NANDAN MELA 2013
NANDAN MELA 2013
So far I never ventured to report anything on Nandan Mela, basically because any Art Fair always appears a bit difficult topic to handle. This year, 1rst December was Sunday-an opportunistic holiday for me, and I was lucky to be within the Kala Bhavana premises right from the morning on the auspicious birthday of Lt Nandalal Bose-the visionary of the art styles emanating from Santiniketan. Along with the flow of time, the distinct Santiniketan-i style in art and craft evolved further, first powered by Ramkinkar Baij, then by stalwarts like Somenath Hore, K.G. Subramanyam, Jogen Choudhury and others. At present the particular Santiniketan-i style appears fazed, perhaps trying to re-emerge in new formats. In any case ‘transition’ is a great and powerful phrase in every domain now, be it -economics, society, politics, literature, music, art and even religion. It seems that ‘transition’ is the only mode of survival now. If one does not change, his very existence gets threatened- it is the mantra of life today. Certainly, Kala Bhavana, or for that matter Santiniketan itself, can not remain insulated from the great driving horse of civilization today- ‘transition’. One of the major problems of this apparently perpetual transitory phase is to locate the identity-be it for an individual or an art movement or even for Santiniketan.
I do not really know if this rather lengthy preamble to Nandan Mela 2013 was at all necessary. But perhaps it is. After all Kala Bhavana hugely contributed to create the unique identity of Santiniketan through the art statement generated at the time Rabindranath was alive. So, ‘transition’ and ‘identity’, these two highly contradictory realities stare hard at Kala Bhavana. This time Nandan Mela 2013 was slightly low key, perhaps due to the ongoing semester examinations of students as opined by the faculty members. But, to me, Nandan Mela 2013 appeared more cohesive and less chaotic to perceive. On previous years the hectic activity at Nandan Mela appeared, at best, fairly confusing to us-the spectators without much sincere exposure to art in current form. Even regulars to Kala Bhavana, like me, often found the overall display in Nandan Mela too exhaustive to comprehend. Thankfully the slight downsizing of the Art Fair was a very soothing and welcome change for us; ofcourse I really do not know how hard core art practitioners have felt about this down sizing.
The Kala Bhavana boys’ obsession with the bi-cycle is understandable. Even now, like in all yester years, the boys of Kala Bhavana religiously carry their girl-friends in their cycles to far off corners of Santiniketan, to tea stalls, or for out door sketches. Whenever I see them today, invariably my mind travels back decades into our times and I can still distinctly remember the great ‘carriers’ of our times. The luckier ones could carry different girls on different occasions, in any case as a side effect most of the boys were blessed with rather strong legs. I think the legacy is still very much alive. I was naturally more intrigued by the bi-cycles than the usual artistic curiosity.
This time, the installation arts, fewer in numbers appeared fairly cohesive and interesting to me. Too many of installation art in a small area kind of overlapped each others visual territory and created a great confusion among the general spectators. Watching the installation arts this time, I could feel that each installation art demands or commands its own visual space- any encroachment in this area creates a visual cacophony- something like over crowding. Kala Bhavana, at this juncture, should go for the right distribution of space for installation art. Installation art is a relatively new but very interesting and important emerging concept in visual art. Personally I feel the space distribution also needs very careful attention by installation artists to create clear and decipherable effects.
Concept wise, each year Kala Bhavana produces very interesting installations. The tree with several ears appeared very interesting to me. We were so far familiar with the popular Bengali adage ‘Dewal-ero kaan ache’ (even the walls have ears); now by visting Nandan Mela I have learnt that ‘Gach-ero kaan ache” (even the trees have ears)! It was truly a nice revelation for the spectators. I invariably thought about the numerous love stories eked out of student life beneath such trees of Santiniketan, it is a wonder if the trees heard all those stories!
The last photograph above was actually a wishful clicking of camera. At that point of time, I was not too sure if the dogs around Kala Bhavana perceived the back ground structure as a fancied dog-house in the making for them, to relax cozily in these winter months! The composition just appeared interesting to me. In consequence a host of dogs gathered around me and I had to say Huy and Hello to each of them! Rather friendly lot of creatures- as always!
The outdoor sculpture displays in wood appeared in nice symphony with the overall atmosphere. In fact I was fairly impressed by these pieces of art, and tried quite hard to photograph them. Later at the computer I realized that the effects of a sculpture can never be photographed satisfactorily, naturally as the 3-D effect can never be replicated in a 2-D surface. All the photographs here are in fact poor replicas of the actual scene. Watching the two faculty members of the Sculpture department, Sutanu & Sajjad, engrossed in serious discussion, I wondered if they were actually evaluating their students’ works in details. By a personal preference, these displays were the most absorbing ones for me.
Photographing an Art Fair in open air can be a pretty challenging job. This was the first time I tried to catch some sort of a photographic glimpse of Nandan Mela 2013 and honestly speaking I was at a complete loss to choose my subjects. Everything looked exotic, but in most cases photography was very difficult-specially selecting the frame. I realized that photographing an Art Fair is a fairly specialized job. The present Principal of Kala Bhavana, Mr Sisir Sahana (snap below-being interviewed by TV), has taken up a project to visually record such events of Kala Bhavana. I think, for proper visual recording, specialized photographers should be a must.
In the last photograph above, the flames of yester years of Kala Bhavana and Santiniketan are however unfazed by this photographic probe by one of their contemporaries and appeared as lovely as they always were even with much proliferation of grey hairs!
The faculty members of several departments of Kala Bhavana namely sculpture, graphics and painting, had their busy outings at Nandan Mela evening. Some of them, you will recognize, some of them are new recruits. Breaking an inexplicable but rather religiously maintained tradition of Kala Bhavana, for the first time in last 3 decades at least, lady faculty members were appointed in 2012-13 academic session. Anyway, though this can not be a matter of discussion here, but it is certainly worth a mention.
In fact making a relatively junior faculty member, the Principal of Kala Bhavana is a departure from tradition as well. The post of Principal, without significant monetary incentive, is actually quite an extra work load, laden with a whole lot of responsibility, but can be very rewarding experience for those who can move things. The common perception is Mr Sisir Sahana is keen to be pro-active, and hence Kala Bhavana has now got its hands full with plenty of new activities. The latest among them is a sculpture park at Lalbandh, to come up jointly with a butterfly park in which I am absorbed right now. It will be an exciting and highly interesting experience for me to work along with the Kala Bhavana team. Wow, I think it will be great fun!
In this respect I was taken aback when Manida in his customary cryptically joking tone responded to my ‘hello’ by popping up the question ‘Ki Butterfly Urbe To?” (Well, will the butterflies flutter their wings?) I was least expecting such a query from Manida and wondered who leaked the news to him. Later I heard that while Manida was painting a few pieces for sale at Nandan Mela a butterfly roamed about making him quip again ‘Ei, Park Na Hote-i Butterfly Urche!” Now, I reckon it will be a problem for me in future if ‘butterflies do not fly’! Well, flight of butterflies is a science- lets see if science can provide some answers to these questions. In any case a tryst with Manida is always interesting; in fact it will be great to take Mainda someday to the butterfly garden to enjoy (hopefully) the presence of fair number of butterflies.
Coming back to the main topic “Nandan Mela 2013”, ‘installation art’ or ‘art at public space’ is a fast growing concept in art scenario. Often these artworks are temporary in nature, but usually in great demand when some important events are organized. Specialists in this area are much sought after in present days. Nandan Mela always provides an opportunity to the students to experiment on installation art. The effect at evening of the several lotus like installations curved out from aluminum foils looked pretty interesting.
The painting department was the main attraction with counter sales (snap above) touching Rs 9 Lakh on the very first evening. In total Nandan Mela may have collected around Rs 25 Lakh for the Students’ Aid Fund. From this year a few scholarships will be offered to meritorious but relatively poor students as per statement issued by the Principal of Kala Bhavana. Erstwhile stalwarts like K G Subramanyam, Sanat Kar, Jogen Choudhury & others donated pieces of art works for sale at these stalls as in the practice for all other years.
The imageries of Nandan Mela can always be interesting, though photography is no easy task, especially for folks not too conversant with art language. Naturally I had a rather tough time with my camera and most of the times remained undecided about the frame- that is to say what exactly to capture within the photo frame. This was the first year I tried my hand, perhaps next year may be little bit better! To be honest, I myself have no idea about how much my photographs can convey the essence of Nandan Mela- it is a bizarre subject no doubt!
Isn’t there an artist within each of us? Well, according to learned sayings there is. Is art something to enjoy? Well, in ancient times probably that was the norm, artists painted for their own joy, spectators joined along in the statement of joy. Along the passage of time, when mankind started to delve deep into human psyche, when Sigmund Freud chipped in with his theory of sub-conscious, art also started its journey into the world of sub-conscious. Images got newly defined, shapes recreated, the grammar redefined. Art is now less objective and more an inner expression of self. The problem for common people is that these days it is often being impossible to create the bridge between the common folks and the inner psyche of the artist. Often a big gap exists between what the artist have felt while creating and what we can perceive.
Nandan Mela is an excellent effort to bridge that gap.
Looking into future tense of Kala Bhavana, where Rabindranath Tagore himself at a very late age, defined his own kind of art language through his several paintings, it is expected that Kala Bhavana will chart its own course. We only wish a comprehensible bridge to exist between the artists’ perception and our ability to conceive. Let the language of art in Kala Bhavana define a unique style of expression for all of us in Santiniketan, as in yesteryears.