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The Dolna Art Retreat, Lonavla, Aamby Valley

Representing incredible contemporary artists rooted
in Indian ethos

Dolna, an Art curator’s platform, founded by Ms. Mithu Basu, is a platform that represents incredible contemporary artists rooted in Indian ethos. And to facilitate this and promote the art landscape in the country, they recently hosted an Art Retreat at Lonavla, Aamby Valley. Prolific artists like Subodh Poddar, Prashant Godbole and Amit Kumar Anshu were part of this art sojourn. Residing in an environment amidst nature, peaceful and beautiful flora fauna, the artists could explore a discipline that may not have been their own. For example, Prashant - a photographer tried his hand at Charcoal Sketches. Mithu Basu the curator herself took to the paint brushes, canvassing her art interpretations.

In an interview with TLI, the Bengali art curator Ms. Basu described how this completely nature-inspired environment at her residency influenced freedom and joy and helped her artists explore another realm of bliss-infused art.

Artists Group

“The way forward for Indian artists in this global milieu is to soak into our own idioms, symbols and imagery and contemporize the expression. We have to think local and go global. I want to push forward artists rooted in Indian ethos and see them fly high when they associate with Dolna. Bringing artists here to the almost secluded land of Ambey Valley was to give them their own private space where they can be themselves. There is a cook dishing our delicious Maharashtrian Delicacies, lovely spacious rooms, a swimming pool to unwind, nearby hills to climb etc. All for our artists. My dream and vision are to make the Dolna Art Residency a global name with the pure intention of having Artists come and explore a side of themselves they have never seen before and produce art they have never explored before”.

We also got talking to each of the artists and asked them their take on art and the residency. Excerpts from the interviews :

Subodh Poddar - Artist and Curator Dance-Scapes

Q - What is Art to you ?

A- I believe I was born an artist right from age of 3, my parents and I used to go to make sculptures with clay, after school I was guided by my art teacher to go to Sir J.J. School of Art, and trained in commercial art. Then my journey in advertising started. I thought I was getting into fine art but it turned out a rollercoaster from one agency to another.

It was a lot of work from campaign to campaign, films and jingles and everything. I realized that while I was working in advertising, I was neglecting myself entirely, so I started sketching which was my passion. I used go with live dancers, from theatre to theatre, performance to performance, auditorium to auditorium; look at the dancers and sketch them and that developed into my DANCESCAPES.

I am very passionate about it where I get challenged by the dancers body to capture the essentials, that nuance and intricacy that you can capture from the entire dance performance that in 1 painting encapsulates the body language of the dancer. This kept developing and after retirement, I went back to my childhood, I started making sculptures, I started painting, canvasses, took part in exhibitions, did my dancescapes in Italy, France, Morocco and shows in Mumbai etc.

And now getting to know a lot of artists from Mithu a dear friend and the curator and founder of Dolna - Art House. She has given me a lot of knowledge of the field of the art and the art market. Somehow they said art for an artist is just art but being from a commercial background I think if I can make living out of my art and can be liked by many people, and get into people's minds and paint what is in their minds, then I’m home. Art that makes people happy, art that decorates the wall, when you come back home and look at my art and feel rejuvenated, I think that is the success of my art. I do a lot of colors, Indian culture, and dances and my art reflects all that. And because I was doing dancescapes for a long time, the motion, the movement of the body shows in my capture and if the body is still like landscape, then my brush the impatient brush shows the movement of wind, and trees and breathing of nature I can capture.

Q- What according to you goes on into the mind of an artist ?

A - Art has to give me happiness, my every art has to show me how I am getting evolved one after the other. Every second my art has to be better than the first art, so every time this goes into my mind. And I feel happy if I have improved and that to me is evolution.

Q- What was your journey of self-discovery?

A - I used to travel from Ambernath to VT Station when in college and we had to submit 20 sketches every day. And that journey when I used to look out from the train window, and used to sketch whatever was going past so I discovered I was interested in capturing motion, everything that moved I would capture. And that is what has transformed into Dance-scapes, I capture live movements. The body language, the way the dancer holds his or her limb, and how the bones move is what gives me the kick

Q - Where do you see the future of art going?

A - I still think art is basically to spread happiness in people's minds, a lot of art is decorative lot of art is thought-provoking and nowadays are digital, traveling through the world and pictures, photography, and paintings all combined into one which I think is very advanced. I went to an art village in France, where I saw sculptures like Michelangelo realistic at the same time they are also doing digital work, cut paste, pages from magazines, incorporating art painting over and creating a new form. All these things are happening parallelly, and the future of art will still be to spread joy, and create positive vibes in the environment where it is being displayed.

Q - What would you say is the high point about the #DolnaArtRetreat ?

A - High point about Dolna art retreat is the Amby Valley of Lonavala, monsoon is doing magic over it, mountains, lakes, roads, so so beautiful. Artists here have come only for art all so passionate. I have done about 12 works of art already. only painting, and enjoying the Maharashtrian food, rains, chatting etc.. Mithu is a fantastic host. We are having a great time doing a lot of good work because the place is very inspiring.

Prashant Godbole - Commercial Artist, dabbling with photography and sketches

Q - How did you foray into art ?

A - By fluke actually. I was very good at studies getting 35% marks and then my father decided i was good for nothing and so he put me into art school and that's how I started by journey of becoming an artist

Q - What is your journey of self-discovery of the artist in you ?

A - Self-discovery happened over a period of time. The moment you start doing something, you start liking what you do and the moment you start liking what you do you keep doing that and that is how you basically discover yourself. That's what happened to me.

Q - What would you say is the Future of Photography ?

A - Today everyone is a photographer, the photography medium has become more liberal, and everybody today can shoot. The trick is to be producing consistently better work and experimental work so that you can surprise people and that is what I am trying to achieve

Q- What would you say is the High point of Dolna Art Retreat ?

A - This is my first art retreat never been to one like this before. Really enjoyed, a great inspiring place, good conversations over art, literature, and landscape and portraits and I did a lot of sketches. Learned a lot and did a lot of photography and enjoyed every moment here.

Amit Kumar Anshu - Commercial and Emerging Artist

Q - Where did you start your art journey from?

A - My journey with art started in my childhood itself. Every child starts by drawing on the walls, and then gradually moves towards learning art, professionally. On my birthday my brother presented a drawing book and I started drawing from then. My handwriting was very good. So people would call me to do writing for me and I would get paid for it. It boosted from here and then it became a passion thing. Then in my first attempt I got into art college in Banaras Hindu University. Then I joined and BFA Masters from there. Creative Art I understand - abstract etc. I try to paint things the way I see it, in the form of portraits, landscape , nature etc. This is the medium I am comfortable in and so this is my style of art.

Q - What according to you is the Future of Art ?

A - This time period of digital and AI-based art is getting very interesting. NFT creators are progressing so much, the traditional art form is getting very affected by this because of its proliferation in just 5-10 year. Influencers and social media artists today, they don't try to understand the depth of art, they start without any content or history or background, and don't have a base for themselves. And this makes their art a little frivolous. And on the other side in Art Schools, teachers and seniors used to assist and hand hold in learning the art. This art retreat is also like an art lovers paradise.If you take as an example, when I am with these senior artists here, there is soo much I am getting to learn, and understanding their techniques, which you struggle learning yourself.

Q What would you say are the key highlights of this Art Retreat ?

A - When Ms. Basu first mentioned it, I thought of course. No doubt I was ready. And then I didn't think it will be so beneficial, to stay full day and only paint. I wouldn't lie, I got a lot of stuff thinking I will have to do a lot of work here, and I did also but we enjoyed too much and it didn't feel like I did work. I can stay here for 2 months or more I feel. The stay was so comfortable, food was finger-licking, literally like royal living. The whole experience was brilliant and inspiring.

About Mithu Basu

Curator & Founder Dolna:

Prior to her current foray as Artrepreneur she was General Manager, Corporate Communications for close to a decade with The Leela Palaces, Hotels and Resorts. Mithu Basu has always been an art lover and a strong advocate for arts. A destined residential stint at Santiniketan (Tagore's venerated art institution) drew her attention to; the wealth of unsung talent, lack of travel and exposure opportunities, the potential of untapped audiences. An artist herself, she was sensitive to understand the value of exposure and opportunities in the growth and development of artists. Convinced to be the change she wanted to see, Mithu founded her innovative art enterprise Dolna. A platform that puts to good use her accrued skills over the years. Networking, writing, communicating, ideating, painting all for the benefit of taking Indian art forward.

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