On a sunny Saturday afternoon in Gurgaon, the walls of an art gallery are on their way to becoming the stuff of legend. Artist Subba Ghosh is standing atop a temporary wooden structure, furiously sketching on the pristine white wall of the gallery. Ghosh has worked on two walls—the diagonal walls along the staircase—and each has an enormous sketch of a human being. The first has a crouching man, almost like a cricketer stooping to take a catch, and the work on the adjacent wall, still in process, looks like a woman.
As one of the collateral events surrounding the India Art Fair that opens on 3 February, Living Walls is a unique initiative that reverses the logic of the art fair itself. “The idea here is to decommoditize art,” says Sunaina Anand of Art Alive Gallery. “Art has become so focused on the commercial aspect that we wanted to do something that would not give in to the logic of buying and selling.” And so came the idea of some of the biggest names in the country painting the walls of the gallery. “This is not something you can pick up and walk away with,” says Anand.
Given some of the names involved, that’s a lot of valuable wall space nobody can walk away with. The collaborative art project includes, apart from Ghosh, veterans Krishen Khanna, Sakti Burman, Manu Parekh, Madhvi Parekh, Paresh Maity, B. Manjunath Kamath, Jayasri Burman, Jagannath Panda, Mithu Sen, Chintan Upadhyay, G.R. Iranna, Gigi Scaria, Sumedh Rajendran, Sharmi Chowdhury and folk artist Ram Singh Urveti.
Naturally, this also means artists can actually work on pieces without having to worry about how they can become saleable. On the first floor of the gallery, Sakti Burman, Sen and Maity have started work. In the basement, it’s Manu Parekh, Jayasri Burman, Upadhyay, Kamath and Iranna. Iranna’s work—a large tree connected to a plug point in the corner with a red painted wire—describes how liberating such an exercise has been. “There’s no going wrong in such an exercise, no boundaries here. I started the painting on one wall and continued on to the next wall. When I began I had no idea I would do this,” says Iranna. Inside a studio, there’s a process, there are boundaries. “This has been about just melting into the process. It is the process that’s the most interesting here,” he says.
Upstairs, Sen’s work is an ode to the unknown artist. It’s a wall sans any paint or pencil. The artist has been engraving words such as “unknown” and “unsung”, among others. “In the world of art, for every known artist, there are hundreds that stay in oblivion. This work is dedicated to them,” she says.
Living Walls will be on show from 3-28 February, 11am-7pm (Monday-Saturday), at Art Alive Gallery, No.120, Sector 44, Gurgaon