‘For Indians, are is not a place to go to and see; it is a part of life here’
Although installation art is little known in this part of the country, a Mangalore-born Mumbaikar, Sudarshan Shetty, is one of exponents of this genre of art. Breaking the traditional concept of art, artists arrange groups of objects artistically to tell a story and attempt to communicate life in its deeper meaning as they visualise it. Mr. Shetty spoke to The Hindu during his recent visit to Mangalore. Excerpts:
How are you connected to Mangalore?
My parents are from here. My mother is from Soorinje near Surathal and my father was from Adve in Udupi district. My father, the late Adve Vasu Shetty moved over to Mumbai in search of better fortune but his interest in Yakshagana Talamaddale would bring him back here often.
What took you to installation art?
I was good at drawing or painting as a child. I joined the J.J. (Institute of Applied Art, Mumbai) where the curriculum was funny. Art schools are still caught up with bureaucratic trap. There I released installation is not a mere art, there is much more to it. Studied foreign magazines on contemporary art and learnt about Bauhaus (a German school) modernism and new aesthetics and started making objects. In 60 years, indigenous art became evolving. For Indians, art is not a place to go to and see. It is a part of life here.
Where did you place yourself in this?
As I started working, a sense of symmetry and beauty became in some way synonymous. I wanted to bring openness in my work. There is a narrative but people have their own thinking of it. Ten people can interpret it in as many ways. For me, art was a way of making things dictated by my own aesthetics.
Then what is the meaning you want to communicate?
No judgment (to be made). There has to be a detachment. How do you bring that meaninglessness is the question. It is like you buying a bar of soap. You buy into the promise or illusion of youth. You know it is not making you younger. This is so with every enjoyment.
So how do you explain installation art?
It is just a word. Here unconventional spaces are explored. Paintings have become commercial objects. You attach a value and sell them. So we (installation artists) went out of the studio to create experience into which you walk in…There could be intellectual stimulation.
Your initial experiences…
When I started it was difficult. There was no money. Opportunity started coming late.
They started buying (my art) in 2003-04. I created the installation called “Paper Moon” in 1995 and it became the biggest solo to date. The 2010 work ‘This too shall pass’ was held in Framji Cowasji Hall where even common people too came to see it.
Your next big thing…
I am working on a project based on breaking of pots before lighting a pyre for a forthcoming event in Vienna.
How good is installation art in India now?
Artists in Mumbai, Baroda, and Bangalore are at it. Best of our work is internationally best too. There are about 50-60 good installation artists in the country.