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Posted at: May 1, 2016, 12:56 AM; last updated: May 1, 2016, 12:56 AM (IST)

Get your car a coat of art

In a unique project of public art in Pink City, senior and college artists last fortnight came together for something that gained popularity in the US in the 70s as pop art.

THE ubiquitous constituent of our landscape — cars — can do the unimaginable when used as canvas. They can add, for instance, many layers to transportation of new ideas. That’s what happened in Jaipur recently: the small beauties were taken off the road to a flight of imagination. Cartist, a unique project of public art initiated in 2015, introduced automobile art in its second chapter for the roads of Pink City (April 18-22). It is for the first time in the history of Indian art that senior and college artists from across the country came together for something that gained popularity in the US in the 70s as pop art. Twenty Nano cars bearing signatures of senior artists depicting comic to serious themes were available for a ride. 

In several sideshows on the theme, one could see the much-in-love young couple find a car elbowing its presence in their love nest, or, the vehicle being driven by an apple instead of a mechanical engine! These and many more were the canvases painted by young artists who had assembled from JJ School of Art, Mumbai, Shantiniketan, Kolkata, MSU Baroda, Delhi School of Art, Fine Arts colleges of Jaipur, Chandigarh, Patna and others.

In its second year, Cartist turned to a more concrete and discernible role of spreading awareness for art by placing it in public life by taking it out of the elite galleries and museums. Therefore, despite the desert April heat, all artists; about 20 senior and 80 young students of art, chose to work in the open lawns of Narain Niwas covered by shamianas. Youngsters soon took to the fancy as even young school girls shyly walked up to Kanchan Chander to ask if they too, could participate. 

It was last year when young Himanshu Jangid felt disturbed by the National Green Tribunal’s move to ban vintage car rallies for causing environmental pollution. An art aficionado, Himanshu thought of spreading awareness about the history of vintage cars by getting a few of them painted. Involving artists in a public art project was not easy because Himanshu didn’t promise money. No one took him seriously. “Restoring vintage cars is an art,” he says. His persistence paid off. He has achieved two goals. First, when he got about 80 auto rickshaws painted by young struggling artists last year, it helped them find work; second, they were able to make a statement in a city flocked by tourists. “Next year I plan to involve international artists,” hopes Himanshu. He has the word of chief minister Vasundhara Raje, who would like the festival turned into another popular event like the literature festival. 

Local artist Shrikant, is going to showcase his 40-ft fibre sculpture envisioning future automobile at ITC Rajputana. Johny ML, curator, Cartist, helped about 300 young art lovers through workshops on calligraphy, single print making, water colour, nail art and suchlike. There were slideshows and talks by artists such as Atul Dodiya, Seema Kohli and Siddharth Artist. The talks were followed by debates on topics including whether media ignored art, why female artists in India shy away from tagging their art as feminist, and whether art is being objectified. 

Many well-known artists, including MF Husain, have painted cars. But automobile art hasn’t yet become fashionable because cars are still viewed as a status symbol. In the US, the BMW Art Car project, introduced by the French racer driver Herve Poulain, who invited artists in 1975 to create a canvas on his car, eventually led to eminent artists to become major names in promoting the genre of automobile art. 

Putting a car into art or taking art to a car has given young artists an opportunity to question the discourse on development symbolized by acquisition of automobiles. So, when Shubhendu Choudhary paints a girl taking a selfie with a Jaguar, he weaves the narrative of aspirations of his generation. Another artist questions this narrative by making a graphic on the number of accident-related deaths juxtaposed with a futuristic faster car. “I want to remove familiarity associated with a car by painting wings of Dodo birds. This should jolt people to contemplate what we have achieved by fast-paced, gasoline wasting instruments,” says Pradeep Puthoor, a senior artist from Kerala, painting his Nano.


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