The art of art writing

Updated: Jan 21 2007, 05:45am hrs
On a Saturday afternoon, a group of people, mostly youngsters, sitting in a brightly-lit gallery were watching a film with rapt interestNo, they werent a bunch of college-goers watching the latest Bollywood blockbuster on a weekend. They were all art history graduates and post-graduates watching a film on the life of the American artist, Laila Ali before their session with art historian Anita Dube began. It was the last day of their week-long art-writing workshop organised at the Vadehra Art Gallery between January 7-13, 2007.

The workshop, which was sponsored by the newly-established Foundation for Indian Contemporary Art, was conducted by art-historian, Annapurna Garimella of Art, Resources & Teaching, Bangalore and its aim, in the words of Garimella, was, to critically explore the role of writing in making the artness of art. And, the enthusiasm with which both the participants and the organisers were shooting questions at Dube made it obvious that they were sincerely seeking to explore how much has writing about art helped in adding to the value and aura of art works.

In her riveting lecture, Dube dilated upon an array of topicsthe influence of Leftist politics on her and her peers at the University of Baroda during the 80s; the rise of the subaltern artist as the representative of the lower classes and the lack of scholarly, insightful literature on art in India today. The workshop also featured Johnny ML, who spoke about New Media Writing or art writing in Blogs and e-magazines and Gayatri Sinha whose lecture focused on curatorial writing and critical art writing in the media. Through these lectures, according to Radhika Chopra, one of the founding members of Foundation for Indian Contemporary Art, We attempted to help our participants find their own area of interest within the vast and diverse domain of art writing.

Did the workshop actually benefit the participants Sonal Khullar, who is pursuing her PhD at the Berkeley University, USA strongly feels that it has. She said: As an art-history student, I have always felt that academic writing on art is for limited number of readers and on limited topics.This workshop helped me discover how art criticism and history can be taken to a wider audience. Airing a similar view, Sushma Shetty who works at the Theosophical Society in Chennai, said: This workshop was very helpful because it taught us many things which an art-writing professional cannot afford to remain ignorant about, but which unfortunately, was never taught to us at our art colleges.

Now that the workshop has won such accolades from the participants, do the organisers have plans to make it an annual affair Yes, we do, said Vidya Shivadas, an executive at the foundation. She added: we plan to sponsor more art students next year for the workshop. But what is more interesting is that the foundation is also planning to organise a workshop for art journalists and it will be held as early as we can manage, said Shivadas with a smile.