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Contemporary art and heritage meet here

A just opened arts lab near Hampi includes a gallery, a cafe and studios. It also offers residency programmes, writes Tini Sara Anien
Last Updated 16 February 2024, 23:23 IST

Think of a space that aims to promote contemporary art and techniques and is set near a historical site. Hampi Art Labs in Toranagallu, Bellary, is one such novel space. It opened on February 6.

Spread over nine acres, the facility is located around 43 km away from the Tungabhadra river and the UNESCO world heritage site in Hampi. It will offer residencies and facilities for artists.

Inspired by Tungabhadra

The lab has been conceptualised by JSW Foundation and designed by Mumbai-based Sameep Padora of studio sP+a. Talking about the building’s design philosophy, Sangita Jindal, chairperson of JSW Foundation, says it is inspired “by the riverine landscape of the Tungabhadra and the surrounding hills”. The facility sports a curvy, fluid architecture like a river’s route.

JSW steel and cement, boulder stones from Hampi and other stones sourced locally are among some materials that have been used to build the facility. Paths cutting across the facility are made from stabilised pebbles and recycled stone mosaics. Visitors can access the “green roofs”, which will serve as a backdrop for setting up installation pieces.

The project is inspired by Sangita’s mother Urmila Kanoria. Her mother had founded one of the first residency programmes in India at the Kanoria Centre for Arts, Ahmedabad, in 1984. Sangita says she is “delighted to now be able to connect contemporary art with heritage and nature”. On why she chose Hampi, she says she developed a liking for Hampi when she first visited it in 1983.

What to expect

Past the entrance is a gallery, café and a large pavilion. It gives way to the central court, which houses studio spaces for artists. The space also includes amphitheatres.

The artist residency is a key offering, conceptualised for artists to develop or work on “their creative practice and explore different techniques”. Currently, the lab is hosting an exhibition titled ‘Right Foot First’ (see box). Future exhibitions will feature works done by the alumni of the residency programme, and works commissioned by guest curators. The commissioned projects will be a response to the lab and its surroundings, says Sangita.

Residency in focus

The space will host four residencies every year, each of three months. Artists-in-residence will be provided with five studios, ceramic and printmaking workshops, and facilities for audiovisual editing and 3D printing. They will also be given access to mentors from India and abroad, both online and offline.

Sangita says, “There is scope to explore various methods and techniques of printmaking such as lithography, etching, monoprint, and serigraphy here.” In the ceramic studio, they will have the opportunity to work with ceramics and terracotta and try their hands at glazing, hand building, and making Sandur pottery along with the local potter’s community.

“Each residency (programme) will hold two open studios where artists will be able to meet and share their creative process with guests from the art and design community,” adds Sangita. Through the course of the residency, the Art Labs will invite groups of creative practitioners, researchers, and students to interact with the artists.

The Art Labs’ team will also work closely with engineers, structural specialists and technicians of the JSW steel plant to develop residency projects. “Understanding the nuances of steel as a material and the possibilities it can offer for artistic expression will be explored,” she adds.

Show of connections

‘Right Foot First’, on until May 31, features works from Sangita’s collection spanning 1998 to 2023. Sangita is also an art collector. “The exhibition focuses on interdisciplinary connections between artists across periods and movements through art history. It highlights pivotal moments from Indian contemporary art over the past 25 years,” she says. 

The concept and design are inspired by the philosophy that “no man can ever step in the same river twice”. “The idea that each moment in the river is unique resonates with the notion that every artwork presented in the exhibition carries its own distinct identity and narrative,” she explains.

The exhibition showcases “pairings and clusters of artists from different generations and periods that share themes or aesthetics’’. She says, “Praneet Soi’s work ‘Srinagar Archive’ (2016) and Ai Weiwei’s ‘Porcelain Vases with Bamboo Pole’ (2008) share the language of art and politics while Atul Dodiya’s ‘Arati’ (2003) engages with Andy Warhol’s ‘Marilyn Monroe’ (1967) in a dialogue on pop art.” A textile collaboration between Karishma Swali, designer and founder of the Chanakya School of Craft, Mumbai, and Manu Parekh, one of India’s oldest and celebrated modern painters, is also on display.

Other featured artists are Annie Morris, Bharti Kher, B V Doshi, Dayanita Singh, Lubna Chowdhary, Manish Nai, Reena Kallat, Rohini Devasher, Sayan Chanda, Sheba Chhachhi, Shilpa Gupta, Tushar Joag, and Zarina Hashmi.

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(Published 16 February 2024, 23:23 IST)

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