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Key weapons in Covid fight, brooms, floor mops now find voice on canvas

Aditya Shirke, a Pune-based artist, painted large canvases with quotidian implements. The exhibition titled ‘Unleashing the Dark Horse’ features four pieces in an artistic collaboration with alternative maker’s space, the Karkhana, designed and owned by Studio Mars.

Written by Ruchika Goswamy | Pune |
January 17, 2021 3:41:31 pm
Key weapons in Covid fight, brooms, floor mops now find voice on canvasAditya Shirke said that he approached the experiment with a clean slate and in the initial stage, he just gauged how the tools at hand are going to behave and technical aspects such as how much pigment they can hold.

Often wedged in the corners of households, the humble long-handled mops and brooms have been key weapons in the enduring battle against the novel coronavirus. And now, they seem to have found a voice on canvas, courtesy Aditya Shirke.

Taking the unconventional route, Shirke, a Pune-based artist, painted large canvases with quotidian implements. The exhibition titled ‘Unleashing the Dark Horse’ features four pieces in an artistic collaboration with alternative maker’s space, the Karkhana, designed and owned by Studio Mars.

Through the experimental paintings, Shirke visualised his interpretation of the year gone by and the one that has begun. He explained that just as the dark horse is a competitor who is less likely to be noticed and betted on and yet, comes out victorious, he decided to end the year with a celebratory and creative outburst and an artistic take on how the dark horse is going to be a game changer.

“The past year has been dark for us all and flipping it to a dark horse, symbolising that maybe it is a contender that will lead us into a better future is what we have tried to accomplish through these canvases. We tried to then push the limits of the experiment and it is then that I thought to incorporate household implements like brooms and mops, instead of conventional paint brushes. They are not artistic instruments. They are crude for painting and they bring out the most instinctive and visceral of marks and strokes,” he said.

Shirke said that he approached the experiment with a clean slate and in the initial stage, he just gauged how the tools at hand are going to behave and technical aspects such as how much pigment they can hold. “It was different from using paint brushes like the size of the release of the paint, in terms of the scale, magnitude and the weight of the mop. Wherever you hold the mop and where the fulcrum is, it will throw its weight on the other side. Gradually, I gelled this into my advantage to create more forceful strokes as you cannot really be accurate with these instruments and have to channel the force and energy of the implements,” he said.

Since the strokes by mops and brooms were rudimentary, Shirke drew further inspiration from the free strokes often seen in the works of New York expressionist artists and in the Japanese calligraphy paintings, Shodu. However, instead of using Japanese ink, he decided to go with black acrylic paints. “The ink could not be an idle choice for a work of such a scale so we went with acrylics and the colour black. It gave the canvases an affinity and kinship with the Japanese calligraphic artform,” he said.

Inspired by the traditional Japanese cherry blossom brush paintings is the piece titled ‘Cherry Blossom’, which has calmness and tranquillity embedded in each stroke. ‘Airborne’, has a race horse adorning blinders, capturing it mid-gallop when it gains momentum and its body lifts from the ground. The paintings, instead of being hung on walls, have been suspended at the venue to bring out their ethereal feel, said Shirke.

With the canvases laid down, Shirke completed the works in a matter of two days. Sharing the experience of his work as well as the response, he said, “I found painting with the brooms and mops quite liberating and interesting. So, I would like to pursue it and see where it takes me. This was a release of energy as most of the artists were relegated to the studios and the whole exercise was a cathartic experience. It has been exhilarating and liberating. The marks and strokes on the canvas have a tendency to encode visually, the process and energy I had when I was making it. People have been able to decode and see the visceral energy in the static marks.”

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Shobhna Hadap, founder and creative director of Studio Mars, emphasised that there is a need to have such experimental spaces for artists to push themselves out of their comfort zones. She also said that apart from ‘colouring outside the lines’ and the whole concept of the art collaboration with artists, it is interesting to know the whole technique which in itself is very intriguing.

“What people generally see is the masterpiece in the end but the documentation of the entire process and the challenges endured is just as intriguing. The ideation is to show the entire process and experimentation that goes behind an artist’s work. We received a phenomenal response, so much so that we extended the show for a week, until January 16,” she said.

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