Garhi, the artists haven will
continue to make news in value based art history.
Located in South Delhi it came into
being in 1976. The Lalit Kala Adademi provided the Delhi Development
Authority (DDA) with funds to set up these studios. The inspiration
was the City of Art in Paris where individual artists are
provided with studios and lodging. Garhi followed the setting up a
similar art fortress, Cholamandal, in Madras.
However, Garhi has some distinctive
features. Only qualified professional artists can apply to the Lalit
Kala Adademi. Their work is evaluated, and those with talent and
education are admitted. It has studios for both groups of
artists, and for individuals. The range od disciplines is impressive
painting, print-making that includes etching and silkscreen
painting, pottery and sculpture in clay stone, fibre glass, wax and
plaster of Paris. It accommodates artists, young and not-so-young.
It is always well populated and has the advantage of a genuine art
fortress in fencing out non-artists, while allowing insiders full
play for the exercise of their creativity. To all of them the
village has been both inspiration and sustainer.
Garhi, provides four community studios
for graphics, sculpture, pottery and painting and seven individual
studios. Eight to 10 artists can work at a time in a community
studio. The painters studio has partitions, but the others are
just large halls where artists work in their own selected corner.
Each community studio has a supervisor, a crucial person, for he is
in charge of making materials available to the artists at cost price,
and for maintaining the studio.
The common factor that unites the
artists, men and women painters and sculptors in various media is
need-cum-commitment, so that the atmosphere of professionalism is
genuine and reflects both the quality of entrant and evidence of
individual and collective artistic growth.
What may seem a disadvantage
the fact that Garhi is in the centre the citys life and
movement is in fact an asset. There are only a few artists
who are in search of a Shangrila far from the madding crowd. Garhi
become a heaven for several artists who point out that when you are
busy the doors of your mind are automatically closed to all
other thoughts and distractions. Its sights and smells
(chiefly of clay) area accepted without comment and constitute
welcome evidence of an artistic oasis.
It is this composite of several allied
arts each represented by a professional at work that is possibly
among the most fascinating aspects of Garhi. Here, for instance, is
a sober-looking young woman with a palette and a brush in her hands,
busy at work. She has been painting for several years and displays
the confidence of someone about to arrive. Then, close by, is a
graphic artist, a young man, who has been hard at work for eight
years. He could not have done as well at home Garhi has
offered him the necessary facilities. Here again are potters
working, one perched on a stool with a wheel moving in front of her,
another surveying his work, head on one side, critically. And then,
again, there is an artist busy with a wooden frame, who feels better
working alone than in a team, but is, nevertheless, better off at
Garhi than he would be at an isolated studio in town. There are
others bronze casters, people working in metal with welding
equipment near furnaces, ceramics specialists every variety of
art-cum-craft that achieves beauty with utility.
The image of the artists village
in the midst of an average community persists and seems healthy. The
voices of children at play, a ground of artists sharing lunch, an old
woman talking to two young people even as her hands are busy wiping
some etchings, and near them all, brightly coloured dahlias swaying
in the breeze, tall Ashoka trees providing a benevolent shade, a
couple of cycles leaning against the wall, at these cohere and jump
to constitute that casual everyday image of a world of art within a
world of ordinary people, that is as it should be.
Perhaps most important within this
atmosphere, is the opportunity that Garhi provides for the exchange
of ideas and the contagion of innovation. Interaction with artists
is important because art cannot be pursued in isolation. A visual
artist may indeed move from one medium to another.
Garhi has become so popular through
its 13 years that other artists coming from all over India, and even
form abroad, are curious about whats going on. So clearly,
more Garhis have to be set up.
It is relevant to ask: Can artist work
together for long without explosive quarrels? The creative process
does create tensions. This is one of the administrators most
difficult problems, to get them to live and work, not necessarily in
perfect harmony, but without getting in one anothers way. And
this is where additional space becomes vital. The insistent demand
for space is an indication that the original Garhi has thrived.