Artists dabbling with non-traditional art rue the lack of audience and patronage in Hyderabad and say they prefer to showcase their work elsewhere

Delegates who stepped into Kalakriti Art Gallery during the Hyderabad Literary Festival 2014 were pleasantly surprised to find interactive digital exhibits featuring the work of Nobel Prize winning writer Albert Camus. Put together by Institut Français in Paris, this was a series of posters with instructions that invited smart phone users to install the Albert Camus app, scan QR codes and access documents and videos pertaining to the writer’s work.

The curiosity was understandable, given that Hyderabad rarely gets to witness interactive, new-media exhibits. Also noteworthy was the interactive multimedia installation French artist Beatrice de Fays brought to the city last year. Hyderabad’s art patrons are largely cued into traditional paintings and sculpture; new media struggles to get a toehold in the art canvas. Similar is the case with non-utilitarian ceramics, printmaking and woodcuts.

Soghra Khurasani may sound blunt when she says she’d choose to live in Baroda over Hyderabad but a deeper look at her work and it’s easier to understand why. The Visakhapatnam-born artist did her masters in print making in Baroda. Two of her woodcut works — Garland Tribute and Lost in Valley — were displayed as part of group exhibitions in the city. The process of woodcut and paper etching is laborious, she explains: “The wood is cut by hand and etching is done with acids. The colours involve working with kerosene and inks. Each work takes two months,” she says.

Experimental art, says Soghra, is possible when there’s financial backing. “Hyderabad doesn’t have art studios that provide artists with facilities,” she says. Her significant work ‘The red room,’ a cloth-thread-mesh installation with video, was the outcome of residency programme in Delhi. The installation was her reaction to Gujarat riots. Now working on her new project ‘I want to live’ as a tribute to the 23-year-old Delhi victim of sexual assault, Soghra says she doesn’t work with her eyes set on commercial viability.

Installations are reactions to happenings in society and are born out of art projects, points out artist and Daira gallery owner Atiya. “Once the installation has run through its exhibition period, it’s uninstalled. There have been cases of galleries elsewhere buying installations. Hyderabad is yet to warm up to such concepts. Galleries are struggling to cultivate an audience for art,” she says.

The lack of audience and hence appreciation is a deterrent, agrees Tirumala Tirupati. A few of his recent works were reverse etchings on acrylic sheets. The tedious effort, he feels, went unnoticed. “I find Bangalore more receptive to experimental art,” he says. Tirumala is now working on colour etchings. “I felt certain rural scenes would look good in reverse, enabling a new play of light,” says the artist who is also toying with the idea of a public art installation but hasn’t made headway with sponsorship.

The response to ceramic art, in recent times, is a tad better. Vinod Daroz’s exhibition in 2013 and the ongoing exhibition of Usha Garodia at Kalakriti are cases in point.

City-based ceramic artist Aarti Vir feels Hyderabad has plenty of catching up to do. She started off making utilitarian pottery and in a few years, grew tired of it. “There were only so many cups and mugs I could fire,” she says. As her interest veered towards non-utilitarian ceramics, she understood Hyderabad’s limitations. Aarti has had more exhibitions in Japan, Australia, United States, New Delhi and Mumbai than Hyderabad. “Strangely, despite the logistics of transporting ceramics, I find it rewarding to take my work abroad,” she says.

Atiya sums up stating that more participation in workshops will help the audience understand art better. “This will not happen overnight,” she says.