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Developing as artists and people


The early '70s, artist’s camps and Place for People
Gulammohammed Sheikh Artist
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That was a period when we were sort of collecting views of artists through Vrishchik, paved the way for people to come together, at a different level though, it was at a national level. But then it brought up sort of issues. You were either for or against, and it was also a time when, you see, there weren’t that many galleries around, and none of us were doing sort of commercially well. So, it was also more sort of practical to have joint shows, group shows. I remember Bhupen, Agji, Chadpur and I had a show in Jahangirabad Gallery we organised ourselves. Similarly in 1974 another show where 10 artists got together and we had it in Delhi, you know, with Vivan and Nilima, and even Balbir Singh Katt, sculptor, they were all involved in that. But this was a time when people began to think about some of the issues and some of the ideas. Well, Vivan and Sudhir to an extent, you know, were sort of focussed on the left ideas, and I must talk... I must mention this institution of camps, artist camps, which began in the ‘60s, and in fact for the first one perhaps took place in Kashmir. It was initiated by Sankho Chaudhuri, one of our teachers. Now, that brought artists together, and that sort of was either financed or supported by either an academy of the State or some other body. Eventually the Kasauli house that belonged to Vivan Sundaram became home for a number of camps. Now, the word camp in that sense is a loosely kind of used term. It was more of kind of an exchange of ideas, and there were people of different denominations, and in the case of Kasauli, there were artists, writers, film-makers, theatre persons, you know, women, particularly those feminists, and others. So... and it did not remain sort of limited to India. It became a kind of an international camp, and Vivan was in, Vivan managed to get either the Max Mueller Bhavan or Goethe-Institut to support, you know, a tour of German artists, and British Council to support British artists and all that. So that culminated into that, but yes, it is right that during that time there was some kind of a ferment, and the ferment was toward a kind of work, you know, that we, some of us were engaged in. It wasn’t really articulated in terms in which it really emerged at that point of time, but we were all doing figurative work. We were all interested in the environment, and in some ways there was a convergence in our work and we could share, share ideas, share work. And there was a kind of a debate in Baroda, you know, which was part of our pedagogy, with the visitors or visiting, you know, artists, you know, talked. Well, our houses, you know, both my house and Bhupen’s house, you know, were used, you know, for... because these were all mostly friends, and these friends stayed at our place and we would collect other artists and joined by students, and we would even have little seminars. You know, these were all kind of impromptu things at times, at times organised. I think in a way you became part of that sort of collective, you know, because already there was that kind of, you know, basis for meeting. So... ground was prepared for this exhibition called Place for People. It got limited to six artists. Maybe it was a convenient way of doing it because you know, we couldn’t afford to have more, and the six of us had sort of a kind of continuing dialogue, you know, sort of in our work or through correspondence or whenever we met, or in similar sort of sessions of collective dialogue we aired our views. So I think that was a time, and then Geeta Kapur, art critic, we felt very strongly. She had already organised an exhibition called Pictorial Space for the Lalit Kala Academy, and emerged as a major figure. But besides that, it was her interest in our ideas and in this kind of a collective and convergence that she wanted to contribute. So, in a way Place for People invited her as a seventh member, not as an art critic, not to write on our art or our work, but contribute a  piece like we had our work on display and she contributed a piece for that. So I think that seemed to have attracted attention and the exhibition which was held in Delhi and Bombay, you know, was well received.

Gulammohammed Sheikh is an Indian painter, writer and art critic who has been a major figure in the Indian art world for half a century. His artistic career is closely associated with the renowned MS University of Baroda in Gujarat where after gaining his Master's degree, Sheikh went on to teach in the Faculty of Fine Arts, and where he was appointed Professor of Painting in 1982.

Listeners: Timothy Hyman

Timothy Hyman is a graduate of Slade School of Fine Art, London, in which he has also taught. In 1980 and 1982, he was Visiting Professor in Baroda, India. Timothy Hyman has curated many significant art exhibitions and has published articles and monographs on both European and Indian artists.

Duration: 6 minutes, 34 seconds

Date story recorded: December 2008

Date story went live: 18 November 2010