Platform for emerging artists

Paintings - Swatee Jog

Come December, the leafy precincts of the Cantonment Board office in Belagavi get spruced up to host the Chitra Jatre. For the second consecutive year, the expansive area bang in the middle of the city adorned with tall shady trees became the perfect venue for the city’s artists and their paintings. Last Sunday, I meandered my way through the stalls put up by more than 200 artists, exploring the talent in this part of the state and understanding their concerns.

Chitra Jatre is the initiative of Vishwanath Guggari, who publishes a newspaper dedicated to art, called Art Affairs. In 2017, he organised the first Chitra Jatre at the same venue. It saw over 100 artists presenting over 1000 of their works and greeted to an encouraging response from the city’s art connoisseurs. The second edition of Chitra Jatre was held recently in the city. 

A range of works

The objective of Chitra Jatre is to provide a platform for artists to showcase their talent. With galleries charging exorbitant fees to display artworks, the artists find it difficult to hold an exhibition. Chitra Jatre charges a nominal charge for participation in the fair and hence a large number of artists participate in it. The fair sees a large number of visitors as well. 

The artworks displayed at this edition were of diverse types: oil painting, watercolour, mix media, collage, landscape, cityscape, seascape, Mughal miniatures, portraits, etc. Even the students from art schools participated with a large repertoire of their works. This included enthusiasts like Pritish Rangole, Premkumar Topiwale, who were participating for the first time. They had literally floored their works just like a sea of art.

Each participant here had a different vision and skill for art. Ashok Oulkar, a retired banker, has been working on collages since 1990 and has over 250 works to his credit. He starts with an outline and then searches for appropriate swatches of paper to fill in. It takes one month or more to complete one work, he says. This fair gave him an opportunity to showcase his works. Likewise, Shourika Gargatti teaches at a kids’ school. She applies her artistic knowledge in the classroom, where the sun becomes a model for a circle and a mountain is used to explain a triangle. She teaches art by first allowing kids to paint without boundaries and then slowly teaching them shapes. This also enables motor skills and these kids go on to love painting, she adds. Another artist, Shirish Deshpande, creates amazing works with ballpoint pens. He also works with other mediums but is better known for his mastery in ballpoint art. He laments that Belagavi doesn’t have a proper art gallery or an art museum. “Many can’t afford to hold exhibitions at the galleries in big cities. These forums help such artists display their works.”

Every year, on April 15, art enthusiasts here celebrate the birthday of Leonardo Da Vinci. On that day, artists come together and create works of art. This year, they are also planning to hold Chitra Jatre on that day, on the promenade outside the cantonment office. That would offer the artists a different platform just like Bengaluru’s Chitra Santhe does.

This year, the artists of Belagavi went a step further — as many as 25 of them with the initiation of veteran artist Chandrakant Kusnoor, collaborated under the banner of Gulmohar BAG (Belgaum Artists’ Group). The seed money was contributed by them and they held an art show under the banner. Apart from the city’s artists, people from other places also participate in this event.

Cristopher from Bengaluru had come for the first time and looked all excited about the unique setting. He has held exhibitions at galleries in Bengaluru and elsewhere for over 20 years now. Pravinkumar Pansare had travelled from Ichalkaranji to showcase his works of art. His series on the temples of Hampi with an array of shadows was spellbinding. These artists get information about the fair through WhatsApp groups that are formed for the purpose. He was joined by his friend Shital who had created life-size portraits of the tribals. While some of the paintings get a good price, the sale of paintings doesn’t leave everyone satisfied. However, the event offers them many other opportunities such as networking and better exposure.

The joy of painting

Preeti Pavate is an artist and also an organiser of this event. She points out that this walk-through arrangement makes the visit here all the more endearing. Visual art appreciation workshop organised on the occasion by artist couple Gayatri and Madhu Desai of Kala Mandala, Dharwad helped enthusiasts enjoy the artworks better. 

You are left with an encouraging thought that finally, Belagavi, which has given India some of the best artists, is waking up to appreciate art the way it should have been. All it needs is a permanent space. Till then, the trees will suffice, perhaps. 

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