Inside an arts residency: How open spaces help young artists freely ideate

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New Delhi : A critical presence in an arts residency is a source of a counter opinion, and can be a real boon for young ideating artists, said Serendipity Arts Foundation Director Smriti Rajgarhia on housing a resident critic -- an under explored concept in the Indian arts ecosystem.

The second edition of the three-month Dharti Arts Residency, ongoing since May 14, will come to a close on August 10.

It is giving access to material resources, mentorship and a physical space to four emerging artists to create works of art. The motive, Rajgarhia said, is not just giving material grants, but to introduce them to a larger network and support system for their practice.

The relatively new concept of a critic-in-residence was a suggestion the foundation readily agreed upon.

Speaking to IANS, Rajgharia said "an artist needs an antithesis to be able to ideate, which makes for a critique, and was an important dialectic for us".

How is the process of being a resident art critic then, in contrast to writing on it afterwards?

"When you are a critic writing on art, you encounter finished work in a gallery space or an exhibition space. But in a residency, you are actually responding to the progress of the work. I think that's a huge difference," said resident critic Kamayani Sharma.

However, she describes this critical presence as companionship in a journey, rather than an intrusive intervention.

"I positioned myself more as an observer or a witness to the process. For instance, I would suggest tem readings, or point them to artists who did similar work," said Sharma, who writes on visual culture and teaches philosophy at Ashoka University.

Framing residencies as significant experimental spaces, Sharma said they provide the feedback that may improve their art practice.

"The programme involved going to many exhibitions and museums, as well as meeting a lot of artists here or in their studios. Just seeing established artists working informs your own approach to work. But that doesn't happen often, making residencies all the more important."

The annual, interdisciplinary residency is known for providing the artistic freedom that comes with an in-house project, allowing artists to venture into multiple art forms.

Unconventional, interdisciplinary works by the four young artists-in-residence -- Pannaga Jois, Ravi Kumar Chaurasiya, Khushbu Patel, and Jagrut Raval -- near completion, just as the final month of the residency seems to end.

Jois, who created a visual composition in form of a cube, describes her work as a "reflection of a nomadic psyche and magical realism". She has been living in the cube, and asking herself the question: "Can you be a nomad inside a cube?"

An installation by Chaurasiya, who believes the residency has been monumental in exposing him to "varied ideas of real-life practitioners", explores the toxic garbage the city produces, and how art must be socially conscious.

For Patel, whose art is deeply influenced by her own body, placing art in "pretty gallery spaces at eye level" is a bad idea. As she bent over the carefully-painted veins on a staircase, she said she wants to challenge the gaze of a usual viewer -- in what is seen and how it is seen.

The fourth resident, Raval, utilised the visual effect obtained from a unique metal called Bismuth to create spectacular video recordings of its crystalline states. He paints the main idea behind this as exploring the chronology of time.

The residency's programme has been designed by art curator Gayatri Uppal.

An open studio on August 10 will display these works, after which they will feature at Serendipity Arts Festival in Goa in December.

(Siddhi Jain can be contacted at