by Anjana Tripathi
colour, contrast, texture, form within a space-this diffident girl has them all in her meticulous creations, but she hardly has the inkling that these are known as the elements of art. Khatun’s budding talent would have got lost into oblivion, had it not been for the efforts of the ‘Ila Panda Centre of Arts (IPCA)’, a non-profit, collaborative endeavour in Bhubaneswar, with the mission of showcasing, promoting and conserving the visual arts of Odisha. Coffee Bytes got up close and personal with Ms.Panchami Manoo Ukil, the Chairperson of IPCA, in a candid conversation, where she shared her views about the current footing of Odia visual arts and how IPCA is striving to be a catalyst for change in Odisha and live up to their credo – “It is easy to love art”. IPCA aspires to be a body by the people, of the people and for the people taking its partners along, as it works towards bringing art into everyone’s lives.
To begin with, how did you get drawn towards art?
Anyone who has an eye for beauty will love art. I have always been drawn towards everything beautiful, natural or man-made. My parents also instilled in me the sense of appreciating the finer things in life, by introducing world art to me, through books and discussions. By the age of 10, I had already learnt about master impressionists like Renoir, Monet, Manet, Rembrandt etc. In fact our home had prints of Renoir and Van Gogh’s works way back in 1977, and there was a lot of discussion on art. This fascination with art, both visual and performing, only increased over the years.
How did you get influenced by the field of visual arts?
I am a lways enamoure d by the thought process of the ar t ist, esp e ci a l ly contemporary artists who don’t tell the tale behind the artwork, but want the viewer to interpret it as they understand it. Therefore, I think visual arts challenge the viewer. It’s not only about the beauty of paint on canvas, or a sculpted piece of stone, or a baked and glazed ceramic shape. What makes it more attractive is the intellectual demand of understanding what the artist is trying to convey.
Going back, how did you get associated with IPCA ?
I was drawn towards the vision of IPCA, ‘To facilitate a platform for visual arts and artists from Odisha’. There is such a rich storehouse of art forms and talented artists in our state, but much of it remains unrecognized. IPCA is not only a facilitator but is also widening the scope of art patronage and awareness and aims to bring art into everyday lives. This is what gives me a sense of high about being associated with IPCA.
What is the current status of visual arts in Odisha?
While we have inherited a rich legacy of visual arts, many of our artists lack opportunities to learn and get the necessary exposure of the outer world. This is where IPCA plans to intervene by supporting scholarships for young emerging artists, grants for established needy artists and enabling the art fraternity of Odisha to find access, exposure and better avenues through varied activities like art camps, art- appreciation programmes, travelling a r t e x h i b i t i o n s , workshops and lectures. F u r t h e r, s o m e a r t and craft forms, even performing arts, are literally in a state of collapse. e.g there is only one last surviving artist (and she’s 86 years old!) for straw cow dung doll art, ‘Ganjappa’ cards and ‘Ravana Chhaya’ puppetry. Therefore revival of dying art forms is critical at this juncture. It is imperative for us to inspire the younger generation from artist families, to carry forward their traditional art and keep it alive. IPCA plans to play a major role in restoration and documentation.
Despite being rich in art, culture and heritage why is Odisha not so much in the reckoning for its art at the national level?
It is a mind-set issue of our own people, which IPCA plans to change by bringing Odia art to the fore and transform the way Odisha gets viewed by people outside the state. How many people know senior artists like Prithviraj Singhdeo, who passed out from J.J. School of Arts, Baroda, who can create magic out of ceramic and terracotta? We need to introspect and re-kindle our spirit of art consciousness. Colouring Lives
In spite of being a fledgling in the field, in just about a year of formation, we have undertaken many activities like the first ever Art Conclave where we brought together almost all eminent and emerging artists to one platform. We have taken emerging artists from Odisha to the India Art Fair in New Delhi so that they get exposure to the art world beyond Odisha. We have also had a couple of workshops by eminent art resource persons. What is most heartening is that, our activities has inspired others in this field to become pro-active.
What kind of support is IPCA providing to the poorer segment of visual artists in Odisha?
We are in the process of finalizing scholarships for meritorious and needy Odia art students who wish to pursue MFA (Master of Fine Arts) in renowned universities of India. This year, 3 young promising artists have been selected for the scholarship.
Tell us something about IPCA’s dream project?
Mrs.Paramita Mahapatra, our founder trustee and an art connoisseur herself, had envisioned for a boutique museum to house IPCA’s growing permanent art collection which includes generous donations from prominent artists, royal families, and art patrons. We hope that the museum becomes a medium, for the community at large to engage with the arts domain.
Tell us about IPCA’s plan for a virtual storehouse of Odia art documentation?
We are in the process of cataloguing our permanent collection, to capture all details about the artist and his/her art. It will help to proliferate the rich heritage of art and the great work of our masters. We also plan to document dying arts. For e.g, we will soon be documenting Sashimani Maharana, who is the last surviving artist of the ‘cowdung dolls’ art technique of Raghurajpur. Similarly we are attempting to document some ancient art spaces which are in a dilapidated and dying condition like the terracotta temple in Bolangir, some murals in Dharakote and Puri, etc.
What are the future plans of IPCA?
Our goal is to champion the assimilation of art into the mainstream, in Odisha and outside. We have started handholding the art fraternity, both emerging and veteran artists, through diversified activities. We are continuously driving the capability building of artists and the profile enhancement of art and art-infrastructure in cities with a rich and coveted art legacy. IPCA is also striving to reorient Bhubaneswar, the smart city, as one of the significant art hubs in the country. In pursuit of this goal, we are exploring collaborations towards creating public-art spaces, and encouraging art-centred activities in communities. To sum it up, we are in the pursuit of fostering Odisha’s art.
Any message for aspiring visual artists?
Think art, breathe art and live art. Never lose focus and keep pursuing the priceless work that you are into. Coffee Bytes also caught up with a few beneficiaries of IPCA’s scholarship programme who shared their feelings.
How have you benefited from IPCA’s scholarship?
Pawan Kavitkar: The IPCA scholarship programme was an opportunity for me to explore my skills and express my work to a larger audience. The scholarship not just helped me to buy tools, material and a laptop but also gave me the courage to work on a larger scale with a big canvas and oil colours. Suryakant Nayak: I hail from a middle class family and the scholarship not only supported me financially but also acted as the fuel to drive my creative endeavours. Digbijayee Khatua: The IPCA scholarship is an opportunity for recent graduate artists like me to express ourselves and give shape to our artistic thoughts.