When Diptej Vernekar from Kumbharjua village learnt that he had been listed in Forbes India 30 under 30: Young Achievers of 2019, he thought it was a prank. NT BUZZ meets the artist a few weeks ahead of the award function
CHRISTINE MACHADO \ NT BUZZ
Diptej Vernekar’s inclusion in the Forbes India 30 under 30: Young Achievers of 2019 came as a surprise for the artist himself. “I still don’t know who recommended my name. I remember I was riding my bike when I got a call telling me that I was on the list. At first I thought it was a prank!” he reveals. Vernekar will now be receiving the award on August 2 at Worli in Mumbai.
While he is certainly happy with this win, Vernekar is quite busy with his many art projects these days. And he often finds himself going back to his roots while working, he admits. This in particular references to his fascination with floats.
“I come from the village of Kumbhajua which is famous for its floats depicting Ganpati, Narkasur, etc, especially during Shigmotsav,” he says. In fact, when Vernekar opted to pursue his Bachelors in Fine Arts from Goa College of Art, Altinho, he always thought he would return to creating floats later. “Even though I was not involved with this, I was more interested in the technical part. I think just by observing, you tend to understand a lot of things about the mechanics, be it the understanding of the gear system and the like,” he says.
In fact one of his upcoming projects will see him delve further into researching on this.
“It all began while I was researching about the island of Divar and was looking to see if there was any archive of the floats that has been done over the years in the state. I couldn’t find anything going back until 1991,” he says. The project will thus focus on the archiving of thirty years of these floats. “I am thinking of creating a lab where I will find and archive those mechanisms which I have seen since 1991 and the impact on that on parallel education in terms of the village scene,” he explains. Elaborating further, he says that many villagers have over the years learnt and mastered these mechanics and this learning deserves to be looked at.
Also, he adds, floats aren’t generally considered as a proper art form, but are just used as entertainment. He however does not agree with this view. “Just like in other art forms there is a transition and evolution in everything. The mechanism used in these floats has changed over the period of 20 years. The way Ravana is depicted has also changed having been influenced by film, animation, etc,” he says.
Over the last two or three years, Vernekar, who went on to complete his Masters in Fine Arts from the Sarojini Naidu School of Arts and Communication, under University of Hyderabad, today teaches a course on art and aesthetics for BEd (Bachelors of Education) students at Goa Vidyaprasarak Mandal’s Dr Dada Vaidya College of Education, Ponda. He has also worked on a quite a few interesting projects. One particular interesting one was his stint at the Serendipity Art Festival in 2018 in a project titled ‘The Ground Beneath My Feet’ inspired by the painting of Ophelia, a character in Shakespeare’s play ‘Hamlet’.
Another residency he did in 2017 in Mumbai examined how clothes have become another landscape. “While we have a lot of space here in Goa, in Mumbai it is not so. Thus the space outside the place they live in becomes an extension of the house where people dry their clothes,” he explains .
Having delved into different art forms, Vernekar has now turned his attention to film making. “Editing has become a regular feature during the course of my work and this has generated an interest in exploring film making further,” he says.
A part of the Goa Artists Collective, Vernekar also informs that the group which is always on the lookout for new talent, especially artists who are exploring new genres, will be coming out with an exhibition at Museum of Goa, Pilerne in October. “Apart from the usual team members, we have managed to rope in two or three more new artists,” he says. Given that the art space is located in the industrial estate, the project will look at art in the context of an industrial landscape. “I believe that art should always be an extension of space,” he says.
And the art scene in general is definitely changing today, he says. “The role of galleries itself is changing. Art has come to public spaces and the social space,” he adds. “I think artists too today need to step out of their comfort zone and explore different things.”