While more youngsters are taking up art full-time, basic issues like awareness and prejudices still need to be addressed.
As kids we are encouraged to draw, colour, and make clay models and even using the walls of our homes as canvas is not objected to. As adults, pursuing these very activities that we were taught to see as fun and creativity-building, as a full-time profession may not be encouraged with the same enthusiasm citing viability and job security. But these are just myths, say youngsters who have chosen to give in to their passion for art, rather than relegate it to the “hobby” category.
Making a choice
Says 25-year-old Abraham George, “Some people think you are a bum, some have a simplistic, romantic idea of art and I guess some people do get what you are doing.” While pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Visual Communication at Loyola College, he spent a year studying fine art at The Julius Macwan Institute in the city. “This brief stint made me realise that I wanted to pursue art seriously,” says the artist working for Ashvita Gallery in Chennai, dividing time between art and learning Kalaripayattu.
He lists some more myths about his chosen field: All artists are or must be eccentric and that every work of art is either intellectual or has to have some commentary – not true!
Circumstances were at play to get Ranjith Krishnan, 29, shift track from being an animation industry professional to a full-time artist. Irregular pays and encouraging feedback from friends regarding his digital paintings prompted Ranjith to take the plunge into the unsure waters of art. “In my previous job, sometimes I wouldn’t get paid for two to three month at a stretch. And I decided that was it! Now as a digital artist and photographer I am more at peace and free too focus on what I really want to do,” says the artists who works not with paint and canvas but with pixels and Photoshop.
The going has been good so far with friends spreading the word about his works, getting work commission, shows and making quite a few sales, so there is no scope for regret at having walked off the “conventional” career path.
Yes, more galleries are opening up and more youngsters are given a space to showcase within their walls and the art market is slowly but surely showing an upward graph. Yet, these trends being in the nascent stage, the artists don’t have it easy as yet. “It is easy to say that I am a full time artist but it’s all about how long you sustain yourself as being one, really matters!” points out Chennai lad R. Magesh, 25, a gold medallist post-graduate student from the M.S.University, Baroda.
He goes on to explain, “Because being a fulltime artist isn’t like doing some other regular job where you get paid on a monthly basis or it isn’t some kind of a business where you do (invest) something and you expect some (monetary) gain out of it. Here it doesn’t work that way. To be an artist is nothing but to surrender yourself fully to the profession. Sometimes you may spend more than a year on a single work and it may even end up as a complete failure. So we have to be ready to face such blows. The struggle here is palpable but to go beyond that is the real test for anyone.”
With the increase in opportunities, it is just a matter of proving yourself with your work. “Artists now have more possibilities to show their works but a few decades ago there weren’t these many galleries and completely no art market in our country but even then there were a lot of artist’s working, working without expectations just for the soul intention to create their work of art. So here that’s what is really important!” Through his work (paintings, sculptures and installations), Magesh tries to explore the theme – The fragility of existence – “once we are dead it’s all over and there’s nothing you can do about it!”
Rohini Mani, 33, is an art teacher at Harsha Vidya Mandir. She has had other stints as well, as an illustrator, artist at the anatomy department of a medical college and design instructor for weavers, besides being an independent artist doing various shows. “If you notice I have still managed to remain an ‘artist’ in all these different fields. Only the medium is different,” she explains.
She is happy that the doors have opened to accommodate more young artists like herself who are happy to do art for art’s sake, but that alone cannot help one survive in terms of livelihood. That is when such opportunities come in handy. “An artist cannot be rigid and say this is what I will do. If he has to survive in this competitive field, he has to be ready to try out different avenues. Otherwise he has to be ready to compromise on certain things.” Rohini regularly takes time off to focus just on her painting and sculpting works. Once she has saved up enough, having an individual show is her next goal.
The discussion then shifts to the obvious – the art scene Chennai. Magesh’s reason for moving to Baroda will perhaps surmise the point best: “There are a lot of good signs here for people looking at the art field from outside but as a student who recently graduated I would say that there’s nothing “healthy” happening down here in Chennai. At the end of the day it is not about how much you sold your work for but how much do we really know! Are there any discussions facilitated between artists? Are there any art-related workshops or presentations done by prominent artists or even students themselves? Sadly, no.”