Art for art's sake

We speak to fledgling artists who open up about their recent alternative artworks — in making one uncomfortable with one’s flaws. They tell us how the crowd can support them better
Image used for representational purpose
Image used for representational purpose

The unfolding scenario of activism, both in the environmental sphere and in social justice, finds a unique echo in Hyderabad, particularly among contemporary artists who are challenging conventional norms and practices. But are we supportive of them enough? Are we making it more of a commodity and less of a conversation? While rising artists shed light on environmental degradation, climate change, social inequality, casteism, and the urban impact on mental health, they are also broadening the scope of what art depicts and what it can achieve. The shift represents a pushback against mainstream galleries and art institutions that have traditionally prioritised aesthetics and commercial viability over the bare, unedited face of societal concerns and the artist’s voice. But unfortunately, the collective gaze is only fixed upon the familiar. “There’s a reluctance to engage fully with our art,” says Sarvagya Nair, who talks about manual scavenging in his art.

“People don’t want to buy our art. This is not just a loss for the artists themselves but for society at large. The art of the youth is a mirror to our times, reflecting the complexities, anxieties, and hopes of a generation. Art needs the society but the society also needs to know that it needs art.”

In a recent exhibition at the Hyderabad Literature Festival (HLF), emerging artists found alternative spaces and platforms to exhibit their work, from street art and public installations to digital galleries and social media, thereby democratising access to art and its impact. Selavu Kandukuri delves into the fusion of text, imagery, and performance that speaks directly to the locale. With Telugu at the heart of her exploration, she transforms the script and sonority into gateways for visual storytelling.

The artist engages the public in irregular ways, inviting participation through interactive games like hopscotch and the distribution of leaflets, making the site more than just a backdrop but an integral part of the narrative. She thinks that she isn’t truly seen. We speak to Mahesh who meets technology with intuition. His unconscious gestures are guided by the machinery’s rhythm and the nuanced cadences of sound.

“I try to bring the unsaid and unseen. There’s no definite medium of my work. I recently completed an installation project about manual power. I want my art to become a silent language, a bridge between the inexpressible and the tangible world,” he tells us, adding, “Every conversation, every shared post, is a step toward building a community that embraces and uplifts its artists. Share your knowledge and enthusiasm for local art with friends, family, and colleagues. The more people know about the local art scene, the larger the potential support base for artists.”

Farhin Afza hailing from Bihar and currently based in Hyderabad, records Islamic history in her work. She describes her art as an act of witnessing. One can see a slice of home, memory, identity, and belonging — often selecting subjects and materials that are ordinary, yet uncanny. In her recent yet compelling work, Dast e Saba, she empathises with political prisoners.

Drawing its name from a collection of poems by Faiz Ahmed Faiz, penned during his incarceration, the work weaves together words of jailed poets around the globe, including figures like George Jackson, Samih al-Qasim, and Mahmoud Darwish. Beyond financial support, taking the time to engage with artists’ work can be incredibly validating, she shares. “Contemporary art is changing a lot. People are using materials in their art which have voices. Spaces have voices. But even then, it has a long way to go. There’s a gap between a collector’s mindset and that of the artists’. The gallerists look for something that’s permanent and durable. I’m myself dilemmatic. But simply put, maybe, consider purchasing original pieces, prints, or even smaller, more affordable items like sketches and postcards.” —

chokita@newindianexpress. com @PaulChokita

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