Mixed fortune for Indian artists during Covid-19 pandemic

Cultivating creativity during Covid


June 11, 2020

/ By / New Delhi

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‘Quarantine & chill’- A creation by Rahul V Mathew inspired from Raja Ravi Varma’s Shakuntala Patralekhan depicts Shakuntala with a TV remote watching Netflix instead of writing a letter

While the coronavirus pandemic has meant cancellation of all art exhibitions and brought sale of art to near zero, it has boosted traditional and digital art online and enhanced creativity.

It has been almost two weeks since the national capital New Delhi reopened more or less completely after having been shut down for nearly three months. However, a walk through India Habitat Centre shows the door of Visual Art Gallery, a key landmark in the art circle of the country, is shut with a padlock. Similar is the fate of other key art galleries and museums, not just in the capital but indeed in several key cities across the country.

Since the coronavirus pandemic hit India in March, there have been numerous reports in the media about millions of lost jobs, thousands of migrants forced to walk all the way back home and the sorry state of the Indian economy as millions of companies stand on the verge of closure. However, there have hardly been any reports on the impact that the pandemic has had on artists and the art market.

Along with cinema theatres as well as shopping malls and gyms, art galleries, too, were the first ones to be closed down even before the lockdown was imposed on March 25. And nearly three months later, they remain closed, while even the malls have begun to reopen in many cities. This has put thousands of artists in a perilous situation, says Rajesh Baderia, an artist based in New Delhi. “Due to Covid-19, all economic activities were severely impacted so did the art scene. As art is not considered a necessity and is almost entirely supported by art lovers, investors and connoisseurs, and due to the pandemic, all of these are out of scene and as a result, artists have seen their incomes disappear entirely,” Baderia tells Media India Group.

However, being locked indoors has indeed proven to be a boon to some artists as it allowed their creative juices to flow uninterrupted by any external disturbance. “Artists need their own uninterrupted space and Covid-19 has come as a blessing in disguise as far as creativity is concerned. Creativity has indeed staged a strong come back as the artists are not being guided by the market to create a particular kind of artwork and they have much more space and time to image, think and create. We can see this phenomenon through social media as Facebook is full of artworks that have been created recently and many artists are posting 10 works in 10 days full of creativity,” recounts Baderia.

Indeed various artists have been inspired differently during the pandemic and the subsequent lockdown. For instance, Bengaluru-based artist Rahul V Mathew came up with a unique concept of spreading awareness among people through his digital art. The artist has used the works of famous Indian painter, Raja Ravi Varma, to spread awareness on hygiene practices related to Covid-19.

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Mathews art work gives the message to avoid close proximity during Covid-19 by highlighting a modern version of Menaka and Shakuntala

Mathew says that the response has been great. “I worked on this series a few days before the lockdown began in India. It was the time when news and reports from other countries started flooding in about the outbreak regarding how bad the situation was turning into. Most of the people who follow my work on Instagram found the concept to be interesting because, when news reports are all about facts and figures and statistics, it must have been overwhelming for people to take in and understand the content. People rather liked how I approached the situation through visuals that trigger and informs one about the current situation,” tells Mathew to Media India Group.

Mathew says the idea behind this was only to spread awareness and as an expression of creativity. “It was a personal project for me and I was more inclined to create awareness and self-expression. I decided to create the artwork to spread awards about the situation, things to consider and follow during the Covid-19 outbreak. My work specifically touched upon topics such as panic buying, mental health, self-quarantine,” he adds.

With people locked inside their homes, use of internet has increased dramatically and it has also benefitted digital art. “I feel there has been a positive impact as the head count people investing time on social media platforms has increased and it automatically is helping other digital artists and designers to put their work out there and is hence reaching a larger audience than before,” says Mathew.

Creation, a work of Baderia, symbolises male and female energy in an abstract form which never ceases to remain in this universe

It is not just digital art that has benefitted from the fact the lockdown has forced people to spend hours online. Even traditional art has reaped the benefits of millions of eyeballs looking for all kinds of content in the internet. Several galleries and even artists hosted exhibitions digitally. “I have not done any exhibition myself online, however, a gallery has posted my art works on its online exhibition. Covid-19 has boosted online presence and the number of visitors to my website,” says Baderia.

However, not all effects of the lockdown on the art-world have been positive on traditional art. Many artists complain that they have not been able to go to their studios, while also facing a severe shortage of basic materials to allow them to continue to paint. “Yes, execution of large art works has been badly impacted as not only could we not go to our studio to work due to lockdown. Even though artists generally have enough material in store, however, lockdown has impacted immediate availability of particular art material and stalled our work,’’ adds Baderia.

The other and perhaps more severe impact has been that most artists have not sold any works as they have not been able to even show their works to potential buyers. However, the situation could change fairly rapidly. “Once life comes back to normal, art will automatically come back be to life! Art enthusiasts can’t live without art as it gives them a kick and so art will never stop happening though prices of works would be impacted. Hopefully 2021 will begin with happy moments and could be very happening in the later part of the year 2021,” says Baderia, optimistically.



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