The artist couple
The artist couple Meenakshi J. and Jey sushil have been painting at people’s houses, schools, jails and walls involving them in the creative process. They feel it’s a kind of relational art where everyone can experience and contribute in the creation of an art-work. Here the Jey Couple is explaining about why they do it and how it is different from Public Art.
Whenever we open the floor for questions, it props up, ‘Why do you do this? Why do you travel on a bullet? Why do you paint on walls?’ It’s like the eternal question about any art practice. Why you write? Why you paint? Why you act? Why you live?
But here the question is a-bit twisted. Why you are doing this without any monetary gain?
The questions and suggestions have been popping up in last few years since we started the ‘Artologue’ project which was conceived in a moment….A moment which told us -“Do it. You will not regret it. Never ever in your life…” We never looked back after that moment. We have lived that moment several times in last two years.
We live those moments and we travel and paint for those moments. It makes us feel that we are alive in the truest sense. We share those moments with people we meet, walls we paint, people we involve in the process of painting a wall, a door, a window or anything they wish to paint.
Those who knew more about art than us threw questions at us. We tried to explain. Those who do not know anything about art, they asked several things, we tried to explain. Those who were sensitive, they never asked anything, they smiled and patted us occasionally, saying,- “love you guys”.
But there were some pertinent questions about ‘Artologue’, our aim and why we are doing it. Questions which came from people who care about us and others who genuinely wanted to know why it feels so different.
Jey has been thinking of answering it in a blog since a kid in Shahpur Jat asked him point blank, ‘Why you are doing this? Do you get money?’ Jey said, ‘NO. We don’t ask for money but if someone wants to pay, they are welcome.’ The 12 year old boy was puzzled.
We want to solve that puzzle. If you want to know how we started the project, you can read it on our website www.artologue.in
But for other questions and suggestions keep reading.
How it is different from Public Art?
Think about the mushrooms made of steel near the AIIMS flyover in Delhi, the Arcelor tower near London Olympic stadium or the painting of Mahatma Gandhi on the outer walls of a building in ITO, New Delhi. They are Public art, exhibited for common people to see it and feel it.
One can call the political posters of JNU (Jawaharlal Nehru University) also a public art.
Ours is a bit different. We do like to exhibit what we paint but our art is made by the people who get involved in the process, as we believe that art is for all not only for seeing purpose. The firm belief of Meenakshi that everyone is an artist is the cornerstone of Artologue.
By twisting the Lincoln’s quote on democracy a bit, we would like to say , Artologue is an art form ‘of the people, for the people and by the people.’
When we think about an idea, people contribute, when we plan the idea, people contribute and when we fill colors in a design, people contribute so at every level, it is a creation by all who are involved. That’s the reason Meenakshi does not sign these artworks. Signing these pieces makes these pieces individualistic while our artworks keep growing. We have come to know that many families have added and edited elements from the art we had made with them in their places.
So then…What do we call this kind of Art?
Frankly speaking…I don’t know. I am neither an artist nor an art historian to answer that but sharing something which I read in a piece in New Yorker. What we do, can be called ‘’a ‘relational Art’ a term coined by the Parisian curator Nicolas Bourriaud in the nineteen-nineties to describe work whose content cannot be separated from its communal reception. ‘’
As far as I can understand, what we create has feelings of people we involve so they feel that it’s their creation, kind of collective pregnancy. When we leave the place we leave not only an art-piece but something on which they can continue to work upon like bringing up a child.
Why you do this?
Well….we like doing this can be one answer but in reality we love doing this. Though it started as a barter system initially (we will stay in someone’s house, eat and in return paint a wall) but now we are hooked to it. We plan for these trips all the year. What we enjoy is meeting new people, their stories, their ideas, their interest and we try to learn from them. It is in itself a creative process for us to become a better human being.
We had dinner at 6.30pm in one place, 11.30 in other place and talked afterwards till the dawn smoking pot. At one place we were asked to paint five walls in a day by the host and we ran away the next day. In Srinagar we were invited by a stranger on the road to have lunch with him. He got impressed with our green bullet and rode with us on his scooter to convince us for a lunch.
We relish these experience and moments. We experience the life in those moments and this is the reason we do it and we will keep doing it till we can.
Is there any great idea behind it?
Actually…Meenakshi, who is a studio artist as well, resisted the monopoly of art galleries over the artists and their art. The galleries have dominates the art fairs and studios decide what the artist is going to make. The art world doesn’t consider the common people as their client but the clients are the ones with deep pocket
whether or not they have that creative urge or spirit. She feels that there is a growing gap between the mass and the art world. Thus we thought instead of art-lovers and critiques coming to gallery why not take the art to the common people who engage in creative process in daily life.
In our experience we found that most of the artists want to talk to the common people and know their reaction. During India Art fairs, we had the chance to talk to Nalini Malani, S.H.Raza, Akbar Padamsee, Subodh Gupta and Subodh Kerkar in Goa. They seemed curious about our reaction to their work as well as our projects. They sincerely appreciated our endeavor.
Why don’t you charge for these works?
There is saying in hindi- बिन मांगे मोती मिले, मांगे मिले न चून which means if you do not ask then you get a pearl and if you ask, you won’t even get limestone. We don’t ask for money but if people wish they pay. The other reason is we want involvement of people and if we charge they are not bound to get involved. Because they have paid the price so they want the product, they may or may not go for the experience. Our whole endeavour gets undermined if we talk about the money part. Once we gave people their moment with art then they can give us whatever they want.
How long you will travel and paint like this?
The idea of clubbing travel and art was like wedding our passions together. Meenakshi loves to paint and I love to travel. Artologue was a progression of our love for art, travel and each other. I started enjoying art nearly a decade back when I did not even know that Meenakshi used to paint. With time, we began to share our creative time and energies and Artologue is a phase of this creative exchange between us. We might take this creative endeavour to a new level where it may not be in the same form as it is now. So we don’t really know what lies in the womb of future for us.