A Brush With Life: Unraveling the life and work of Satish Gujral

A Brush with Life was a special exhibition on the works of acclaimed artist Satish Gujral, organized by the Gujral Foundation at the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, New Delhi. The month-long exposition drew from the key artistic moments through the nine decades of the artist’s life and was a tribute to the zeitgeist of modernism as seen and portrayed by him. Over 70 original works of art were juxtaposed with rare archival photographs spanning his life, and the remarkable people from the 20th century who touched his life, and vintage images of works that have long left public memory.

20160202_103650Over 2 weeks in February, Flow India conducted a special workshop around this magnificent collection for more than 200 students from private schools, NGO schools, special groups, MCD schools (via collaboration with Teach for India fellows) and Art and design colleges from across Delhi NCR.

The creative enquiry workshop involved big questions, exploration of the exhibition, group discussions, self-led exploration through a treasure hunt and a stimulating wrap-up where students created a rapid art response.

20160203_104858Satish Gujral’s work- whether paintings, sculptures, murals, or buildings- has always been marked by an exploration of materials, the times and the places he has worked in. From his initial training in the myriad techniques of arts and crafts under the intensive curriculum of Lockwood Kipling at the Mayo College of Arts, Lahore; to his experiences and emotions during the partition of India and Pakistan; to his travels to Mexico to work with Diego Rivera, David Siqueiros, and Jose Orozco and being inspired by their rich abstract styles of mural painting; to redefining art, artistic expression and style in India through the more than 8 decades of his practice, the exhibition took viewers through the journey of Satish Gujral’s life and works.

Children explored the exhibition through a walkthrough with a twist! At every section of the exhibition, children were asked to reflect on the

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artwork in different ways: What emotions did you feel when you saw Satish Gujral’s ‘Partition series’? If you had to create a self-representation, would you be a story, a song, a painting, or something else? What materials has Satish Gujral used in his sculptures that you can recognize? A discussion on the art pieces was then held to introduce the artist’s style, techniques, influences, specific narratives and anecdotes.

[With college students, we conducted a walkthrough to connect design skills and knowledge of the students who were pursuing art and design as a career and studies with the Artist’s work and practice.]

As a rapid creative response to the exhibition, children were asked to create their own artwork on a given theme while exploring limitation of time and diversity of material. Starting with a blank piece of paper and a theme of the day, each child moved between 4 material stations- pastels, paints, clay, and fabric- to create a masterpiece!

The workshop was not only an exercise on understanding art and artistic ways of expression, but also a space for students to express themselves through their work.

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