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Art Fest in Chennai
- V.V. Ramani

March 9, 2023

Soaking in the atmosphere of the green oasis in the heart of the city - Nageshwara Rao park in Mylapore - the Sunday walk in the park is a routine activity for many city dwellers in the vicinity of Mylapore, either as a fixed regimen or leisure activity. Last Sunday, the visitors were greeted by a burst of vibrant colours radiating inside the park. No, It wasn't a flower show, but an Art show that filled the sidewalks with colourful canvases to greet the visitors.

Art Fest

'Art Fest' is an art event curated by Vincent D Souza and Ganapathy Subramaniam, aimed at connecting artists with the general public at large. Vincent, a man whose love and passion for this city that he lives in, with a special fondness for Mylapore, has spearheaded many events and activities, which have become landmark events of Chennai. Besides founding and editing the weekly newspaper Mylapore Times, his curation of the Mylapore Festival bringing alive the festive fervour of the heritage space along with performances, craft mela, kolam competitions, are events eagerly awaited by Chennaites every year. The monthly 'Cutcheri in the park' has also found resonance with the visitors.

"The idea behind this art event is to bridge the gap between artists and public at large, who don't get exposure to art frequently. By moving art beyond the confines of art galleries and museums, the visitors to the park get interested to see and learn about art, interacting with the artists directly, which would eventually inspire and encourage them to even buy art works. The artists too get instant response to their works. It is this dialogue between the two, which we look for in this Fest," says Vincent. Chennai Corporation needs to be commended for extending support to this idea.

More than 80 artists of all age groups, both professionals and amateurs, working in various mediums like charcoal, pastels, water colour, oil and acrylics, paper cut work, sand art, Tanjore painting, chalk sculpture participated in this one day event, Art Fest 2023. Besides the Chennai artists, it inspired artists from Kanchipuram, Theni, Madurai to participate.

Badmaphushan (Photo: Sridhar Amanchy)

The response to the exhibition was very encouraging. Many participants were happy with the opportunity and feedback they got to interact with a wide range of people, even if they didn't sell their works, while a few did feel disappointed that their works didn't find buyers. For a few like Ahana and Madhura who pursue art as a hobby, this Mela was an exciting opportunity to know the responses to their work. Badmaphushan, a young designer, had worked on an exciting range of birds in coloured pencils, and in a first experience of this nature, he was happy to see people interacting with his works. Another girl had done sketches focusing on the wide variety of moustaches on the faces of celebrities. There were many who specialised in portraits and landscapes, a handful had given expression to their imaginative ideas.

Some artists also were happy to see people coming forward to buy their works. Gowrishankar and his wife who happened to come to the park ended up buying a couple of artworks. "I was not even aware of something called sand art. I found it fascinating, so I bought a work," he says. One or two artists who have participated in 'Chitra Santhe' in Bangalore, where lot of works find buyers, feel this art fest could also grow to be a big event.

Art FestArt Fest
Photos: Sridhar Amanchy

Each artist is given a long table, a chair, hanging rope display to hang paintings and lunch and coffee for a nominal sum that they are charged. The artists are free to quote their prices and sell works directly to the buyer. The affordable prices of many artworks, is an incentive for people to adorn their homes with Art. There were suggestions that a little more empty space could be given between each artist, for better impact. Some felt professionals and amateurs should be segregated in two areas. A little write up about the artist and their works could be put up, felt Gowrishankar.

A corner where children were asked to explore painting, was a buzz of activity and children were totally engrossed, enjoying this experience. A group of college girls from Stella Maris College, explored the idea of installation art, by making visitors leave their foot imprinted in colour on a long piece of cloth, which was hung as an art work later. Interestingly, a small kitten running across the fabric to leave its imprint, added an interesting twist to the idea. Revathi, Uma and Shivkumar created an art installation, painting the trunk and adding elements to the tree trunk of the banyan tree near the children's play area.

"This Art Mela is a good initiative and should be held on a fixed date every year, so people can mark their calendars for this event," says Anita Ratnam.

V.V. Ramani
V.V. Ramani is a Chennai based multi-dimensional artist working in diverse fields ranging from collages and painting, teaching art, textile and costume designing, stage sets designing and wedding decor, to writing on visual and performing arts.

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