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Living Walls

A wall instead of a canvas

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... that’s what a gallery offered to artists to create a subject of their choice

Step into the Art Alive gallery and its interiors seem to come alive "with whatever was uppermost in the minds" of 15 artists who had gathered to be part of Living Walls. "The idea was to give these artists a free rein on a different kind of canvas - one wall, to be precise - in whatever medium they chose, " says Art Alive's Sunaina Anand.

Spread over a period of four days, the project has turned the gallery into a huge installation with each work telling a story all its own. As Paresh Maity's huge profiles seem to be conversing with each other, Mithu Sen's wall, devoid of any colour, is a silent tribute to "all those talented artists who go unnoticed, unsung, forced to remain in the background". Chipping away alphabets to create words like 'Unwanted, Undesired, Unwelcome...' Sen hopes to sensitise people towards their trauma, humiliation and pain while the more fortunate ones get feted by society. "Who are we to judge them? Why can't we feel their love and passion for art too?" she seems to ask.

As Jaganath Panda creates a 'web' of ink and pencil strokes, nail and thread work and Chintan Upadhyay gives deft strokes to his floor painting, Manjunath Kamath prefers working on small flowerpots that seem to be placed on a mantelpiece.

After a gap of almost 50 years, veteran artist Krishen Khanna has worked with Sumi paper. Painstakingly sticking each piece on the wall, Khanna's design in ink looks, to some, like the figure of a bird, to others, a plane....

Standing on a scaffolding to create two figures - a crouching, "predatorial" - stance of a man on one wall and a floating, Orphelia-like figure on the other, Subba Ghosh looks happy at the appreciation he's garnering. "People are enjoying seeing us at work. For us too, it's been a new and enjoyable experience - creating art on a surface that's far removed from the one we're used to, " he says.

In the gallery below, GR Iranna, has finished his artwork of a felled tree being 'revived' with electricity. "It's ironical - we first bring down jungles in the name of development, and then go out looking for natural beauty, " says Iranna who was thrilled when Krishen Khanna asked him to recreate the same tree on a wall of his new Gurgaon home.

Putting finishing touches to a figure of Jesus with his followers in a boat, Madhvi Parekh says, "Ever since I went to Israel some years ago, he's been there in most of my work. " She recalls her visit to the holocaust museum. "Shaken to the core by the atrocities suffered by the Jews, as I stepped out, I came across a beautiful statue of Jesus that had a tremendous, calming effect on me. "

At the far end of the hall, as her husband Manu Parekh puts his signature on the "different figures of fertility", Sharmi Chowdhury is quietly working on her "salute to single mothers". Her work in Korea where she met a number of such strong women (" they have their counterparts here too" ) who, despite severe opposition, go ahead with their decision to give birth and look after their child all alone, have been the inspiration for Chowdhury.

Splashes of colour in the section created by Jayasri Burman arrest your attention as you soak in the happy, festive spirit inspired by the small shops that spring up outside temples. Completing the Living Walls experiment is the Bhopal-based Gond artist Ram Singh Urveti. He has created a folk legend based on a story of five Gond kings created out of the body of Lord Shiva. "Working on walls is not new for me. I've done something similar, though on a much larger scale, for the Worldmasala in London but that was over a period of 50 days, " he says, and then pointing to his mural adds, "Though four days is too short a time, I've said what I wanted to say here. "

Living Walls will be on view at the Art Alive Gallery, Gurgaon, till February 28

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