Indian artists imagine unknown Russia

Padmini Mehta (photo) says Russia, for her, is a vibrant country. “People are very sweet, cooperative. That I really like." Source: Alexander Tomas

Padmini Mehta (photo) says Russia, for her, is a vibrant country. “People are very sweet, cooperative. That I really like." Source: Alexander Tomas

The third edition of the ‘Indian Artists Paint Russia’ art camp brought together a group of artists in New Delhi who painted images of the country solely based on their imagination.

Held for the first time in July 2011, the annual Art Camp has been gaining popularity among artists in the Indian capital, with the 2013 “breaking all records” in terms of participation, with as many as 17 artists taking part in the event. ‘Indian Artists Paint Russia,’ is being held at the Russian Centre of Science and Culture (RCSC), which is jointly organising the event with the Forum of Indian Photographers and Artists (FIPA). This year’s main theme is ‘city life,’ with the artists being asked to focus on A Day in Moscow.

“This year, we decided to split the display: the main part includes this year’s works but, next to them, you can see the paintings by the participants in previous Art Camps and those created by our guests of honour, including Russian artist Maxim Pridanov,” says Anastasia Khokhlova , head of the cultural department of the RCSC.

The camp is the second workshop in the series for Padmini Mehta and Aakshat Sinha, the latter having been granted the honorary status of its curator. He is the only participant to have been to Russia. In 1991–1998, the artist was a student at the Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia.

“Russia is an unfailing source of inspiration,” Sinha said. “If they asked me to paint my most overwhelming impression of Russia, I would definitely paint Tsvetnoy Bulvar, where, between two busy roads, there’s a park with benches, and very beautiful people sitting on them.” Padmini Mehta says Russia, for her, is a vibrant country. “People are very sweet, cooperative. That I really like.”

This year, Sinha painted the fans of FC Spartak Moscow against the background of the Red Square. “Each city must have football fans,” Sinha explains. In Padmini Mehta’s painting, Russian girls enjoy a circle dance on snow-covered mountain peaks next to a pianist playing Tchaikovsky; the background features Victory Day fireworks.

Aakshat Sinha. Source: Alexander Tomas

Many of those who took part in the first Art Camp already have personal exhibitions to attend to, so they passed the Russian theme on to their children. Sugandha Menda learnt about the workshop from her father. “My dad introduced me to the Art Camp. He was part of it much earlier, two years ago,” she says.” She admits that the hardest thing for her was to choose something special about Russia to paint. “But I asked myself: I have never been to Russia, so what shall I do? My father advised me to look through all the photos on the Internet about the history of Russia, whatever I could find. Then we were given a few books and started painting. By that time, I realised that I had the feeling that Russia was famous for snow and its winters. Many people also told me that winters in Russia were amazing. And the architecture is something magnificent about Russia.”

So Menda depicted a church and an old woman with her granddaughter sliding on the snow. You get the impression that an artist capable of drawing this must have been to Russia at least a couple of times. But impressions can be misleading. The artist was born in Andhra Pradesh and has seen snow only once, when she went to Scotland at age of five.

Reni Soman also has snow in her picture, covering the building of Moscow State University. “Russia for me is snow, too. Then come beautiful girls and very colourful buildings,” says the artist. She was a bit luckier and saw snow for a whole two days in Ladakh.

Sabita Agrawal, another participant in the Art Camp, did not stick to the theme and painted nestling dolls, which she said “were the first things that attracted her about Russia.” “I found them very beautiful. For me, such dolls symbolise happiness and beauty. When I was young, I used to get Russian dolls from the market or my parents, who used to travel abroad,” she explains.

Source: Alexander Tomas

The organisers are planning to improve the format of the Art Camp from next year. “We plan to provide our participants with paint, brushes and canvases,” says Anastasia Khokhlova, adding that she would like to have the next workshop “complete with a cultural programme in order to enable the artists to feel Russian culture” but her plans have not been officially approved yet.

In order to have more participants next year, the organisers plan to engage not only FIPA, but also the Lalit Kala Academy and the Delhi College of Art. The artists are certain that workshops of the kind will help them share not only their fantasies but also professional skills. “I am a professional artist. And I always want to learn. A workshop is kind of event, a gathering of artists where each and every artist is doing a different kind of work with their own techniques and colour combinations,” says Padmini Mehta.

The paintings will be displayed in the RСSC until September 21.

All rights reserved by Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

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