This Initiative is Helping Rural Artisans Create Masterpieces by Collaborating with Modern Artists

The art residency “Excavating Odisha” aims to bring together contemporary urban artists with rural artisans to create mesmerising art.

India has a rich tradition of folk art that has been woven into the daily lives of many. Creating beautiful paintings on the mud walls or singing songs on a festive occasion is as much an instinct as breathing for many of the folk artists. With the aim of infusing this abundant heritage of folk art with the contemporary modern art of India, artist Puneet Kaushik has come up with a unique initiative.

Excavating Odisha, an investigative Arts Residency, will bring together leading urban artists and local practitioners of many disparate tribal art forms in Orissa to create mesmerising masterpieces.

Puneet Kaushik with local artisan Sridhar Nayak

Set to take place from February 14 to 28, 2017, in the campus of MATI Trust in Puri, the residency will see several renowned artists from different fields like fine arts, sculpting, music, installation art & even culinary art stepping out of their comfort zone to collaborate with village craftsmen and artisans to create art installations, musical compositions, lip-smacking recipes, textile-based products, and paintings.

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Known for his large-scale installations and mixed media work, Puneet Kaushik has been working with local artisans from across the country over the last 20 years. He has worked with techniques of folk and tribal art like Tibetan bead work, patachitra painting, Andhra shadow puppets, bidri work &miniatures from Rajasthan.


Also read: Meet the Artists Who Live Among the Baiga Tribals and Depict Their Rich Culture in Art


Having seen may artisans lose faith in their ancestral art and relocate to cities in search of work and many urban contemporary artists lose touch with their roots, Puneet intends to bridge this gap through his initiative.

“The idea is to bring contemporary, folk, and tribal art together, to make it more usable in today’s context. It is required for both: the folk artist needs to redefine, revive his art and the contemporary urban artist needs to look into his own tradition for inspiration. This is needed to sustain folk art in India,” says Puneet.

Today, many folk arts of the region like patachitra, palm leaf painting, terracotta, stone sculpture, coir work, papier-mâché, pipli craft, ikat weaving, and umbrella-making are in danger of either being replaced by industrialization or becoming fossilized. The residency aims to start a new communication between living traditional rural crafts, and urban drive and know-how.

“Sometimes the traditional art becomes repetitive and imitational. The artisans keep drawing the same patterns that were being drawn for centuries. Art is a way of living, and it only comes alive when our lives are reflected in it. Now our daily lives have changed, the motifs around us are entirely different. That change needs to reflect in the art. That is the reason I thought of bringing the urban artists and rural artisans together. The aim is to create a space where each gains something,” says Puneet.

Excavating Odisha will focus on people and their stories, skills, knowledge and wisdom, aesthetics, songs, fashion, indigenous design, vocabulary, and agricultural knowledge.

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Rema Kumar with Pipli artisan Chandamani Mohanty

The works created as a part of the project will first be exhibited in Puri, then in Bhubaneshwar and finally in Delhi on a national platform.

“The programme will also serve as an effort to document the histories and narratives of the craftspeople. It will explore the challenges facing them and help connect them with modern technology. It will stress the importance of financial and commercial dimensions of the ‘crafts world.’ It will explore different ways to make mythological or spiritual contexts of the art newly comfortable in our present day, global world,” says Puneet.

The residency will see renowned names like British-Indian multimedia artist Ketna Patel, miniature painter Gopa Trivedi, textile designer Rema Kumar, musicians Vaishali Chakkravarty and Shashwat Srivastava and filmmaker Jyoti working with rural artisans on different projects.


Also read: Leaving a Mark: This 82 -Year-Old Woman Has Been Using Stamps to Create Art for 4 Decades


To know more about the residency, visit the official Facebook page here. To know more about MATI Trust, visit their official website here.

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