All art is quite useless, said celebrated 19th century playwright Oscar Wilde in his most famous work ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’. While that simple sentence has been subjected to enough debates and introspection through the centuries, one could still safely assume that a vast majority of us still abide by Wilde’s words and views art and the artist as quite useless considering the plight of artists in the city.
A couple of weeks ago, four upcoming artists from Chennai and Bengaluru participated in a workshop on Mixed Media and send forth an invite to this newspaper requesting coverage. Why would a newspaper write a report on four aspiring artists sitting in a room trying to give a visual form to their abstract thoughts?
“We want people to come and see what artists do, interact with artists and find out more about our work,” said Anamika V from Injambakkam, an upcoming artist and one of the participants at the workshop.
Every day, she has been sitting in an isolated studio and working on a canvas that she would someday display in an exhibition. “It is a laborious process but a hugely satisfying one,” she says. “We do not think of an audience when we work.”
Anamika is among the hundreds of students who pass out of the Government College of Fine Arts every year hoping to make it big in the minuscule art world. To make ends meet, Anamika and her husband, also an artist, take up freelance assignments unrelated to their work.
Naveen Kumar from Bangalore, another participant at the workshop, passed out of art school only last year. “Life as an artist is a huge struggle and I would not recommend it to anyone unless they are absolutely committed,” he says. Naveen does several odd jobs including working at an art gallery to ensure that he doesn’t depend on others for a living.
“For every successful artist, there are thousands who are absolutely talented but confine themselves to dusting and cleaning great works of art in art galleries,” he says.
The Government College of Fine Arts was founded as a private institution by a military surgeon Dr. Alexander Hunter in the year 1850 as a private institution and was taken over by the British government two years later. Since then, the institution has undergone several transitions and has produced a generation of artists who have achieved international acclaim.
“But, the present state of affairs at this institution is a testimony to the plight of students passing out of here, “said a veteran artist in the city. “Private organizations and individual trusts contribute a lot more to help struggling artists in the city,” he says.
Many college mates of Anamika have moved on to other professions and have found their calling in jobs ranging from being sales professionals to art directors for Kollywood. Only a handful of them still nurture the passion.
“It is difficult to say why I chose to create art instead of another profession that my parents wanted me to pursue,” she says. “Through these workshops, we hope people come to appreciate our work and the labour that goes in it.”