by Aarti Bahl
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The ongoing show, ‘Making Art: Materials and Technology’, at Piramal Museum of Art in Mumbai provides the viewers an insight into the process of creating art and exploring the relationship between materials used in making art, along with the theoretical knowledge of how history of art evolved with technology over the years. For the exhibit, the museum space has been broadly divided into six categories: Charcoal, Ink and Graphite, Paints and Pigments, Sculpture, Printmaking, Photography and Digital Media. The theme of the show is supported by exhibits of original works by masters like Jehangir Sabawala, F.N. Souza, Tyeb Mehta, Ranbir Kaleka, Krishen Khanna, Jogen Chowdhury and Nikhil Chopra and sculpture art by D.P. Roy Choudhury and Meera Mukherjee. You can also spot the work of Bangalore based artist Ravi Kumar Kashi, known for his extensive knowledge of paper-making.
The show is on till 15 June’ 2019

ArtCultureFestival meets Vaishnavi Ramanathan, Curator & Art Historian and Ashvin E. Rajagopalan, Director, Piramal Museum of Art — the team behind the unique and highly interactive exhibition being held at the museum. Excerpts from the interaction:

ACF: What is the inspiration behind this unique show?
Vaishnavi: The audience and their interest in creating art has been our biggest inspiration. We have been engaging with them since 2015. Recent turn of art history shows art lovers are interested not only in what is being made but also the process involved in reaching that stage.
Ashvin: I am from the audience and outreach side. I can’t have people appreciating art till they learn to understand art works. Even the simplest sentence written about art is too complex to understand and when we try to unwrap it, there are layers of jargon. In the process of simplifying it, we have had to build everything from the basics.

ACF: Tell us a bit about the exciting journey in putting things together for this show.
Vaishnavi: Given that there are so many art materials, narrowing down and picking what we want to show here has been tough. Even the simplest of the material we use in creating art has a very rich history that travels across time and places. Each artist follows a unique process and handles the same material differently. We have done extensive research to bring it to the audience in a simplified way.
Ashvin: Breaking down the exhibition systematically in order to reach out to the audience has been very interesting and exciting. Vaishnavi brought in all the academic knowledge and we both had to unlearn the whole process first and then start building blocks in creating art for this show.

ACF: Which is your favorite space/area in this exhibition?
Vaishnavi: The Central Activity Area where visitors can directly engage with the material through a tactile experience of touching and experimenting.
Ashvin: The whole floor in the center area is made of canvas. I am excited to see who will take the first leap to start painting on it.

ACF: What is your target audience? How are you planning to reach out to people?
Ashvin: Everyone and anyone. We want all age groups to come and experience this exhibition. Our outreach team has designed a series of events and activities such as free guided Sunday tours, workshops on pottery, block printing and charcoal, papermaking, watercolour painting, clay workshop, video art and photography, artist talks for the audiences of every age group. These events are spread across three months till June 15, 2019.

ACF: With the setting of the Museum being a key element in this specific show, were there any unique challenges that you faced in putting this show together?
Vaishnavi: On one hand we are trying to engage the audience with the art work by touching and experiencing it, on the other hand we are displaying the work of well- established artists. Aspect of safety is very important here. We have to maintain and protect the artworks displayed in the show. That is why we had to come up with the design of this circular area which is very open and at the same time gives a sense of closeness to the artwork. Bridging the gap between openness and intimacy was challenging in my case.
Ashvin: Breaking down the content was the biggest challenge for me.

ACF: What were your highs and lows in putting the show together?
Vaishnavi: Challenge in writing about the show, unavailability of a lot of material to explain artist practice. Secondly each of this material is so complex and space is limited. People normally don’t have the bandwidth to absorb everything.
Ashvin: Once Vaishnavi and I were sure of our concept and plan for the exhibition, it was a challenge to communicate to the best of designers. It was very difficult for them to visualize our thought process initially. Everything has shaped up so well finally.

ACF: Your favorite material
Vaishnavi: Clay is the simplest, it has childlike qualities and at the same time can be used to create complex pieces.
Ashvin: Charcoal is my favorite. It is primitive but needs a lot of expertise to work with.

ACF: Describe the show in one line.
Vaishnavi: The exhibition is about the joy of creating something with your hands.
Ashvin: It is an open invitation to everyone to come and make art.

ACF: What do you hope viewers will get out of the exhibition after seeing it?
Vaishnavi: We want them to get into the routine of making creativity a part of their life.
Ashvin: Better understanding of art, materials and the technology.

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