Over the past 40 years of working with arts, crafts, traveling the world and seeing the aesthetics of India evolve with modernity, I have seen the boundaries between disciplines begin to blur. . There has always been a fine line between art and craft, and it is slowly but surely fading. With the advent of technology, accessibility and ease of communication, artisans are no longer in a sphere of remoteness. They are appreciated and those who are able to use their imaginations experience greater success.
Today, drawings by late artist Gond Jhangar Singh Shyam sell for a similar price to drawings by contemporary artist Arpita Singh. Renowned designer Ashish Shah has worked with craftsmen from Kashmir, Karnataka, Odisha, Manipur, etc. to produce a range of dramatic works between utilitarian and sculptural using them in his projects. He used the skills of craftsmen from different fields. Not only that, Experimenter, a gallery known for showing cutting-edge art, exhibited some of his works and it was an example of the lines between disciplines breaking down.
Six-seven years ago I exhibited beautiful paintings by architect BV Doshi at the India Art Fair and the event went unnoticed not because of the art or the reputation of the legend, but because the viewers couldn’t fully understand the concept of creativity coming from those who weren’t good trained artists.
Today, architects and designers collaborate with artists and artisans to incorporate art into their projects with more than just decorative intent.
One such example is that of Chiu Man Wong, a Singapore-based architect who conceptualized and planned the St Regis Hotel in the Maldives by giving the architecture forms inspired by sea creatures and conceptualizing the art by working closely collaborating with artists to produce works related to the five elements that are part of island culture. Designers too have gone through and become artists as in the case of two successful creatives, namely Alex Davis and Vikram Goyal.
Artists have always worked with artisans, such as bronzers and engravers. However, today we see artists working with craftsmanship with great ease and recognizing and crediting artisans for collaborations.
Manjit Bawa and Arpana Caur in India ventured in this direction more than two and a half decades ago. Today Princess Pea, known largely for her performance work, extended her pea-shaped mask to sculptures she created with a group of female artists from Etikoppaka in Andhra Pradesh. In recent times, many artists have now explored artisanal techniques in their work.
We have now seen a resurgence and awareness in the appreciation of creativity for ideas – be it the watercolors and photographs of Le Corbusier or the furniture in the Chandigarh style of Pierre Jeanneret. The time has come when Indian collectors will soon collect craftsmanship and design and cherish them as art in the same way the Japanese make their teapots national treasures or the Europeans respect the cutlery made by Georg Jensen from Copenhagen.
(The writer is a gallerist and curator involved in the contemporary art world and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)