Visual art Khasi-11 | Highland Post

(Continued from last week)

However, the people of the state have yet to cultivate a taste for contemporary art, and most of the elites and wealthy people refrain from promoting art and indulge in art collecting, whether for an aesthetic appreciation or for a prospective investment. There is discourse between artists and intellectuals in society, but hardly any effort to acquire the works of art, regardless of the value of the art or the caliber of the artists. Therefore, it requires a two-pronged approach from artists and society to synergize intellectual property and articulate the value of material content and assess the immaterial value of artworks. Above all, it is the duty of the artist to create quality art and to assert the demand of society, through the intervention of promotional agencies such as art curators and galleries.

The mindset of members of society could be influenced by promotional agencies in tandem with intellectual culture to convince and facilitate acceptance with interest in venturing into art collecting. Interest must be generated to the extent that the clientele is attracted by the spirit of concern and ownership. The ancient practice has prevailed in all societies and civilizations where people value gold and property as exotic property and investment for generations, and the same could be created for art. Another aspect of social influence that could be instilled is to authenticate that art is the symbol of status in society, which is worthier than any extraordinary good like fancy cars, interior furniture glamour, the Hitech computer, the television, the refrigerator, the music system and the abundance material properties. If the trend is created, it is easier for society to absorb and accept art as an essential part of household possessions. Observing the actual situation in the city of Meghalaya and Shillong, in particular, there is a diverse attitude of society towards the arts. There are wealthy people with good education as well as illiterate people who are usually driven by the lure of merchants to acquire valuable goods. They are unfamiliar with the potential of art as intellectual property and are more than often enchanted by religious imagery; whether they are Hindus, Muslims or Christians. True patrons of art have always emerged from bourgeois society with a sincere passion for art, as the lower strata of society are more concerned with food and shelter. This phenomenon is authenticated by the Riti Academy of Visual Arts after the establishment of Mad Gallery in the town of Shillong. To back up this claim, there are a few interesting incidents that proved the genuine spirit of some individuals in their dedication to the arts, especially the female members of any family.

It is observed that the continued exposure and interaction on art will persuade some people to remember the need to acquire commendable and affordable art. In one instance, Thoh Shun Art Camp 2005 attracted countless art lovers and most of the artworks were acquired by women, although a few men also purchase artworks as a sign of support for the artists budding locals. Other major exhibitions, including some mega-events organized by private institutions and government departments, have also reaped some benefits for artists, and local artworks are appreciated. However, Mad Gallery is a different avenue for art as an industry for the respectable part of society. In one case, a young student regularly visited the Mad Gallery in awe of the works of art, but dared not ask about the price. One fine day, the student’s mother reluctantly approaches her friend because she assumes that art is only for the privileged. She was an ordinary bourgeoise with many domestic responsibilities; but on the rigorous perseverance of her daughter, she was compelled to acquire some works of art without hesitation. Both were extremely happy to have owned a pair of precious works of art. In another instance, another middle-class lady was nostalgic for her father’s art collection which had been neglected and lost. In homage to her father, she wished to obtain certain works from the Mad Gallery, which she did without a second thought. However, her husband was apprehensive about what he perceived to be a lavish and extravagant expense. The lady reacted quickly and promised her husband to sacrifice herself and refrain from buying his valuable personal possessions for a certain period in compensation for the value of the work she had chosen. An architect had an occasional visit to Mad Gallery and was attracted to a painting and paid for it instantly without any negotiation. A tourist from mainland India was tempted by another painting, but could not afford it at the time. After a few years, he made a point of visiting the Mad Gallery and the painting was already removed from the wall. He assumed it must have been thrown away, but was elated to find the painting was still in the cupboard, which he happily paid for and took away. A local tycoon knew of Mad Gallery in a small town like Shillong, which he visited and acquired a few pieces of art without further investigation. Another South Indian lady visited Mad Gallery to find that there were no suitable artworks for her trip; however, she noticed a few small pieces of art that aren’t meant to be thrown away. These are pencil sketches of local folk life and portraits for the internal collection. The lady insisted on paying many times over their actual cost, which is necessary to oblige, and was grateful for her truthful appreciation of the native folk elements in the sketches. One of the most exhilarating experiences is the work commissioned by two women working in the accounting section of the central government institution. With their little knowledge of art, they knew few artists in Shillong, and accordingly; they made an effort to learn about the best of their choice. Eventually they landed at the Riti Academy of Visual Arts and after showing some sample portraits they were immediately fascinated by Skhemlang Hynñiewta’s painting and sketches. As head of the institution, I {Raphael Warjri} accepted the assignment based on their need, which they wish to present to their boss, an outgoing account manager. As accounts section staff, it is unusual for such passion and enthusiasm for the art to show in their attitude and temperament. Additionally, the creative concept they described of their working relationship within the department is represented by the photo taken at their chief’s bedroom office. Unfortunately lucky, the artist, Skhemlang Hynñiewta is not available for the assignment, and I have to do it on my own. I was not confident enough due to lack of eyesight and lack of fine art practice. Nevertheless, I have no options and the deadline haunts my aura. I just decided to take up the challenge and within days sent the Whatsapp photo of the half done artwork for their review. There was immediate reaction and criticism with genuine observation of improvement. The mission was finally accomplished with satisfaction and sincere appreciation from all the staff in their office. When the Honorable Governor of Meghalaya, Mr. V Shanmuganathan released the bilingual drama book titled “Blatant-Pen Ryngkew” at Mad Gallery, Umsohsun, a few officials from Raj Bhavan accompanied him and noticed the artworks on display at the gallery. Later, when there was an inquiry into the art by the new incumbent, the Honorable Governor, Mr. Tatagatha Roy, they immediately remembered Mad Gallery. The Aide-de-Camp recommended the Riti Academy and convinced the Secretary to the Governor for the mission on the portraits of the freedom fighters of Meghalaya. After the mission was completed, the Honorable Governor was delighted and arranged an official unveiling of the portraits at the Raj Bhavan Durbar Hall by the honorable dignitaries, Mr. Conrad K Sangma, Chief Minister, Mr. Metbah Lyngdoh, Chairman of the Legislative Assembly of Meghalaya and Sñiawbhalang Dhar. , Cabinet Minister in the presence of a crowd of other Cabinet Ministers and senior government officials, including MMS Rao, Chief Secretary of Meghalaya. Personally, I was surprised that the Honorable Governor himself wished to congratulate our humble company with a traditional sash, plaque and other incentives. The most exhilarating experience is the chief minister’s profound speech on the state’s art, literature and cultural heritage, with particular reference to portraits of freedom fighters.

The mission is supposed to be done literally according to their needs, but their involvement in the process motivated my efforts. It is worth mentioning the few among the various encounters with serious art lovers, who are willing to give up their material comforts and luxuries for the cause of art.