TAKING ART out of the confines of a gallery space and giving people an everyday chance to look at, reflect, appreciate and critique artistic creations — this is how public art seeks to make art accessible. In the process, it is hoped, such works will generate response, add creative value to a space and more importantly, and perhaps, even demystify art.
The Chandigarh Lalit Kala Akademi, with the support of the Chandigarh Administration, has initiated several public art projects over the last few years. They dot several parts of the city, complementing its landscape and vice versa. They are there at Sukhna Lake, UT Guest House, Tagore Theatre, ISBT-43 and GMSH-16.
“Public art is the way for an artist to connect with a larger audience,” says Charanjit Singh, assistant professor at the Government College of Art whose sculpture finds a prominent place at the UT Guest House. A semi-representational work comprising a belt that binds two stones together, Singh says he doesn’t have a pre-conceived idea in mind when he begins work. “I look at the stone and then decide what I want to do with it. My intention is to retain the stone’s original form by restricting the carving,” he adds.
Parminder Singh, who teaches fine arts at Government Model High School in Sector 43, has created an abstract work entitled ‘Energy’, which finds place at the Sukhna Lake. The inspiration for the work was a walnut. “A walnut looks like a brain, which to me symbolises energy. In the sculpture, I have made repetitive lines, which depict lightning,” he says. He mostly works on sculptures with energy as the theme. Public art, Singh says, is an ideal way for common people to witness art. “The way people interact with it can be as simple as someone sitting on a stone sculpture. This means that it is not merely looked at from a distance and these initiatives are a good way to make art a part of people’s lives,” adds Singh. Frequent visitors at Sukhna Lake echo the sculptor’s thoughts, like Ramanpreet Kaur Tiwana, who says the sculptures add value to the space, “and make me happy”.
Hirday Kaushal, who is Art Officer, Sculpture, at Haryana’s Cultural Affairs Department has also created a sculpture for the Sukhna Lake entitled ‘Romance in Nature’. The work portrays various ideas to the viewer. “Human beings connect their feelings through nature. The world’s greatest power is in the seed that rips apart the earth to grow,” he says. This is what his sculpture depicts, a seed coming out of the earth, and stretching its way to life. The part of the seed that stretches out from the earth symbolises freedom and growth. The seed he has chosen is that of a sprout. “When sprouts come out, they take a rhythmic form, one sprout helps another to grow,” he adds.
Jaipur-based sculptor Vipul Kumar’s work ‘Breathing Wall’ is now part of the open space at the Tagore Theatre and he’s happy that people from various walks of life will view the sculpture, as opposed to a few who visit galleries. “In this work I have strived to showcase the transparency of emotions through a wall. The wall breathes and connects two souls. In India, we need to still develop a culture of visiting museums, while public art initiatives generate interest of people towards art, initiate conversations and hopefully encourage them to visit art exhibitions and more displays.”
At the ISBT-43 a colourful mural welcomes visitors, which is a result of long hours of work and many sleepless nights. Kanav Arora, a final-year student from the Chandigarh College of Architecture is happy with the response his effort is receiving. “I wanted to incorporate every small, yet vital element of Chandigarh in this work and I hope it provides relief to many here. I chose to use bright colours and bold elements to draw the attention of the people and have also been inspired by the architectural elements of Corbusier. It is very encouraging and rewarding when people tell me they have seen my work,” says Arora.
Not too far from here, a 90 foot x 14 foot mural at the entrance of GMSH-16 provides relief to many. The work, with its bold designs and colours, depicts the themes of health, happiness, architecture, fitness, living with nature and respecting the environment. The mural merges with the ventilation niches the wall and is designed by Simran Kaur of the Chandigarh College of Architecture, and executed by Dilip Kumar, Kundan Singh and a team from the Government College of Art. The philosophy of the mural is to feel life through art and colour. In the coming months, the Chandigarh Lalit Kala Akademi will expand the initiative to the Rock Garden and Leisure Valley.
Bheem Malhotra, chairman of the Chandigarh Lalit Kala Akademi, says that public art is a way for common people to engage with art. “Only people who are actually interested in art visit art galleries. This is not the case with public art and here in Chandigarh I see people both appreciating and responding to the works. If art is able to distract someone from their tough circumstances even for a moment, its job is done,” adds Malhotra. The painter believes that artists have a responsibility and any work of art should not hurt or offend anyone’s sentiments. “Religion must be kept out of public art.”
French artists Lek and Sowat, along with Delhi-based artist and designer Hanif Kureshi, worked with the Start Foundation to produce a work of street art in Chandigarh at the ISBT, Sector 17, early this year. The three artists, along with students of the Government College of Art and Chandigarh College of Architecture, worked on an art project to write ‘Bonjour Chandigarh’, on the raised pavement inside the bus stop, which would be visible from multiple points of view. “People are going to walk on the work. They are going to see it and experience it in an unusual way,” explains Sowat.
With the project, the aim is to present a unique experience for the city and its residents, activate a direct engagement and communication with the viewer through a holistic combination of content and forms using the power of words to reinvent spaces. The work echoes Le Corbusier’s architecture, and the letters have been painted in accordance with the grid-type that Chandigarh is set in. “What is so interesting about urban art is that it is so in the middle of everyday life,” Sowat says.
Dr Sumangal Roy, Associate Professor, Department of Sculpture at Government College of Art, believes that public art must be a team or collaborative effort, which is generally the trend in countries where percent-for-art programme has been adopted for the last half a century. Broadly, percent-for-art programmes entail an ordinance where funding for public art is placed on large-scale developmental projects. “We need planned public art projects with clear-cut objectives executed through the collaboration of specialists in architecture, engineering, sculpture and landscape studies and members of the community,” says Roy, adding that citizens must be involved in the process of public art. “The community must be involved in these initiatives, for it is the public who will have to live with that work day in, day out,” he concludes.