Our increasing disconnection with nature is a key reason for many of the negative impacts of humans on their environment. In order to live more sustainably, we need to create educational experiences that help us develop greater sensitivity and appreciation for the natural world. There is a need for human race to not just learn scientific facts about our natural world, but also to enhance their sensibility towards nature and understand the environmental issues in their immediate surroundings.
Sensitivity towards nature can be achieved through a variety of artistic activities, particularly when we work closely with nature. In fact, when it comes to learning about nature, art has an ability that conventional approaches lack. Art forms - ranging from painting, literature, poetry and music to dance, sculpture and theatre are embedded in Indian culture, and can be used as a means to develop awareness and a sense of connection to ‘nature'.
Several artists and ecologists in India are working towards sensitizing people about the need to protect nature. While many work separately in the their respective fields some collaborate to bring ecology to the common man through the medium of art.
While individuals working in the cities get recognised for their work, most often similar efforts in remote regions of the country are not known. This is an attempt to also connect such individuals working on the grassroots level, who lack access to the mainstream media and to bring forth their work and experience. Artecology can also act as a platform for ecologists to connect with artists and form future collaborations.
Artecology in association with Kavade brings you a workshop on exploring ecology through various forms of Art such as sketching, singing, storytelling, journaling and so on. With a whole load of games thrown in, this workshop is going to be fun.
This workshop is conducted by facilitators who have a background in art, science and have a keen interest in ecology. The workshop offers the perfect opportunity for children to interact and engage with the natural world around them through art and games. The overall goal is to sensitize children to their local ecology and environment
Date: 16th – 21st April, 2018 (10.30 AM – 1.30 PM) Venue : Kavade attic & Raman Research Institute, Bengaluru Age: 10 years and above
Abhisheka K. Gopal : An Ecologist and an Artist. She uses her experience in field ecology and the medium of art to teach to bring about nature awareness.
Charumathi Supraja : Has worked as a journalist, lecturer, NGO consultant, actor and writer before becoming a ‘treeveller’ (one who travels to meet trees and revel in them). When she’s not hugging trees, photographing them or listening to their stories, she likes to make a song and dance of them with other ‘treevellers.’
Ipsa Jain : A scientist by training and artist in spirit. She calls herself the hunter and gatherer of interestingness and wants to share it all with the world.
Priyanka Sacheti : An independent writer and editor presently based in Bangalore. Having participated in environmental and conservation while living in the US & Oman, she has also explored ecology and the environment through journalism.
Vanastree and Punarchith collectives present Land & Lens, a Photography exhibition by youth and women farmers of Chamarajanagar and Sirsi who reveal their land and lives through the lens
Land and Lens is a Buoyantly-Bold Experiment with Three Simple Goals:
Train rural women and youth how to use professional-level cameras
Through the camera lens—encourage them to fearlessly reveal their land, lives, and inherent creativity
Provide them venues, as artists, to share their work
The Land and Lens Exhibition : This vibrant exhibition of photos documents a buoyantly-bold process. Youth and women farmers, none of whom had previously been trained in the use of a camera, were encouraged to fearlessly explore sessions of self-guided photography. With unrealised talents coming to light, each photo isn’t just an image for the students—it is an experience.
Through this exhibition, the aim is to provide the photographers a unique space. One where their creative expressions can open viewer’s eyes to places and lifescapes seldom explored. Soil and skies, crops and trees, community and home, and unusual spaces that the streets become. Agricultural and rural land, expansive and beautiful, but often stressed.
With its many hardships and joys, the students share revealing glimpses into the daily rhythm of village India.
More than simply a collection of photos, the Land and Lens exhibition features elements of traditional village art alongside contemporary media — weaving together a vivid narrative of a collective rural experience in the Chamarajanagar and Sirsi regions.
Venue:Venkatappa Art Gallery – Kasturba Road, Bengaluru
Dates: Exhibition: April 7-13, 2018 10 AM – 7 PM (Inauguration: April 7, 2018 5 PM)
Mannu-Kannu Mela: April 7 & 8 (Sat & Sun), 2018 11 AM – 6 PM
Mannu-Kannu Mela : Theopening weekend event will host many of the Land and Lens photographers, and stalls by Vanastree, Vanya, and Honneru: Rural Youth Collective—featuring their products, crafts,
The opening of Lifetide [Urban] Water Festival 2018 will be held at Ragi Kana: an urban santé (market) that aims to provide sustainable livelihoods to farmers, weaver communities and co-operatives. The water festival will include a talk titled “Making Puttenahalli Lake a People’s Lake” by Usha Rajagopalan, chairperson, Puttenahalli Neighbourhood Lake Improvement Trust. Usha is also an author and translator who has published seven books in different literary genres. She hopes to write a memoir on the subject of conservation in the near future.
The event will also feature a film ‘Embedded Water‘ and ‘Kere Stop‘ by Bhavani GS who has been featured as Artecology’s artist of the month. The film screening will be followed by a talk/discussion by the artist. The festival will also feature a short film titled “‘A lake Reborn‘: The Incredible story of Kyalasanahalli lake” by Abhishek Maji, the event will also showcase Sansera Foundation’s work on the ecosystem revival of Kyalasanahalli lake.
The festival supports local water workers in building their community to reclaim the commons. It also addresses various water related issues and creates awareness through campaigns, interactive storytelling sessions, Live Music, mixed media arts.
It is a day long event and is open to people of all ages. You could also enjoy a scrumptious millet meal for lunch at the venue. Visit their facebook page to learn more about the event.
Lifetide is a platform to learn about water and practice conservation. It is a place to meet artists, activists and educators and start projects that protect and develop catchment areas. Simar Kohli Das, founder of Lifetide reaches out to artists to aid in this process creating ecological awareness through art. If you have work focused on conservation or a film that you would like to submit please write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
How often has a simple cartoon by R.K Laxman made us think about deep political issues that plague the society. These cartoons may look effortless but it takes immense creativity to encapsulate the depth of an issue through a single image. The phrase ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ definitely holds good for this form of expression. The artist who illustrates needs to have the intelligence to condense the content, and should be able to communicate what pages of words express, in a single image. Our artist of the month Deborshee Gogoi does just that. His cartoons focus on nature, wildlife, man-made disasters and human atrocities on the planet. He has the ability to sketch out issues in creative ways, and tickle and tease a person into thinking about grave issues that affect our environment.
Born in Tinsukia, the easternmost district of Assam, Deborshee was quite aware of the rich biodiversity of the region from a very young age. He loved watching Baya Weavers build their nests on the top of beetle-nut trees which were in abundance in his locality then. He lived only two kilometres away from Bherjan forest and he would often cycle there with his friends, to appreciate nature. He clearly remembers an incident from his childhood where a reporter had come home to photograph a bird that had entered their house. He learnt from the journalist that the feathered friend was a visitor from Siberia and has been curious ever since to learn more about migratory birds. He feels that instances like these and having access to wilderness closer home has deepened his interest in the study of nature.
For someone who started off by doodling figures of superheroes in primary school, Deborshee has come a long way in carving a niche for himself as a wildlife cartoonist. He learnt the basics of drawing from his mother, and one of his great inspirations was his uncle Dr. Bipin Chandra Chetia whose works he admired and tried to copy them when he was in school. He started off by sketching with pencils and crayons, and later fiddled with pen & ink, and also explored water-colour. He is currently very content with producing cartoons digitally using software. Deborshee says the duration of creating a sketch depends on various factors like mood, subject matter and sometimes the urgency of the order in case of commissioned works. Normally it takes him about two days to plan and complete an illustration but sometimes it takes more than a week depending on the complexity of the subject. His work has been showcased in many exhibitions that aimed at highlighting on the avian diversity of the Assam region and he plans to do his first solo wildlife cartoon exhibition in the near future.
After completing his formal education, Deborshee joined the banking sector only to realise that his new occupation kept him away from things he loved – nature and art. In 2010, he joined Digboi College as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Marketing. This college campus is very rich in floral and faunal diversity with almost 175 species of birds including threatened species like Chestnut-Backed Laughingthrush and Rusty-bellied Shortwing. Mammalian species like Asiatic Elephants, Leopards, Leopard Cats, Red Giant Flying Squirrels, Malayan Giant Squirrels, Capped Langurs, Barking Deers and Yellow-throated Martens frequently visit this campus. The campus harbour more than 100+ species of butterflies and is home for a sizeable population of reptiles and amphibians like Banded Kraits, Black Kraits, Monocled Cobras, Assam Snail Eaters and Bengal Monitor Lizards among others. Along with the diverseness of animal life, the campus is also a haven for nature lovers, researchers as well as environmentalists to carry their research. For Deborshee, living in this beautiful space led to the reinstitution of his love for nature.
He also enjoys interacting with young inquisitive minds in college. Many of his students are from remote villages where one has to walk many days to reach a township. He says that he gets to learn a lot from these students as their interaction with nature is direct and frequent. He is happy to share with them his experiences in nature and is very delighted when they reciprocate with interest. The students often express curiosity about wildlife that they witnessed directly or have seen in photographs. Deborshee is elated when his students and alumni keep in touch with him and share stories of their interactions and sightings in the natural world from their travels.
Deborshee has been deeply concerned about the increasing human atrocities on wildlife due to increase in superstitions and ignorance. He has been witnessing growing intolerance towards animals resulting in frequent man-animal conflict in Assam. These events have inspired him to raise his voice against human atrocities on environment through his artwork. He feels that cartoons with their quirk quotient and humour is probably the most effective way of creating awareness. In his opinion one does not need an academic degree or possess specialised knowledge to understand what message the cartoon wants to convey. Having struck a chord with the common man, his cartoons have been used on various platforms to communicate complex issues in effective ways.
Deborshee believes that one doesn’t have to be trained in ecological sciences to be able to create awareness about nature. He feels that any individual irrespective of their education, occupation and social status can work towards conservation. He feels that a deep understanding and awareness of the natural world along with a sense of responsibility and ethics are crucial to work in this field. He is not a follower of any faith or religion but believes in the greatness of nature. He says that he is a “Nature Worshiper” and considers mother nature to be Supreme. Artist Deborshee Gogoi hopes that with his sensibilities to aid him, he will continue his work towards creating awareness about the world we live in.
Russian artist Tatiana Petrova with her unique observation skills is able to paint a mental picture of her subjects with unusual vividness and great detail. She translates these experiences on to the canvas with colors and brushstrokes. Her paintings are not just detailed studies of various species, each of her works captures the individual personality of the creatures that she has encountered. Capturing the expressions, gaze, behaviour of wildlife in their natural surrounding and light, she manages to give the audience an experience of having met the living being in person.
Science and art have always been seamlessly knit together in Tatiana’s life. As a child she was very attached to animals and loved to draw. She also had an innate curiosity to understand the world of all the beings that co-habited her world. She grew up admiring the illustrations of her teacher Tatiana Kapustina, who is regarded as one of the best Soviet illustrators. In school she took an extra interest in the subject Biology and was also part of the young naturalists circle at the Leningrad zoo. She furthered her study in Biology at St Petersburg University while simultaneously studying at the State Academy of Fine Art in her hometown.
As an ornithologist her doctoral research focused on bird ethology, ecology and physiology. She was unable to complete her PHD due to personal reasons, but life offered her a very interesting opportunity of being able to study animals in close proximity. She was offered to work at the Leningrad zoo as an artist, illustrator and designer, where she got to be in close quarters with a diverse group of animals. As an ethologist (studying animal behaviour) working at the zoo was beneficial as she was able to study a multitude of things about animal behaviour. She was able to observe so many wild animals, she could deepen her understanding of their anatomy, food habits, mating rituals etc. When asked about animals being kept in captivity and in zoos, she explained how this knowledge is very difficult to obtain in nature because the encounters with animals in wilderness is often very brief. She says that the amount of experience she has gathered working closely with animals in the zoo has helped her appreciate their sightings in nature. She worked almost an entire decade at the zoo where she was part of various projects and her works got showcased in wild-life magazines, wildlife art exhibitions across the world.
Having grown up reading books by Rudyard Kipling and Jim Corbett, she was fascinated by India and was keen on visiting the sub-continent. She first paid a visit to India in 2010 and travelled extensively to various national parks to witness all those species that she had observed at the zoo. She was completely elated to be in tropical country and was mesmerised by the multitude of habitats and the diversity of flora and fauna in the sub-continent. She says that her rendezvous with different creatures both small and big have been unique and beautiful. One of her most memorable moments in India was sighting elephants in the misty forests of the Corbett National Park during the occurrence of a full-lunar eclipse. She had an out-of the world experience as the landscape transformed itself when the moon was blood red rendering the sighting of these beasts a magical one. One day she hopes to write a book with her illustrations from the field documenting her journey in the forests of the Indian sub-continent.
In 2013, a scholarship from the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) brought her to India again. This time she was funded to study graphics and screen printing at Visva-Bharti University, Shantiniketan and her dissertation was centred on the history of ornithological illustrations of Indian birds in lithographs of XIX century. She is interested in encapsulating her research on birds and publishing them along with her paintings of these aerial beings making it available and accessible to both the scientists and the non-scientific community.
She has observed that many wildlife artists today have not witnessed their subjects in the wild. A current trend where more artists rely purely on photographs and other visual mediums reduces the art work to the level of skill. She shares how this approach could also lead to the problem of anthropomorphising, wherein, the artist instead of observing and understanding the behaviour of animals, projects a human feeling or emotion on to the wild beings.
Tatiana expresses that misrepresentations can often lead to misunderstandings. Stating an example she talks about how often images of yawning tigers are mis-painted as being angry and dangerous. This leads to perceiving the often shy cats as being aggressive beings. It also leads to a limited way of representing animals designed just to cater to the market. Reiterating the importance of wildlife artists being in the field she enunciates that only when artists have the experience in the wilderness will their work reflect their curiosity, care and concern.
Talking about the role of artists in conservation, Tatiana asserts that artists have the ability to draw attention to a detail, a concept, an idea or a cause through their work. It is important for an artist to be aware of the impact they can have on the world and utilise it. Artists also have the options of working alongside conservation based organisations and ensure that their skills are used in creating awareness. In activism and science education, art can be used as an effective tool to communicate ideas in simple ways that can reach to the lay-man.
As an ornithologist though her affinity is towards drawing birds, she enjoys making drawings of insects, fishes, reptiles, butterflies and organisms that are often neglected by wildlife artists. She finds every form of life inspiring and through her art workshops wants to unravel the beauty of the natural world to people of various ages, backgrounds and nationalities.
During her recent visit to Bangalore, Team Artecology had the opportunity to meet Tatiana Petrova and learn more about her work. We also got to witness her having a rendezvous with a certain Mr Robin (Magpie) who delighted her with his visits when she was outdoors with her easel. Both Tatiana and the bird had found their favourite perches by a small pond acknowledging each other’s existence. The video is a sneak peak of the artist in action as she captures this bird on canvas using her memory and observation skills.)
Words by Veena Basavarajaiah
Veena is a contemporary movement artist based in Bangalore, India. She is an independent performer and choreographer who is trained in multiple art forms and has collaborated with individuals from various fields like theatre, visual arts & music. She has done her Masters in South Asian Dance Studies from Roehampton University (UK).Her choreographic works have been featured in various festivals in many countries. She is also a dance writer for various online platforms and her essays on South Asian dance have been published in various books. Veena is a volunteer of Artecology and works with the initiative on projects that are focused on nature and science.
Bhavani’s love for both nature and art began at a very young age. Growing up in Somawarpet, Coorg, her art and her ideology shaped up through her childhood. Her home was amidst green fields, hills, and forests. Most often she loved spending time at a stream near her house, observing the birds, animals, trees, and the water. Her flair for drawing and sketching was recognised by her teachers in school, who would call upon her to draw diagrams and sketches on the blackboard.
Bhavani did her Bachelor’s degree in commerce, got married and moved to Tumkur, but her love for art was still strong. She decided that she wanted to pursue art. She began with a part-time course while juggling her responsibilities of everyday bustle as a young bride and daughter-in-law. She later enrolled for a Bachelor’s degree in Fine arts in Tumkur. She enjoyed learning and working; it made her forget everything else. She then moved to Bangalore to pursue a Master’s degree in Fine Arts at Chitrakala Parishath.
Bhavani uses a variety of modes and media for her art— sketching, painting, installations, and videos. She has received scholarships, grants, and invitations to art residencies in India and abroad. She also conducts workshops and camps, mostly with the Government of Karnataka. Her videos have been screened at film festivals, and she has done many solo and group exhibitions too.
Right after her graduation, Bhavani painted ‘Somwarpet 5 Kms.’ ‘This is the work I did after my BFA when I was wondering what to paint and was searching for a theme. It is the place where I used to wait for my school van every day.’
‘The amalgamation of art and ecology in my works,’ she says, ‘is all attributed to a field trip I took to Araku valley with my fellow students as part of my course, which was extremely educative. The first art installation we worked on as a group involved interacting with the local community and their culture.
Using materials from nature (non-timber forest products) and incorporating local culture to create my art was an important choice that defined my future site specific installations working with elements of nature like water, stones, leaves, grasses.’
The changing ecology led Bhavani to question the causes and effects on the relationship between humans and the environment. Her art became political. Because of her intimate history with the river Kaveri, she researched issues like consumption and distribution of the river water. Who gets access to water, who benefits and who loses from it? How much water does it take to grow cotton? She worked on several paintings and a video titled Embedded water about the river Kaveri—combining the past, the present, and looking towards a sustainable future for the river and the people dependent on it.
‘Cauvery +Tributaries are a set of paintings depicting the fifteen tributaries which I like with the River Cauvery map on it. I have also painted the iron bridge on Harangi, which I loved as a child. The bridge was lovely and the river flowing below was a treat, with me watching the River Bhavani – Sujyothe, a subterranean river with my reflection. I have painted River Lokapavani twice because both Karnataka and Tamil Nadu states claim that the river is theirs.’
Another water issue related project Bhavani was involved in is “The Lost Lakes of Bangalore”. This is a project which documented Bengaluru’s many tanks and lakes which have vanished with unplanned urbanization and growth. Here Bhavani G.S. records the memories of people who lived and worked around the lake in its hey days. Today the lake is the Ambedkar sports grounds and surrounding areas in Basaveshwaranagar. Kere stop !
One of Bhavani’s memorable paintings is titled “Missing Butterflies.” Once Bhavani came across an article about how butterflies are caught and exported to Bangkok and other places to be framed and sold. ‘The framed butterflies looked jewel-like, very beautiful. But the atrocious way the tiny creatures are killed and framed only to be admired ‘nice’ and bought by tourists triggered me to paint that one’, she says.
Currently living in Bangalore, Bhavani continues to reminisce about her childhood experiences, and her hometown memories through her work. She paints images, memories, dreams, and fantasies—a gate that was a common sight in the houses in her neighbourhood, coffee and other plants, cut trunks of trees, the forest, the hills.
In her own words, Bhavani finds her art and its nature themes therapeutic.
My works are also about my ‘self’; a kind of personal journey into the sub-conscious; an expression of the deep urge to unravel my own being; Nature gives us life and energy, opportunities to meditative silent prayer or unbelievable experiences of beauty – describesBhavani about her work in her website .
Words by Hetal Hariya
A polyglot, Hetal is passionate about languages. Hetal has academic training in Biology and has worked for over a decade in the development sector with non-profit organisations and scholarly societies. An editor, content strategist, publishing specialist, and communications consultant, Hetal has experience editing, developing, and managing scholarly content for STM, humanities, and interdisciplinary subjects.
A treasure trove of creative ideas, Vishakha Chanchani is an artist with the magical ability to convert any piece of organic material around her into a beautiful work of art. When it comes to storytelling, she can compose songs, animate her puppets and narrate stories with a dramatic body language invoking the inner child in her audience. Anthropomorphically woven, her rendition gives voice to birds, animals, trees and other ignored creatures of the wilderness. An educator, potter, visual artist with a deep love for plants and animals, her work has a local flavour – it is raw and resonates with the elements of Nature.
Vishakha attributes her artistic sensibilities to her mother. Born in Gujarat, she grew up watching her mother work with her hands channelling her creative energy in cooking, stitching, embroidering, knitting, gardening and other work at home. Handwork was integrally woven into the daily rhythm and fixing things at home while activating the body’s intelligence through working with hands was a common feature. These experiences have moulded Vishakha into a tactile person where the touch of the material, feel of the paint, texture of the colour are significant in shaping her work. Clay, leaves, twigs, hay, rag cloth or any natural material get transformed with her Midas touch into puppets, magical creatures, characters in a story or lovely objects of beauty.
Talking about the importance of Nature in art she reminisces about her days at the Baroda school of Art. She fondly remembers how she would cycle early in the morning to a lake in the middle of Kamati Bagh, a sanctuary situated right opposite her university to sketch storks. The natural subjects for all her sketches emerged from the wilderness in and around her art school. She developed an affinity to capture minute details in her illustrations and her sensibility for fine lines inspired by patterns in Nature is evident in all her work.
On one of her most recent projects, she was invited by scientists of the National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bangalore, to observe and sketch butterflies. The welcoming attitude of scientists resulted in the creation of artistic work inspired by these wonderful creatures. Along with having access to a microscope and wide collection of different species of butterflies, Vishakha has illustrated these creatures with a surgical precision and enviable sophistication. Recollecting how she enjoyed drawing diagrams in her science classes and capturing the details of the different botanical and zoological subjects, she reiterates that art and science are deeply linked. She feels that it is important for inter-disciplinary work to start at the school level where different subjects are not placed in stringent compartments but the learning is more fluid where understanding one aspect facilitates the comprehension of another.
Stressing on the importance of educational spaces having green cover, she shares how Nature should be an extension of the classroom and awareness of the living world should be part of the curriculum. Having taught in many alternate schools, Vishakha opines that a subject on the environment should not be limited to books and exams, she believes that if it remains a subject that is studied only to get marks in exams, then the sense of responsibility is lost in the children. She feels that only when we take care of Nature, is when we will learn to nurture it.
Appu Baithha Ande Par: Dr Kabir Meets Seuss Das – A play by children of Valley School where Vishaka was one of the facilitators.
She feels that Nature should not be restricted to parks, it needs to literally be part of every walk of our lives. Throwing light on how many universities and schools have always been the lungs of urban spaces for all these years, she shares with a distant romanticism as to how educational institutions can come to the rescue in city plagued with the idea of development. She shares her anguish about the invasion of technology in urban life. In the education realm, she feels that the students are under the impression that they know a lot because they have access to a lot of information and this is increasingly removing them from tactile experiences. She stresses on the importance of using technology as a resource tool and accessing it intelligently instead of being flooded by images. She says that information doesn’t automatically translate to experience and understanding of how things work. Also, in the past, most of the raw materials and inspirations for art had to be sourced from Nature and with everything going digital these days she feels that students seem to constantly be plugged-in, distancing themselves from the world around them.
Infused with a sense of immediacy, Vishakha envisions a city where the government lays norms to have trees on campus where schools can become city’s breathing spaces. She also expresses that if there was a student to tree ratio on campus, along with taking care of Nature and animals being part of student’s learning, the gap between urban kids and their connect to Nature can be bridged.
Vishakha has worked as an educator for over three decades with alternate schools like The Valley School, Centre for Learning, Vikasana and Shibumi. She has had the opportunity to experiment with inter-disciplinary ways of learning. Being a voracious reader, quoting and referencing constantly about ideas, experiments and understandings, her classes are alive and engaging peppered with anecdotes and experiences. She currently teaches at Srishti school of Design, Art and Technology in Bangalore and works with students on innovative projects bringing together art, society, science, environment and conservation.
Words by Veena Basavarajaiah
Veena is a contemporary movement artist based in Bangalore, India. She is an independent performer and choreographer who is trained in multiple art forms and has collaborated with individuals from various fields like theatre, visual arts & music. Her choreographic works have been featured in various festivals in many countries. She is a volunteer of Artecology and works with the initiative on projects that are focused on nature and science.