply influenced by other arts – music, dance, poetry, weaving, mythology and more. The release of the artist’s coffee table book “Vriksha – The art and times of SG Vasudev,” held on 20 July 2013, couldn’t have been better timed. The garden city is also playing host to a month-long exhibition of paintings of one of the country’s greatest interdisciplinary artists – Rabindranath Tagore.
The austere occasion started with the launch of Vasudev’s book by the high priestess of theatre in Bangalore, Arundhati Nag. On the occasion, she spoke of the significance the book with its wealth of paintings would hold for the fraternity of junior artists in the city and other parts of the country. Paintings by established artists like Vasudev make their way to private spaces (read as homes of art connoisseurs) and a very fortunate few actually get to see them. But the collection of paintings in the book would reach to everyone in the public domain. By sharing his life’s journey, Vasudev has given a chance to young artists to take a page from his celebrated journey as an artist.
The artist speaks
A talk by the artist and a reading from the book offered more insight to the artist’s work.
Vasudev is as much a poet as an artist and he is deeply influenced by music. “I need music when I paint,” he admitted. Some of his paintings have relationship with music. Vasudev compared the process of painting to Bhimsen Joshi singing. He also said, “Though my paintings look simple, a lot of thinking has gone into them like the making of a temple gopura.”
Great literary works like the Ramayana and Mahabharata give ideas to hundreds of paintings. A lot many of Vasudev’s paintings have been inspired by Kannada poems and have made their way to the covers of poetry books by doyens of Kannada literature like A K Ramanujan.
The reading was followed by a screening of excerpts from a documentary on Vasudev which brought to light Vasudev’s contemporary way of looking at his art, his style of working, his interaction with craftsmen and more.
The king who yearned to learn sculpting
The evening ended with a panel discussion on “Artistic Connections” which reiterated the need for the confluence of arts. Citing an example from a fable of a king who yearned to learn how to sculpt, author and musician Vikram Sampath spoke of the existence of cultural confluence in the days of yore. The king in question went to a sage and asked him to teach him the art of sculpting. The sage told him that he needed to master painting first. When the king went to a painter he was asked to learn dancing. The dancer sent him to a musician and so on.
Vikram Sampath added that interconnection of art forms is very intrinsic to the Indian way of life. He drew an analogy to painting and development of ragas.
He also cited the example of violin maestro Lalgudi Jayaraman who he said was a fan of pop king Michael Jackson.
Author Arshia Sattar spoke of the need of cultural confluence in art spaces. Citing the example of National Gallery of Modern Art, she said spaces should not be reserved exclusively for particular segments like painting, theatre, dance etc., instead they should allow all kinds of creative pursuits.
Art historian Pramila Lochan spoke on how necessary confluence of art is in the growth of an artiste. Artistes need to learn other art forms too. She cited the example of sitar maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar who was also a dancer which made it much easier for him to choreograph dance ballets.
No coordination among departments
Like Arshia Sattar, artist Ravi Kumar Kashi lamented on how cultural centres like Kannada Bhavana in Bangalore and Rabindra Bhavan in Delhi had a multitude of departments but these departments never interacted. Confluence of arts is totally missing in these and many other cultural organizations in the country, he remarked.
Dancer Madhu Nataraj an exemplary Kathak and contemporary dancer said her signature style is collaboration and she does not believe dance exists in isolation. Most of her learning was by cultural osmosis. Her parents’ marriage was an artistic collaboration. She asserted that cross-fertilization of arts is the need of the hour.
In contrast to what Arshia Sattar and Ravi Kumar Kashi said, Arundhati Nag said that the absolute dearth of dedicated space for theatre sowed the seeds for Ranga Shankara. Speaking on behalf of the theatre fraternity, she said audiences should be more open to changes in play timings. Staging a play at unconventional timings like say on a full moon night is on the anvil. She said theatre still has a long way to go in terms of design, costumes, and more.
Vikram Sampath then went on to cite the example of Karnataka as a classic example of the confluence of arts. The state is a melting point of music, being the home of Hindusthani Classical and Carnatic music and four prominent Gharanas of music.
He was full of praise for SPIC MACAY (Society for the Promotion of Indian Classical Music and Culture Amongst Youth) for promoting all kinds of art forms in colleges and schools and called it a highway to exposure to arts.