The exhibition displays works by the “Photo-Imaginary” Group. Did you help form this group or were these artists working together before the show?
These were some of the artists I was working with, and I could see some similarities in their work. There was a particular relationship to photography they all had. It’s not technically a group, but we’re thinking about it more as working in a new genre. Most painters use photography in a very realistic manner. They click a photo and then paint a canvas that mirrors the photo exactly. These artists are using photography in a very dynamic fashion. The paintings in the show, not only are they influenced or inspired by the photography, some of them have prints on the canvas manually.
Butterfly by Suman and Saurav / TAXI
Painting on photography has been around since at least as long as photography has been, what’s new about the technique?
Painting on photography, that long tradition, is mostly done in studio, when you take a black and white photograph and colour it. It’s more of a technique. It’s only recent that it’s become the means of artistic expression. Photo imaginary is the idea that I really want to propagate. Photography is not meant to be a slave of painting. It’s not just about copying that image on to the canvas. Let’s play with photography.
Photography, especially in Delhi, really seems to be getting its day in the sun. Why are people finally seeing it as an worthy art medium?
People might be bored with painting. Although there are lots of painters in India, there’s nothing terribly exciting coming out. So photography offers people a fresh visual medium. Photography is still very affordable, which is also why collectors are trying to pick it up.
Photographic Study for The Ritual by Biplab Muzibar Rahman
How is the art scene in Delhi? Is it floundering or flourishing?
The art scene is exciting because things are happening. Sometimes you feel that there are very few people who are genuinely excited about art. Galleries seem to just be selling things. But there are a few young curators that are trying to change that. The biggest challenge is to balance the creative and the commercial. It’s been all about the commercial for a long time. Slowly, people are realizing one needs to go beyond that.
Has the government played too little a role in encouraging the art scene?
I’ve totally given up on hope of that. I would rather concentrate on private initiative because I don’t know when the government is going to wake up to something called culture. It’s sort of pointless since it will take a long, long time for anything to happen.
Corrections -1 by Pranay Lal
The Dark Room will be on display from 5-19 December, Academy of Photographic Excellence, 60, Basant Lok Community Centre, Vasant Vihar, New Delhi