Sonal Motla narrates: Arts in digital times

Inclusion of innovation, experimentation and problem-solving needs to be done in the Art and Design syllabi

Sonal MotlaUpdated: Monday, August 01, 2022, 02:47 AM IST
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A functional seating chair created by Krishnachari Bose in 1993 was a part of ‘Circling the Square’ - a show of functional art conceived and executed by Sonal Motla with six other masters | Sonal Motla

The current statute of Art as we know today, is undergoing a substantial change, a significant part of which is already seen with the emergence of NFT, digital art, and various other applications, where the conventional theories are being redefined. Besides the traditional arts, arts fused with technology also will play an extremely important role.

Globally, Art and Design have grown exponentially over time and there is a great need for this to be brought into the institutions that lay the foundation for development of students. Inclusion of innovation, experimentation and problem-solving needs to be done in the syllabi, as this too will see significant growth and become an integral part of all the Arts.

Of the 41 art degree colleges in Maharashtra, Mumbai has, which are based on a syllabus that has remained unchanged over decades. While the syllabus is comprehensive, it has not evolved to the extent that satisfies current developments in the field.

Any effective art education system relies upon synergy between the education of art, the art-market and the documentation in context to its economic and cultural heritage. The coming years will see a change in the entire Art ecosystem.

S.H. Raza’s digitally-created canvas artwork (1991) was showcased at the landmark show at the Jehangir Art gallery and National Gallery of Modern Art Delhi

S.H. Raza’s digitally-created canvas artwork (1991) was showcased at the landmark show at the Jehangir Art gallery and National Gallery of Modern Art Delhi | Sonal Motla

Pedagogical path ahead

Fine Arts, design, or creativity depends on an individual’s process, attitude and mostly their intention. However, a systematic change of application of the aesthetics will change all this in the future as I foresee. Timely intervention and foresight will certainly have a richer and robust Art market.

There is a huge imbalance in art colleges, and diploma courses offered countrywide. We have about 50,000 art students graduating every year but we only have a few art galleries to exhibit their art works. Art graduates are most vulnerable to their commercial value, post education.

A multidisciplinary syllabus where students are taught various applications and are given exposure on these applications is required. I see this interface developing in the next 10 years. There is no legal recognition of the Indian contemporary art community. Additionally, Art is perceived as a luxury and so remains a niche market.

Let not the astronomical prices of auction houses in headlines of the media fool you, as most of the money goes to the collectors and the auction houses, while the young artist is often seen struggling to make ends meet.

Technology and art are two sides of a coin. Art is a reflection of society. So, if society has empowered or has upgraded itself with technology, technology is eventually going to reflect in the art, design, and creativity.

I exhibited digital art thirty years ago, back in 1991 with my first exhibition. But, even today in 2022, we don’t see computers and digital infrastructure in the government run colleges.

There is a serious, alarming requirement for infrastructure, teachers' training, delivery system, and syllabus. The whole commerce of art and ecosystem needs to be rebooted. The whole spectrum is widening from getting out of the pristine white cube galleries, to progressing towards public art, civic art, functional art and the like.

We are talking about creative expression, not just plastic arts. Terminologies will change and the way we look at things is going to change dramatically too. Technology is going to be an extremely organic part.

The Arts will keep integrating deeply and earlier in the coming years. AI and VR will change the way we experience Art. This does not mean that the classics and the Masters will be overlooked. Instead, technology will help in understanding and interacting with them even more deeply. The information on the historical context, the evolution and the experience to walk into a painting is all going to take the artistic journey to another level.

Just like MF Hussain once said, "As I begin to paint, hold the sky in your hands; as the stretch of my canvas is unknown to me." The mind’s expanse is going to determine the expanse of the brush, it does not have to limit itself to the canvas. And, that is exactly what is happening. We are broadening and widening the whole spectrum of art.

Creative construct

Content will always remain the nucleus, human thought and human expression is at the helm. Tools keep evolving as technology progresses, history is proof to this. From cave paintings with natural dyes and materials to the western derivative of canvas and paint, we keep evolving.

Rich heritage of textiles, handicrafts, ceramics, metal work, carpentry are all but tools that have changed over time. The primary fundamental is the human expression being responding to the external world.

Artists are the talent and they need to be nurtured, encouraged, and empowered, and given the spotlight. From craft, textile, and Madhubani paintings are Fine Arts. Craft is a skill and Fine Arts is an artistic expression of an individual's ability. All these need to be married; be cross disciplinary and multidisciplinary and this is what I am committed to doing for the next ten years.

(Sonal Motla has curated Kala Ghoda 2020 with development and art as a theme and is currently working towards the issues on education on art, craft and design with a few educational institutions)

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