Every month, Diwan Manna, Chairperson of Punjab Lalit Kala Akademi, Chandigarh, along with two artists and technicians, travels to sleepy little towns of Punjab such as Ralla (Mansa), Nakodar (Jalandhar) and other relatively bigger cities like Sangrur, Jalalabad, Patiala, Amritsar, Taran Taran and Sunam among others, and visits schools, colleges and craft institutes. The effort is to present a uniquely conceptualised and curated programme that encompasses an audio-visual presentation, hands-on workshops, familiarisation with materials and tools of art and also an introduction to writings on art and artists for young adults. All over India, rues Manna, there is little awareness about visual arts and that the knowledge of folk art is fast depleting. “We are scared to look at art, for we think we don’t understand it. So we decided to reach out to the younger generation and teachers, in places where there is almost no access to art,” says Manna, the brainchild behind the project titled, Adharshila, Punjab Lalit Kala Akademi’s new initiative to reach out to the younger generation in rural Punjab. The initiave has been put in place to help the young minds connect with the visual arts. The initiative attempts to help approach art, look at it and in the process prepare a generation that is sensitised towards the nuances of fine arts.
“We begin with an audio-video introduction in which we show original works of art to the participants. We then show photographs of various artists to the participants, the many facets of a portrait, landscapes, street scene among others. We share our journeys as artists in a simple, absorbing manner and they all relate and connect to it,” shares Manna. The programme is conducted in Punjabi and the entire premise rests on the idea of helping students and teachers appreciating art and not necessarily creating artists, encouraging them to look at it and follow their senses.
Bookmarks on various artists such as Amrita Sher-Gil, Krishen Khanna, Manjit Bawa, Raghu Rai, and Paramjit Singh among others, have been created, on which the name, portrait, work and also some information about the artist is printed in both English and Punjabi. These, along with booklets on 30 artists and special catalogues are shared with the library of the school, college or institute.
Clay modelling and drawing workshops, painting and drawing workshops, sculpture workshops are being conducted by artists such as Madan Lal, Jagdeep Jolly, Jaspreet Singh, Sarabjeet Singh, Nakshdeep Singh, Prabhinder Lall, Basudeb Biswas and Mandeep Singh. “We demonstrate our techniques by painting and drawing live, talking about the process of creation, involving the students of different age groups in conversations about the work, and later, the students also draw, paint and try their hand at sculpture, to get an experiential feel of the process,” says artist Madan Lal, who recently did a workshop at Government Girls Senior Secondary Smart School, Nakodar.
The artists and Manna, as part of the workshop, provide the participants with a sort of live commentary on the mediums that can be used to create art, the kind of brushes available, the kind of pressure and paint needed to create a certain form, how mixing of colours can be done. The idea, adds sculptor, Basudeb Biswas, is to involve the students and teachers, and for them to respond. “If the government provides us with funds, we can follow up these activities with serious workshops in places where art is taught. We can get a van, which can be like a moving library, we can travel with our equipment and artists across the state and make this an ongoing process. Art education in the state can be improved at the grassroots by bringing some of the most significant artists to various institutes. These artists can then share their art practices and educate others,” says Manna.