Chitrashaala art residency at the tranquil Nahargarh Palace

by Ekatmata Sharma
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The sixth year of Chitrashaala art residency concluded on 9th November, 2019. The residency brought together 44 artists from 13 countries under one roof, a grand creative gathering providing visual artists an exposure to creative dialogues. Ekatmata Sharma shares her enriching experience of visiting the residency.   

Scene 1: A majestic white palace situated in the middle of a lake, surrounded with the backdrop of lush green hills. Scene 2:  A bunch of creative beings painting on their canvas inside the palace giving form to their expressions. Scene 3: A sight to behold. Art and nature go hand in hand. And when it’s a site that’s disconnected from the world through road, only connected through a boat, then the creativity has no limitations. jüSTa Lake Nahargarh Palace, Chittorgarh hosted the annual art residency program Chitrashaala in 2019 November first week with 44 artists from 13 countries. Owing its name to the historic Bundi School of Art’s Chitra Shala, the residency was an enriching experience for the artist to engage with the spirit of Rajasthan. The Palace is situated in between historical giants, Chittorgarh Fort on one side and Bundi village famous for its frescos, art and music. Inspiration had to come naturally to the artists as both the places celebrate Rajasthan’s artistic character.

“Nahargarh Palace seemed to be the ideal place for artists as they can visit Udaipur, Chittorgarh and Bundi and resonate with the art. The Palace is the most pristine and tranquil place, giving conducive environment for the artists. We have been hosting Chitrashaala from the last six years. We started with six artists in the initial years and later formalized it. As we are evolving each year we are adding new elements to it. From now onwards we will be cataloguing all the works with a write-up about the art and the artist. The works displayed in the hotel, we will be sharing about the theme behind it, the artist and the number of the artist, so that viewer can truly enjoy the art. We are also planning to have art tours for the guests,” shares CEO of jüSTa Hotels & Resorts, Ashish Vohra and his wife Deepika Govind, a veteran designer.

Since its inception in 2015, Chitrashaala has keenly involved artists of international repute namely Avijit Mukherjee, who is the force responsible for getting all artists together. The residency is curated by renowned art critic, Anirudh Chari, he feels, “Chitrashaala is an incredible experience for me and the artists. A very wide range of artworks are produced by superb artists. The quality and range of ideas expressed are always astonishing and beautiful. The famous Chitra Shala in Bundi displays a colourful glimpse of history. Chitrashaala pays homage to this legacy by bringing noteworthy artists from India and overseas together to celebrate Rajasthan’s artistic character.” Chawla adds, “Anirudh is amazing with the knowledge of art and understanding and the ability to connect with the artist and the people who are willing to understand art. After the artworks are completed, we display some artwork in our hotel properties or do an art charity event.” This year artists participated from countries like Poland, Egypt, Norway, Algeria, Thailand, Korea, Bangladesh, Turkey, Spain, Thailand, Japan and China.     

Chawla shares the journey behind establishing Chitrashaala, “In 2007, we had visited China to buy some furniture and brought some art instead. A friend of mine, an art connoisseur told us that they were all replicas and not even worth the money spent. He took us to Shantiniketan, Kolkata and we picked up lot of art from there. The good thing about art is that the more you talk to the artist, the more you start enjoying it. We just started liking the energy of the artworks. We stumbled upon the idea that in our hotels we should have original artworks. We started getting to know some of the artists. They suggested us to start residency in Nahargarh Palace.”

As much a learning experience as a grand creative gathering, Chitrashaala seeks to provide visual artists with exposure to a range of works in terms of form, content and style thereby contributing to the development of artistic expression as well as creative dialogues and possible future collaborations.   

Spanish artist Lieuwke Loth who started as an artist in 2003, shares her enriching experience at the residency, “This is my first time in India. I am impressed by the vibrant energies in Rajasthan cities. I had caught the vibe of the city and painted the craziness of city on my canvas. I don’t plan my paintings. I started with just flowing paint on the canvas, let it dry and then painted layers and layers. This way the grids also came up because of the dripping paint. My artwork is a kind of city map. There are some miniature paintings, tribal art, pieces of old Indian postcard in different places on my canvas. It’s a very different work from what I usually do. My signature style sculptures in bronze and lazer-cut art. But, I make drawings and paintings in residencies. I would like to go ahead with this style that I painted at Chitrashaala.”

Specially –abled artist Adarsh Baji painted a cat portrait with charcoal on canvas and another cat portrait with acrylic on canvas. His works can be found on the walls of Anil Ambani’s office. “My first friends are dogs and cats. Cats have a mystery around them. I am animal lover. I am more attracted to animals than human life. Their love is true and unconditional. My main medium is charcoal on canvas. It’s a very challenging medium, one mistake and you cannot undo it. Right now, I am working on Gandhi paintings. I have my Gandhi paintings in Anil Ambani’s main chamber office.”

Mumbai’s designer and artist Viraag Desai painted abstract on canvas depicting the tactile terrain around Nahargarh Palace. He is participating at the residency for the third time. He shares, “My style is abstract. I explored a lot while painting this tactile inspired artwork.”

Chitrashaala is a unique expression of the love of art which whilst rooted in the local environment, is also linked to national and international contexts. It helps stimulate innovation and respect a common cultural heritage and shaping understanding and respect among the artistic community. “More events of this nature are necessary for both emerging and established artists as they are an all too rare opportunity to mix and work with a variety of professionals from all genres of the visual arts. It acknowledges a common cultural heritage while, at the same time, respects the cultural diversity of the participants. It is, above all, a meeting place for the exchange of ideas and practices and demonstrates how dialogue is essential to nourish and enrich culture, particularly within a specific context,” shares Avijit Mukherjee, the artist who brings all the artists together under one roof.

The artworks of previous Chitrashaala residencies are at display at the tranquil and beautiful jüSTa Sajjangarh Resort & Spa, Udaipur. This one of a kind hotel is home to over 100 original artworks which are an eclectic mix of abstract art and beautiful landscapes by young and talented artists. Some of these paintings are works of celebrated artists such as late Dhiraj Chowdhury, Peter Markus, Girish Kulkarni, Nandini Das and Sai Wannapon to name a few. The foyer is ornated with two beautiful installations by artist and sculptor, Aditi Sinha while the centre stage is completely engulfed by the inspired work of M. C. Escher’s Belvedere. It shows a plausible-looking belvedere building that is an impossible object, modelled after an impossible cube. Five artists from India took this herculean canvas and gave it life at Sajjangarh property. Chitrashaala is a passionate effort of jüSTa Hotels a great step in providing a platform to connoisseurs of art who share similar beliefs.

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