By Christabelle Coutinho
“Art advocacy is the need of the hour”, states Apurva Kulkarni in a voice ringed with part concern and part ire over the prevailing state of art in the country. The wiry artist, art historian and curator doesn’t mince words when he says, “The more forward we go, the more we seem to regress”, in a commentary on the lack of art education today and its fallout in terms of the growing intolerance, barbarism and violence we are now witnessing.
“Look at what’s become of us”, rues Apurva, pointing to our degeneration from a mature society that could once appreciate the aesthetics of Khajuraho to modern day fanatics who think nothing of gagging or exiling artists whom we cannot comprehend. The link between an appreciation of the liberal arts and a mature, civilized society has never, according to Apurva, been more apparent than today.
For his part, Apurva conceptualised and conducted an art appreciation course at Gallery Gitanjali earlier this year which was well attended by a disparate bunch of art enthusiasts including photographers, students, architects and art collectors. “I tend to deal with art in an inter-disciplinary manner and so having a diverse audience helps contribute to a wider perspective”, he states.
Moving away from the broader canvas of his earlier course, the art historian now plans to limit his focus to the subject of ‘Modern Art’ – a genre infamous for its complex themes, perplexing visuals and baffling expressions. As he tracks art movements from the 1850s to recent years, the course will guide students through roughly 150 years of art history, throwing light on the life of different artists and their styles via slide-shows, debate, discussion and art walks through the gallery. For their effort, participants will be rewarded with tea and sandwiches offered up by the ever-hospitable gallery owner Miriam Koshy-Sukhija.
This Saturday, the gallery will host an introductory session to enlighten potential candidates on the nuances of modern art and offer them a chance to consider the merits of attending such a workshop. “This course is focused on the strangeness of art”, says Apurva grinning. What gave rise to the birth of different periods of art? Where did modernism begin and where does it stand today – all this and more will be answered in Apurva’s inimitable style across ten sessions of two hours each every Thursday at the gallery.
While the mature content of the course restricts participants below 15 years of age, there is little other qualification required to attend apart from an insatiable appetite for art. Getting a grip on ‘Modern Art’ will also help participants digest Apurva’s next curatorial project – an art show wherein twenty Goan artists will reinterpret the Kamasutra text. “There is a lot of misconception about the Kamasutra being a ‘dirty’ book”, he says adding that “The book actually explores the beauty of relations and it will be interesting to see how this is reinterpreted in a modern context.”
Writer Milan Kundera once remarked, “You can understand nothing about art, particularly modern art, if you do not understand that imagination is a value in itself.” Surely, Apurva would agree.
Gallery Gitanjali will host the opening session of The Meanings of Modern Art on September 13 at 6 p.m. at its premises in Fontainhas, Panaji.
Interpreting Modern Art
By Christabelle Coutinho