Sonal Motla tells: The arts in the digital age


The digitally created canvas artwork of SHRaza (1991) which was featured in Jehangir Art Gallery and National Gallery of Modern Art Delhi | Sonal Motla

The current status of Art, as we know it today, is undergoing a substantial change, a significant part of which is already seen with the emergence of NFT, digital art and various other applications, where conventional theories are being redefined. Along with traditional arts, arts fused with technology will also play an extremely important role.

Globally, art and design has grown exponentially over time and it is imperative that this be introduced into the institutions that lay the foundation for student development. Innovation, experimentation and problem solving need to be included in the curricula, as this too will grow significantly and become an integral part of all the arts.

Of the 41 art colleges in Maharashtra, Mumbai has, which are based on a curriculum that has remained unchanged over the decades. Although the program is comprehensive, it has not evolved to the extent that satisfies current developments in the field.

Any effective art education system relies on the synergy between art education, the art market and documentation in the context of its economic and cultural heritage. The coming years will see a shift in the entire art ecosystem.

A functional chair created by Krishnachari Bose in 1993 was part of the functional art exhibition “Circling the Square”. It was designed and executed by Sonal Motla along with six other masters | Sonal Motla

Upcoming educational path

Fine art, design or creativity depends on the process, the attitude and above all the intention of an individual. However, a systematic change in the application of aesthetics will change all that in the future as I expect. Timely intervention and foresight will certainly result in a richer and more robust art market.

There is a huge imbalance in art schools and degree courses offered across the country. We have around 50,000 art students graduating every year, but we only have a few art galleries to display their artwork. Art graduates are the most vulnerable to their commercial value after graduation.

A multidisciplinary program where students learn various applications and are exposed to these applications is needed. I see this interface developing in the next 10 years. There is no legal recognition of the Indian contemporary art community. Moreover, Art is perceived as a luxury and therefore remains a niche market.

Don’t be fooled by the astronomical auction house prices in the media headlines, as most of the money goes to collectors and auction houses, while the young artist often struggles to make ends meet.

Technology and art are two sides of the same coin. Art is a reflection of society. So, if society has empowered or improved through technology, technology will eventually be reflected in art, design, and creativity.

I exhibited digital art thirty years ago, in 1991 with my first exhibition. But, even today in 2022, we don’t see computers and digital infrastructure in government-run colleges.

There is a serious and alarming need for infrastructure, teacher training, delivery system and curriculum. The whole art business and ecosystem needs to be restarted. The entire spectrum expands, from emerging from galleries of pristine white cubes to progressing into public art, civic art, functional art, and more.

We are talking about creative expression, not just visual arts. Terminologies will change and our way of seeing things will also change radically. Technology is going to be an extremely organic part.

The arts will continue to integrate deeply and earlier in the years to come. AI and virtual reality will change the way we experience art. This does not mean that the classics and the Masters will be forgotten. Instead, technology will help to understand them and interact with them even more deeply. Information about the historical background, evolution, and experience of stepping into a painting will all take the artistic journey to another level.

Just as MF Hussain once said, “As I begin to paint, hold the sky in your hands; for the extent of my canvas is unknown to me.” The breadth of the mind will determine the breadth of the brush, it doesn’t have to be limited to the canvas. And that is exactly what is happening. We expand and expand the entire spectrum of art.

Creative building

Content will always remain the core, human thought and human expression are at the helm. The tools keep evolving as technology advances, history is proof of that. From cave paintings with natural dyes and materials to the Western derivative of canvas and paint, we continue to evolve.

Rich textile heritage, crafts, ceramics, metal work, carpentry are just tools that have evolved over time. The first fundamental is human expression in response to the outside world.

Artists are talent and they need to be nurtured, encouraged and empowered, and brought to light. Handicrafts, textiles and Madhubani paintings are the Fine Arts. Craft is a skill and fine art is an artistic expression of an individual’s ability. All these must be married; to be transdisciplinary and multidisciplinary and this is what I undertake to do for the next ten years.

(Sonal Motla organized Kala Ghoda 2020 with development and art as the theme and is currently working on arts, crafts and design education issues with a few educational institutions)

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