To fans of kitsch,a painted truck is a veritable art gallery. In its designs and decorations,they can decipher hidden meanings of sociocultural and regional significance. In a prison in Glasgow,however,inmates have responded to truck art in a more basic way. They found it macho and created truck art-inspired works of their own, says Delhi-based arts curator Minhazz Majumdar.
Majumdars arts organisation Earth and Grass has collaborated with Glasgow Museums to develop a collection of Indian works as part of a project that won the museum a grant of one million pounds from the UK-based Art Fund,a fundraising charity for the arts.
In Glasgow,the South Asian diaspora community does not visit museums or art galleries in any numbers,and I wanted to acquire a capsule collection of contemporary art that I hope would appeal to this community in ways that the existing 19th century colonial industrial art does not, says Patrician Allan,curator,World Cultures of Glasgow Museums.
The project focused on three regions Bengal,Punjab and Assam because most of the diaspora of Glasgow come from these regions. Moreover,the museum also has a South Asian collection dominated by works from these regions.
They wanted to tell the Indian story differently as well. We did not want to represent Punjab through typical artefacts such as phulkari. We focused on truck art instead. Globally,Pakistan is known for its beautiful truck art but we wanted to highlight the truck art from Punjab, says Majumdar. Among other works are dhokra statues from Bengal and contemporary sculptures from Assam.
Besides truck body parts with painted icons of lions,eagles and sceneries,there are life-sized statues of Mahatma Gandhi and Rani Laxmibai made in dhokra. Bengal is not traditionally known for dhokra. We came across Ramu Karmakar and Subho Karmakar,a father-son pair who are among the few artists working in this tradition. They create works that are traditional in inspiration,continuing what their
ancestors used to do. But they also create contemporary sculptures based on heroes of modern times such as Gandhi, says Majumdar.
The search for contemporary rather than historical art is seen in works by Ganesh Gohain,a Gujarat-based Assamese artist,Ratul Chandra Gogoi who juxtaposes indigenous motifs with contemporary style to illustrate ancient tribal cultures with contemporary issues of Assam,and Siva Prasad Marar,a young painter and sculptor who themes his work on his tea estate background. Their artefacts for the museum include Gogois Mother Play with Child,which is inspired by wood carvings of tribals of the state. Marars We Are in the Same Boat Brother is in the form of a boat populated with human figures indicating the unity of the state and the tribals,and ethnic tensions in Assam that erupted into violence
The artwork are no passive,stand-alone items. These will be accompanied by films on the creative process. We feel that viewers will appreciate the works more if they watched films showing the firing technique of dhokra and the way the Punjab truck artists finish painting a truck in two days, says Majumdar.