B. M. Kamath and G. R. Iranna two Delhi based artist in a heart to heart talk about contemporary Art scenario in India.
Kamath (BM): What is Indian art? Where is the Indian in art? This issue is not discussed in Indian homes.
Iranna (GR): I might have other issues to discuss...
K: when you see the American in American art, what is the Indian?
I: We are at a mixed stage...it's like getting a burger when all you eat is a roti...so you have to get used to eating burgers. Its called adaptation...you have to eat what is given...you go to America and you forget about the roti and when you come back you feel for it. You have to try to adjust with that food...like getting adjusted to international art and research new ways of making burger.
K: Why can't you make your own roti in a different way...
I: roti and burger both are made of wheat...but there is...
K & I: the...art.
I: Today the art is about what the young generation....
K: It is nothing about generation...it's about how you recognize Indian art.
I: I don't believe in the concepts of Indian or western art...because it's just art...
K: If there is show called Indian art....you'd be the first man to participate in that..
I: I'll participate for the opportunity...I'd take part in the western art show too..
K: You can't say that art is only global...
I: See art has no religion, no country...
K: i am not talking about religion but otherwise what's the point of defining the difference?.
I: it isn't about Indian or western...it's about experience of life that comes in the art
K: ...But where is this experience coming from?
I: One grows up in a jungle and one grows up in the city but you don't differentiate between them as jungle and city art...that is my experience.
K: But won't you say it's reflected in your work...my thing is that i am not making it regional...i am just terming it Indian art. If you were in New York won't it reflect in your work...you can't simply deny the effect it has...where you are completely defines your experience.
I: You are an Indian, but your work can be from anywhere. Let's take the example of drawing and painting. Both are art. But from the perspective of the businessman, while one is drawing and other, painting, for the artist it's all art.
I: I am not denying anything...i am just concurring and adding that it has to do with experience, which can be informed by anything.
K: I plan to have a show at a gallery where everyone gets one drawing of mine, signed by me.
I: See if you have the experience to draw it's all fine… except in advertising today. A boy sitting with an experience of six months can cut and paste and make art...but with the same six month's experience, a drawing artist cannot make an exhibition stand by itself.
K: So are you saying anyone who can cut and paste can make art?
I: See the difference is that when a layman looks at digital art he goes "wow!" but when he looks at an experienced artist's drawing, he'll point out and say -"the work is good but the foot is angled right."
So basically a boy with 10 months of experience gets appreciated more liberally than an artist with a 10 year long experience....people don't understand the difference
K: In that case, the problem seems to be lying with the viewers...
I: Here one has to agree that digital medium is definitely easier than drawing..
K: I do not agree...for me they are the same...
I: It's about how you approach the medium with...look at Duschamp...all he did was put a pot...it wasn't the medium...how many people understand Duschamp?
K: How many people understand digital art?
I: See, here the medium has a big role to play..
K: But you can't compare mediums and call one good or bad.
I: But digital medium is a shortcut...
K: In drawing people can comment on the flaws...but in digital its like art education...flaws are very subjective.
I: I don't agree with that...i know people who haven't worked for more than four months and have proven themselves as artists...i have to talk about how easy it is to become a digital artist.
Look at the veterans at Baroda and Santiniketan...their knowledge has no value
K: Whom will u call an artist? Those who have hired PR firms and have become artists or the seniors at Santiniketan and Baroda
I: Its only about how easy it is to turn into an artist..
K: You know nowadays, its all about how much money you can shell out and they give you a list of places and events you have to attend for the right exposure...then in the case of an auction, these artists get sold...are people dumb to buy these artists?
I: Each and everyone knows they are being fooled but they go ahead with it anyway.
K: The best part is that inspite of knowing that you are being fooled and that the work isn't good, you'd believe the 10 people who tell you the work is nice..
I: Going back to the main topic, drawing and digital cannot be compared, drawing is far tougher.
K: You know i got some information. There is an agency that you can contact, they give you a timeline, you make a payment, and they will give you a manager who is going to manage your career...they make you a celebrity on an international level as well...
I: I am against that...
K: So am i! So at the end of the day, if you have two people...one a veteran from Santiniketan and an emerging glitzy artist...whom will you pick?
I: There are some artists, who prove themselves...With a lot of clarity they prove their white lies...their plagiarisms...and eventually you give up trying to argue and proving the artist's lies...and then a third person enters, who doesn't know how to comment on it...even though he wants to...at the end of the day when i come out with that person, we realise the farce of it all.
K: But you can see this in curation too...there is an established curator; but when a new one comes along with all the PR hype and connections that second one will manage better
I: There are some who don't even know how to write a catalog essay, and yet they are in the limelight.
K: But that stand today as curators are judged on how they talk...the gallery sells them...irrespective of what they are.
I: Art has become like business...but i feel there should be some people who stand up for art...otherwise we'll become what America and Europe have become
K: You know the artists choose the curator on the basis of the image and connections...they know the other one is better, but still the artist wonders who the hell is going to come for the show...and the one with the connections manages to rise more than the real curator.
I remember, Jyoti Bhatt came to Delhi and he asked me if artists have houses and cars... and then retorted how art colleges must have an extra class for driving with all the artists getting cars...
K: similarly curators should get an extra course in PR...
I: Why not artists? They need it too...
K: I don't want to take names, but a curator specified in an ad that they want an artist who can talk well about Indian manuscripts...so that has become a filter now
I: I don't feel it's a long term phenomenon...I think it's a passing phase...
K: See there is a difference between parrots and other birds...parrots talk and talk and convince you...or at least make you agree with what they have to say
I: See the problem is that an argument isn't possible between us...we think in parallels...So we end up accepting half of each other's points…