Sharan Apparao speaks on how art has evolved over the centuries and have refined living spaces by adding subtle statement and drama to it.
Today, more than ever before, homes and work spaces have become showcases. Apart from traditional designers and vastu / feng shui consultants, we now have specialized professionals such as stylists, space planners, conceptualizers. Today there are no dearths of choices from imported furniture to various options for floors/walls to bespoke furnishings. However the one thing that has come to stay is ART. Whether it is an office or a residence, today old and new art has become an important aspect of living. Art created the ambiance, the mood, refines living spaces and also gives status. Good art speaks to the viewer and great art makes the statement. Art has moved from beyond pure adornment to communicating and creating the character of the space. The new trend is public and environmental art. Before we discuss art in the current times, let us go back in history. In ancient times, temple sculptures and adornments of religious spaces was considered “Public art”. Because of people’s reverence and faith in religion, artisans put in a lot of fervor and dedication in creating this art, many of which have stood the test to time. During Emperor Ashoka’s period, a lot of Buddhist art emerged because of his patronage towards Buddism. Mughals paid respect to their ancestors by way of creating magnificent tombs. Amongst the most significant work of Mughal architecture, the Taj Mahal stands unparalled as a symbol of beauty and love in a monument. The Mughals, who were known to have a great sense of aesthetics wanted to encourage the finer things in life around them. They left many examples of fine artworks in architecture, beautifully illustrated manuscripts, painting, jewellery, textiles, etc. Many Hindu kingdoms also had similar ideas and the profusion of rich artifacts, sculpture and examples of architecture in ancient India remains unparalled in the world. Yes the ancient arts of India gave us the roots of style and culture of refinement that we live in today.
So where does this leave us with modern art and what aesthetic and drama does one find? Art has moved from public spaces predominantly to private spaces and is now gradually moving back, additionally to public spaces as well.
Looking culturally at the history of India, one wonders when personal wealth and private spaces became so important that public art was relegated to the background and slowly that pubic art is gradually regaining its importance. It was after independence, when India began to grow, that the battle for status and recognition led people to accumulate vast amounts of wealth including art.
While ancient art and contemporary art collection was a pursuit of leisure in the 60’s and 70’s, starting from the 80’s collecting art became an important status symbol. It then entered living spaces with great gusto. The selection of course depended on personal tastes and the status of the collector and artist. Initially collectors support the arts as the statement the artists made or as a chronicle of time. Artists were crusaders of a cause. As the causes gathered momentum so did the status of the artist and the price of the artwork increase. This gathered momentum and the modern art movement became a force to reckon with .This brings us back to the current day and the impact that art creates in the environment.
While using art, the character and mood of the environment and space is controlled by the elements of colour, and form that are added to it. A dark environment can have dark art and a light space accordingly lighter art. The European salon style of displaying paintings on a wall consisted of filling a space with profusion of art and objects. The more minimalistic styles originated in the Far East and Nordic areas where “less was considered more”. The serenity of “less is more” is in the east probably because it had its roots in Buddhist philosophies. The ethnic and country styles originated with folk crafts gaining an entry into interior spaces.
One large painting can bind and pull together the mood of a room as can a collection of sculptures. Color plays an important role in creating a mood and ambience. Bright colors contrasting with each other create drama while soft colors soothe the atmosphere. A collection of soft colors in a collection of different forms can also be dramatic. Looking at art, combining art with the forms and colors keeping in mind the end styling and the required mood a selection can and will create drama.
Going back to the Taj Mahal, it was the form and the simplicity in its colour combined with the extraordinary skilled but subtle adornment that created the drama in this monument. The colour in the simple decorations stood out against the soft white platform that the marble provided. The ornate screens and dense design of the tombs drew attention to the central focus of the monument. It was the enduring story of love that went on to make history. Borrowing elements from the Taj and using successful elements from lessons in aesthetics and communication and using the same elements in an interior, one can select a platform of a base colour and set it off with a statement of skill and add the embellishments either in profusion or stand alone forms.
The drama of art in a space come with its relationship to the space in creating the mood, in the selection of aesthetic in making the statement, and more than anything else is the way the art speaks to the viewer in creating the style.
An example of a room in white can be dramatized with a riot of color and at the same time a strong statement can be made with just simple pale white forms set against one another. Another dramatic element can be brought in with the light created by sculptural forms and its shadow. Yes, the focus creates the language of the statement. The environment is but a stage and the actors are the art forms. The acting is the conversation the art has with the viewer and the mood is the narrative of the tale conveys. The timelessness of art comes from its relevance and impact. The memory is the lessons we take with us while history is what remains in the drama that art creates.