The art workshop led by acclaimed artists Rekha Rodwittiya and Surendran Nair was supposed to be attended by 22 students of the College of Fine Arts, Thiruvananthapuram. It turned out that after the introductory session, 18 chose to stay while the rest decided that the difficult apprenticeship was not for them. The task masters are however undaunted and believe that the ones who stay are the ones who have it in them to live the artist’s life, to which discipline is central.
” Most kids have over-romanticised ideas about art. It has to do with how art is viewed in our society,” says Rekha Rodwittiya. A picture of elegance and fortitude, her works are recognised for the politically alert feminist practice of painting that they represent. Surendran Nair, an alumni of the College of Fine Arts, Thiruvananthapuram, is noted for his works that investigate the realms of myth in a modern-day context.
The Baroda-based artists, who conducted an invited art workshop at the college that concluded today, stressed on the need to inculcate the idea of artistic discipline in aspiring practitioners. They emphasized that part of their mission was to instill the concept of dedicating and devoting one’s time purely and completely to art practise.
Says Rekha, “We are teachers who choose to teach in an alternative way. We do with the students in four or five days what a college may attempt to do day in a month. We keep our teaching separate from any kind of income source and that allows us a disciplined approach to how we deal with our students.”
The artist couple, who hold workshops frequently in India and abroad, say that such exercises can contribute to enhancing the teaching quality of art institutions. The effect of these activities should ideally be similar to that of a ‘slap in the face’, says Rekha. “It should wake up them up and push them into a kind of survival mode.”
“It is about making them understand the purposefulness of their engagement with this activity. More so, because, it is an activity that is in many ways slightly more abstract than most other activities in the social space.
If you are a teacher, an engineer, a tailor, the application and its purposeful result are much more easier to connect. But if you think of the power of art in society, it is much more subtle,” she says.
The visit to the college as a teacher is at once refreshing and a journey back in time, says Surendran Nair. In societies like ours, where we have few democratic spaces of art, such meaningful interludes between seasoned practitioners and students of art are crucial, say the duo. “It breaks down pre-conditioning and gives the student an opportunity to discover a boundless territory of self-representation,” winds up Rekha.