Freedom @75 celebrates the colours of freedom
An expert in abstract art, artist Bhagwan Chavan showcases the freedom struggle pre-and post-independence highlighting the contribution of people from all walks of life
When India was set to celebrate its 75 years of independence, an artist found himself discussing his role and contribution towards the nation. That’s when he hit upon the idea of using our flag’s size which is 2 feet x 3 feet and the four colours that adorn it to develop 75 works of art in which he highlights the struggle of pre-Independence where we fought to gain freedom and the strides we took to reach to a stage where we are the fifth largest economy in the world post-Independence — all this through the prism of abstraction. Artist Bhagwan Chavan’s displays are thus titled, Freedom @75 which can actually also be called ‘freedom through abstraction’.
“It began with a simple thought — my friends and I were discussing the fact that artists have the freedom to creative expression. But while educational institutions and government bodies were planning programs around the 75th year of independence, there was nothing happening in the art field. I wanted to represent myself, and as an artist, I had to do it on the canvas. But then, my genre is completely abstract. So, I started reading up on the history of India and the freedom struggle, and finally, I came upon the Indian national flag. Its size is what is interesting. Hence, I thought why not take this size and the colours of the flag and commit myself to completing 75 paintings, without changing formats. Thus began the process,” the artist tells us.
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Bhagwan, who has carried the legacy of abstraction from the modernist tradition of J J School of Art, later relocated to Cholamandal Artist Village that was envisioned by KCS Pannikar. After he zeroed in on the idea of Freedom @75, it wasn’t as easy to start working on it immediately. “I started doing some scribbles but wasn’t heading anywhere for the first month or two. Then one day, I just did one sketch, and that’s where I thought I could do this now. I created a pattern. I created my canvases and it began to fall in place. However again, once I finished one canvas and went on to the next, I was working with the same size, same format! So, I felt I was just repeating, and was stuck. But, I also knew I cannot stop, and I thought about all those people who contribute so much towards the nation and have even sacrificed their lives — like farmers, freedom fighters, defense personnel, scientists, sportspersons, journalists, poets, writers and many others. So, sitting in the studio, why can’t I do this? I asked myself,” he says.
Talking about the use of colours of the Indian National Flag — orange, white, green and blue (and the many hues that these colours can create), Bhagwan says, “I blend all the four colours to present my art through abstraction. It’s difficult, like I have mentioned because there are restrictions, but I have played along with the primary colours and the various hues. As of now, I have completed 40 paintings. By August, I’ll be able to complete 75.” The first exhibition of Freedom @75 was held in Bengaluru last August. After showcasing in Chennai, it is set to travel to Mumbai, then New Delhi.
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Talking about abstraction in art, Bhagwan says that there are risks involved in presenting one’s (the artist’s) visualisation of something on canvas and expecting it to be understood by the viewers. “Abstract art is a real challenge. I have had my friends coming to the studio and saying, ‘we don’t understand this,’ but I have also had people walking into my studio, picking up from canvases lying in the corners for months, and saying, ‘I want this.’ So, that’s also surprising,” the artist shares.
Rs 3,00,000 onwards
On view till 12 March. 10 am to 7pm.
Espace 24, Alliance Française de Madras.