The scene in the painting is quotidian: a family of six going about their everyday routine. The patriarch of the family sips a cup of tea while his son peers intently into a laptop. Two children—a girl and a boy—read and watch television respectively, and the women in the household seem to be preparing a meal. Outside this apparent tranquillity, however, disaster awaits. Two rakshasas, horned and with protruding tongues, juggle spherical objects, which look suspiciously like the covid virus (spike protein and all) while at their feet lie the severed heads of those who seem to have stepped outside the safety of home.
Kalyan Joshi, the artist behind this distinctly mimetic reflection of our current times, says that it is painted in the Phad style of Bhilwara in Rajasthan. The 700-year-old art tradition is usually used to create religious scrolls for the bhopas or priest singers of the region, who would carry scrolls of these paintings as illustrative depiction tools while telling stories about folk deities. However, Joshi, an award-winning artist, often uses art to tell stories of social significance; these covid-inspired Phad paintings are an extension of that idea.
Joshi is one of the 40-odd artists who will be part of an affordable art show, which opens on 30 July at Mumbai’s Method Kala Ghoda. The exhibition, curated by Srila Chatterjee, the founder of Mumbai’s Baro Market, is open to all, offering an eclectic mix of folk and contemporary artwork.
“I don’t think art should be limited to any one kind,” says Chatterjee, pointing out that many people believe that tribal or folk art is usually showcased at Indian festivals, cottage emporiums or havelis. However, she doesn’t subscribe to this. A traditional piece of art can fit into a contemporary setting and vice versa. “Art belongs where you think it works for you,” she says. “I don’t think it is nice to put it into categories where one is different from the other; we just think of it as art, and that is what we are doing.”
Some of the other artists showcasing their work include Jaipur-based creative team Wolf, photographer Dhiman Chatterjee, Pattachitra artist Laltu Chitrakar, Gadwakam sculptor Suresh Waghmare, Gond painter Ramesh Tekam and pinch potter Dolon Kundu. What binds the displayed artworks—whatever their origins, aesthetic, style and creation process—is this: they are not exorbitantly priced. This was a deliberate choice, says Chatterjee.
According to her, many people are often intimidated by art because all they hear about are auctions where pieces of art sell for millions.“One of the things I feel strongly about is how art has become the purview of a small bunch of rich and privileged people, which is not the way it should be,” she says, pointing out that this affects art’s potential to be democratic and make a difference in people’s lives.
None of the work on display at the exhibition is priced higher than ₹2 lakh, she says. Prices start at ₹2,000, and most pieces are in a range that she says is affordable. “It is important to make art affordable,” she says. “I don’t think good art needs to be expensive; good art is good art.”
An Affordable Art Show is open between 30 July and 8 August at Method Kala Ghoda, from 11am. All covid checks will be conducted, and protocols will be followed