Art addas — local style

From galleries in living rooms and garages to artist-run community kitchens, Bengaluru’s brush with the art scene rocks

Published - September 30, 2015 04:17 pm IST - Bengaluru

Chinar Shah's "Home Sweet Home"

Chinar Shah's "Home Sweet Home"

Welcome to the edgy, quirky art spaces of Bangalore. They haven’t just survived but thrived. Making Space for Art, a book recently launched by 1 ShanthiRoad — a veteran when it comes to alternative art spaces in India’s Silicon Valley — is a case in point. The book celebrates the 12-year journey of the space that has emerged as the biggest art adda in the city.

Suresh Jayaram, an art historian and artist whose name is synonymous with 1 ShanthiRoad says, “It’s a kind of sarai. We have residencies, talks, art shows, discussions. People come and go. They meet each other, collaborate and gossip.” The survival of spaces like these are success stories written by driven people like Suresh. In the absence of government infrastructure or commercial enterprise, artists and art students have taken on the responsibility of leading Bangalore’s art scene.

“Most of these spaces are institutional critiques,” says Suresh, who runs 1 ShanthiRoad without corporate and government support. “They are an alternative to established art institutions because there is a disconnect between what is being taught and practised.”

The finances are managed through art residencies and artists’ support.

The kitchen at 1 ShanthiRoad is run by artists. People contribute oil, flour, vegetables... “There was not a single day that we didn’t have food,” says Suresh.

Samuha was a time-bound art space. It was launched in June 2009 and wrapped up in 2010 after 414 days. It was meant to be a blueprint for the fraternity on how to create your own money. Archana Prasad who was part of Samuha with Shivaprasad S. and Suresh Kumar G (who floated the outfit) thought of setting up a model which wouldn’t depend on outside patronage. The group decided that its 23 members will contribute Rs. 2000 every month.

“It was not a big amount and compared to what you would spend hiring a gallery,” says Archana. “You got 17 days at the space. You could host an exhibition or give it on rent to another artist and it worked.”

Archana founded a similar initiative called Jaaga in 2009. “It was directly inspired by Samuha but if Samuha was about creating your own money, Jaaga is about creating your own space.” Housed in the penthouse of Rich Homes Apartment, on Richmond Road, Jaaga is another oasis for artists in the city.

Spaces like these have encouraged others and most of the newcomers are young art practitioners. Twenty-year-old Nihaal Faizal, a student of Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology runs G-159, in the SFS colony in Yelahanka. The living room in his apartment has seen interactive sound installations, site-specific performances, exhibition of photographs and prints. “In a gallery, you have to put a price tag to your work but here selling is not a priority,” says Nihaal. “Since there were no galleries in the area, we just wanted to have a space to see each other’s work and exchange ideas. Each art piece has the possibility of failure and these spaces afford those possibilities.”

Inspired by Nihaal, others have got on the bandwagon. Swiss artist Linda has set up this peculiar art space “We Will Figure it Out” which operates out of a garage in Yelahanka and there is Chinar Shah’s “Home Sweet Home” at her residence in Kalyan Nagar. For her first show, Chinar, a photo artist and faculty at Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology, brought together works gifted and fresh works made by artists. What next? May be some an artist in another corner of the city is contemplating a walk-in studio!

Not about money honey

Surekha who was with Bar 1 says, “Bangalore was never a market oriented place. It was the responsibility of the artists to create platforms and laboratories where they could do experimental work. Bar 1 was the first art residency to come up in Bangalore which created lot of energy. It was followed by 1ShanthiRoad. When it started in 2001, it had a space and artists collectively ran it till 2012 through the support of grants and residencies by IFA and Pro-Helvetia. In 2010, we ceased to have a physical space but as a group comprising artists like Ayisha Abraham, Smitha Cariappa, and I, we still exist.”

Old and new

Places like 1ShanthiRoad, Jaaga, Maara, Bar 1 and Samuha are trailblazers. The new additions to the list include G-159, We Will Figure it Out and Home Sweet Home. These are connected by the Srishti link.

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