By trans­form­ing bar­ren houses in a Hi­machali vil­lage, 11 artists present an alternativ­e to pes­simism

India Today - - LEISURE - —Sri­nath Perur

As moun­tain trails go, this one is par­tic­u­larly pic­turesque. The Gunehar Art Walk comes three weeks into the third edi­tion of the ShopArt ArtShop res­i­dency. Eleven artists have been work­ing in un­used

struc­tures in Gunehar vil­lage near Bir, on the lower slopes of the Dhaulad­har range. So, amidst ter­raced fields and slatetiled roofs, there is the oc­ca­sional burst of colour or sound that is new and seeking to fit in.

The be­gin­ning of the trail is above the vil­lage. Ben­galuru-based artist Sul­tana Zana’s pre­sen­ta­tion in­volves ask­ing par

tic­i­pants to stand silently, with their eyes closed, in a small stand of de­o­dars. She has been mak­ing mea­sure­ments to model groups of trees as net­works. Frank Sch­licht­mann, who started the res­i­dency, moves the group on to the next ‘shop’.

Sch­licht­mann, who lives in the vil­lage, ex­plains how he saw, in 2012, that sev­eral shops in the vil­lage were empty. He thought of start­ing a res­i­dency where in­vited artists worked in the shops—ShopArt. And, since the work was unlikely to ever be sold, he thought it would be amus­ing to tag on ‘ArtShop’. To­day, the res­i­dency is in its third edi­tion, and dis­used houses have re­placed ac­tual shops.

The chil­dren of Gunehar are par­tic­u­larly en­thu­si­as­tic par­tic­i­pants. Another artist, Al-Qawi Nana­vati, has been teach­ing them to draw and paint with a sense of ab­strac­tion—and one of the shops is ded­i­cated to their work. Man­ish, creator of a daz­zling moun­tain­scape, ex­plains, “Pehle book dekh ke ba­nata tha. Yeh marzi se ba­naya (I used to copy draw­ings out of a book ear­lier. This I drew my­self).”

It’s the younger gen­er­a­tion’s will, per­haps, that’s caus­ing Gunehar to change. The vil­lage is mostly gaddi—herders who walk from pas­ture to pas­ture with their flocks— but few young­sters want to take up the tra­di­tional oc­cu­pa­tion. They’d rather start a business or find a job. Pramila Choud­hary, who works with tex­tiles, has tried to look at chang­ing fash­ions in Gunehar by col­lect­ing scraps of waste fab­ric from tai­lors, set­ting these against old pho­to­graphs of vil­lagers. And in the shop above hers, mu­si­cian Yash Sa­hai has been sam­pling lo­cal in­stru­ments and songs to create com­po­si­tions that “hold the mood of the vil­lage”.

Sch­licht­mann de­cided on the theme of this year's res­i­dency—Border­lines— out of a sense of frus­tra­tion that they were in­creas­ingly hard to cross. The artists did their own thing in re­sponse. As­mita Sarkar painted on tex­tures she found unique or mag­i­cal. Am­ri­tah Sen made a hand-painted book that con­trasted the real and fan­tas­tic in Gunehar’s lives. And ce­ramic artist Sar­ban Chowd­hury used hun­dreds of hand-moulded ter­ra­cotta ob­jects on a mound to rep­re­sent the en­croach­ment of man-made struc­tures on the landscape. “If I was scep­ti­cal,” says Sch­licht­mann about the theme, “I have been proven wrong by the artists.”

Pho­to­graphs by THE 4TABLES PROJECT


RE­JU­VE­NA­TION (Clockwise from top left) Pramila Choud­hary’s Roots; K.M. Lo’s Tuk Tuk Cinema; Yash Sa­hai in his mud-house stu­dio; Sar­ban Chowd­hury’s in­stal­la­tion; Devyani Smith’s Com­ing To­gether

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