Art-Eco 2019-20: A socio culture Project (14-20 Dec)

Today we conclude a week-long journey of international plein air artists at Kaaya. Plein air painting is about leaving the four walls of your studio behind to experience painting and drawing in the open air. Particularly in this time, when climate as well as humanitarian crisis is looming large, these artists left  comforts of their homes or studios and picked up their brushes, paints and easels to inspire as well as seek inspirations from the nature and people to spread peace, harmony and beauty around their work. At least, this is what we felt at kaaya with their presence.  

Day one: Arrival

Transacting long distances has its own perils, your body and mind are in flux and what you need at the end of the journey is some nice and warm place to settle and relax. But if you are checking at this late evening at kaaya, it is often a shocker…with minimal lights, rough terrain and mud earth cottages that doesn’t have centralized heating, one find oneself adjusting to the rural realities, frustrating phone network and no comfort of a luxurious hotel.

Yet, amidst all the chaos, one can’t help noticing the burst of fresh air and being at place that is different than the normal. This is exactly the response when we received the 15 artists in four separate vehicles arriving at kaaya.

feeling the smell and sounds of kaaya
Day two: Exploring & Communicating

In this cold, asking the residents if they slept well is tricky at kaaya. As a community we are not into hospitality and one does eventually realize that …Yes, it was a cold night. However, it was a refreshing morning at kaaya, with the smoke coming out of huts, the sun, the views, the chirping of birds and a happy realization as if the time has slowed down as we begin to adapt to the discomfort from city life and get ready to face the rhythm of a rural life.

village mornings!

From early in the morning, the artists were all set to explore the village and the surroundings, and we let them free…but you can’t walk afar so part of the explorations was done on the vehicle. It was a reconnaissance tour for them to find their spots and the places of interest to re-visit with their specially designed set of canvas, easel and paints. We did stop for a little shopping at the local village market and headed back to kaaya for lunch. By this time, the Kaaya neighbourhoods opened up to them and they couldn’t wait to get started.  So post lunch, the village Tilwari, Birsani and Jagatpur found foreign looking persons, stationed along the road or in the field and who are doing something that they have never seen before.

the village walk

For us it was wonderful to see the artists moved by sights and rhythm of rural life that is embedded in nature, and more importantly to see the passers-by, the children, the village folks watching them from the corners of their eyes, wondering…revisiting the same mountain, the same forest and the same river from the perspective of an artists who is working, soaking it in the touches of brush, bringing it to light in the canvas. This exposure, even for a day, is enough to ponder… what it is, that is so good in our environment that brings people from countries so far…? May be there is something to pause and reflect.

Out there…

This was all that was communicated, no words uttered, and art spoke for itself. It was the moment when language become redundant and the art speaks for itself. No wonder when Nataliya ambled along and lost her way, the local youth could bring her back to us and were grateful she could have a photo with them.

found Nataliya

But yes, we needed to communicate with them to explore deeper the socio-cultural aspects of this Art-Eco program and for this we are grateful to Oksana who volunteered to be with us. She came all the way from Cuttack where she teaches at Sri Sri Ravi Shankar University, hails from Russia and is living in India for last 11 years.  

the one who connects

It was an animated discussion at the evening over bonfire that got us talking, to share the intent, the purpose and the larger vision of this program. It was wonderful to learn about opportunities for budding artists from India to study art in Russia, its heritage of art & education and why India has a special significance. We did try to share the differences as well as the common points that binds us as human and connected with each other more. Vitaliy, shared his admiration for certain attributes he found among Indians like the balance they can achieve even under difficult circumstances and still able to smile so openly. With Oksana, a spiritual being, as a facilitator, we did venture into some philosophy together and a comforting sense remained throughout the night that we were able to communicate and share openly.     

Day three: Bridging and bonding

The third morning was to explore the mountains as we drove towards Bhadraj  valley towards Dhalani and koti village. By this time the routine was already set i.e. to start early, sunrise and sunsets needs to be captured and it would take approximately three hours for a sitting. Once the work begins, there are no tea or lunch breaks. It only highlighted the professionalism and dedication with which the plein air artists worked within limited timeframe.


To see them work was pure joy, the way they fix the spot, position themselves, set up their easel, unpack and pack their brushes and colours while being friendly with the kids flocking them or being oblivious to the intrusions around them.  

the art & science of plein air

For the lunch, it was ready to go meals at the Kaaya farms in Koti, and a wonderful sunny afternoon to laze around for the observers like us.

the mountain sun

This also gave an opportunity for the group of Indian artists to know each other more and to really understand how Kaaya as a space is critical in their coming together. For us at kaaya, it began with Jagmohan Bangani, an artist and a friend who visited Kaaya, stayed with us and found it inspiring enough to call other artists for a residency of a different kind. It was a gathering of national and international artists who came on their own expenses at kaaya to celebrate It was a unique residency wherein the artists didn’t have any the pressure to create their signature art but only to learn, share and have fun, nothing was expected out of them. Randomly, Satya and Deepak decided to share their skill in using PoP and soon we had other artists trying their hand in learning new medium.

Jagmohan and Satya

That was a realization that something good has happened; it should be a continuous process and we as artists need not always wait for the sponsors. We can always come together and do things that are meaningful at kaaya. Thus, a kaaya community began to take shape and naturally it led Satya, one of the participant artist, suggesting Kaaya as a possible destination for Art-Eco 2019-20. The idea took shape during his visit to Russia and conversations with Shreyanshi of Shryansi International.

Shreyanshi Manu on right

This brought us to Shreyanshi, who is also the part of the visiting artists at Kaaya. It was a pleasure to know her as someone who has transcended her role from just being an artist to that of an art organizer. She along with her partner in Shryansi International is making things happen at a scale that impacts other artists too. The process of bonding and bridging culminated in this Eco-tour is organized by her in collaboration with S. Petersburg Centre for Humanitarian Programmes led by Vitaliy as we all ended up huddled around fire at Kaaya.  

Vitaliy in centre

To be continued…  

One Comment on “Art-Eco: Part 1

  1. It’s been great to be a part of this wonderful program “ART-ECO” at Kaaya Learning Centre . I deeply thanks to my dear friends Santosh Passi, and Satya Sai Mothadaka to work very hard for making it successful and I am looking forward for our long association for organizing such art related camps, workshops and residencies in the beautiful surroundings of KAAYA. I am glad to meet Vitalii Vasilev, Irina G Dashevskaya, Oksana Akulova , during this program.

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