The dichotomy between the real and the fictional has always interested D Priyanka. So for the last few months, the postgraduate student at College of Art in Delhi has spent hours studying organic found material under the microscope. Several of them have been magnified using various mediums, with her artwork taking the form of life studies. If the details of a leaf and fibrous roots have inspired bronze works enclosed in glass, the lotus seed has been enlarged in a wall work and pollen has been trimmed from paper. “Nothing can be more fascinating than nature, and I am attracted to natural objects that are small in size but have the ability to be magnified, making the details visible,” says Priyanka, 37.
While she has participated in group shows in Delhi and Mumbai earlier, the last year has been particularly busy for her. In December, she was in Kochi for the Students’ Biennale, and the next month, she was in Pune for the biennale where she presented an installation on the female fallopian tube. “I am pursuing my masters almost 10 years after my graduation and though I have been practising all these years, I felt it was important to do my masters to attain that nuanced technical expertise,” says Priyanka.
Her works occupy an individual studio at the annual exhibition of the College of Art in Delhi. In its 64th year, the exhibition is meant to feature the best works of its students. “We look forward to this showcase, it’s where we can present our work to the people and build contacts,” says Surpriya Soni, who is pursuing her masters in applied art. In the exhibition, she has a hand-painted book on extinct birds, apart from posters on LGBT rights. “There is constant guidance that we receive, which helps us focus,” she adds. Not everyone shares her sentiments.
“In courses such as applied art, which require up-to-date infrastructure, the college lacks the facilities, so there is a lot to learn when we actually take up a job,” says a student. So while the exhibition does have some impressive works, there is lack of individual expression at times. “There is a lot of talent and enthusiasm but also a need for an overhaul. The infrastructure and the syllabus need some restructuring, with more practicing artists coming to teach the students as well,” says a visiting faculty member, teaching at the college for more than eight years.
For the students, the showcase is also about making the most of what is present, especially when the art market is not very supportive of young talent and the sales are low. With prices ranging from Rs 10,000 to around a lakh at the annual exhibition, the students do hope that their works are picked by collectors. “I don’t like to think a lot about the market. In the current times, it makes sense to take up a job and practice independently,” says Aakash Kumar, a BFA final-year student of sculpture. Apart from several ceramic works, he has a self-image seated under a bell, reflecting on the constant deadlines. Snigdha Tiwari, fourth-year student of painting, has experimented with textile in a walk-in installation in the outdoors, where inside her textile enclosure she has canvases and textile collages. “All my works have different dimensions, so this structure was essential,” says Tiwari.
Pekhna Sawhney, fourth-year student of painting, has found her language in forms that appear when paper is burnt. In the recent months, she has used different materials, from rice paper to fabriano paper, canvas and handmade paper. She says, “Initially, we are encouraged to focus on academics but in the final year, we are looking to approach people with our work and the annual exhibition is a platform through which we hope to get noticed.”
The exhibition is on at College of Art, Delhi, till April 18
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