Over the past 40 years of working with arts, crafts, traveling the world and seeing the aesthetics of India evolve with modernity, I have seen the boundaries between the disciplines begin to blur. . There has always been a fine line between art and craft, and it is slowly but surely fading. With the advent of technology, accessibility and ease of communication, artisans are no longer in a sphere of estrangement. They are appreciated and those who know how to use their imaginations are more successful.
Today, drawings by the late artist Gond Jhangar Singh Shyam sell for a similar price to drawings by contemporary artist Arpita Singh. Famous designer Ashish Shah worked with artisans from Kashmir, Karnataka, Odisha, Manipur, etc. to produce a range of dramatic works between utilitarian and sculptural using them in his projects. He used the skills of craftsmen from different fields. Not only that, Experimenter, a gallery known for showing avant-garde works of art, exhibited some of his work and it was an example of the fading lines between disciplines.
Six-seven years ago, I exhibited beautiful paintings by architect BV Doshi at the India Art Fair and the event went unnoticed not because of the artistry or reputation of the legend, but because viewers could not fully understand the concept of creativity coming from those who were not good trained artists.
Today, architects and designers collaborate with artists and artisans to incorporate art into their projects with more than just decorative intent.
One example is that of Chiu Man Wong, a Singapore-based architect who conceptualized and planned the St Regis Hotel in the Maldives by giving the architecture the shapes inspired by sea creatures and conceptualizing the art by working closely with artists to produce works related to the five elements that are part of the island culture. Designers also crossed paths and became artists as in the case of two successful designers, namely Alex Davis and Vikram Goyal.
Artists have always worked with artisans, such as bronzers and engravers. However, today we see artists working with crafts with great ease and recognizing and crediting craftspeople for collaborations.
Manjit Bawa and Arpana Caur in India ventured in this direction more than two and a half decades ago. Today, Princess Pea, widely known for her performance work, extended her pea-shaped mask to the sculptures she created with a group of female artists from Etikoppaka in Andhra Pradesh. In recent times, many artists have now explored artisan techniques in their work.
We have now seen a resurgence and awareness in the appreciation of creativity for ideas – be it watercolors and photographs by Le Corbusier or furniture in the Chandigarh style of Pierre Jeanneret. The time has come now when Indian collectors will soon collect crafts and design, and treasure them as art in the same way the Japanese make national treasures from their teapot makers or the way Europeans respect cutlery made by Georg Jensen from Copenhagen.
(The writer is a gallery owner and curator involved in the world of contemporary art and can be contacted at [email protected])