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Indian artists imagine an unknown Russia


New Delhi, Sep 20 (IANS/Russia &India Report) The third edition of the "Indian Artists Paint Russia" art camp brought together a group of artists here who painted images of the country solely based on their imagination.

Held for the first time in July 2011, the annual Art Camp has been gaining popularity among artists in the Indian capital, with the 2013 edition breaking all records with the participation of 17 artists. "Indian Artists Paint Russia" is being held at the Russian Centre of Science and Culture (RCSC), which is jointly organising the event with the Forum of Indian Photographers and Artists (FIPA). This year's main theme is "city life", with the artists being asked to focus on A Day in Moscow.

"This year, we decided to split the display: the main part includes this year's works, but next to them, you can see the paintings by the participants in previous Art Camps and those created by our guests of honour, including (Russian artist) Maxim Pridanov," said Anastasia Khokhlova , head of the RCSC cultural department.

The camp is the second workshop in the series for Padmini Mehta and Aakshat Sinha, the latter having been granted the honorary status of its curator. He is the only participant to have been to Russia - being a student at the Peoples Friendship University of Russia 1991-1998.

"Russia is an unfailing source of inspiration," Sinha said. "If they asked me to paint my most overwhelming impression of Russia, I would definitely paint Tsvetnoy Bulvar, where, between two busy roads, there's a park with benches and very beautiful people sitting on them."

For Mehta, Russia is a vibrant country. "People are very sweet, cooperative. That I really like."

This year, Sinha painted the fans of FC Spartak Moscow against the background of the Red Square. "Each city must have football fans," Sinha explained.

In Mehta's painting, Russian girls enjoy a circle dance on snow-covered mountain peaks next to a pianist playing Tchaikovsky. The background features Victory Day fireworks.

Many of those who took part in the first Art Camp passed the Russian theme on to their children.

Sugandha Menda learnt about the workshop from her father. "My dad introduced me to the Art Camp. He was part of it much earlier, two years ago," she said, admitting that the hardest thing for her was to choose something special about Russia to paint.

"But I asked myself: I have never been to Russia, so what shall I do? My father advised me to look through all the photos on the internet about the history of Russia, whatever I could find. Then we were given a few books and started painting. By that time, I realised that I had the feeling that Russia was famous for snow and its winter. Many people also told me that winter in Russia was amazing. And the architecture is something magnificent."

So, Menda depicted a church and an old woman with her granddaughter sliding on the snow. You get the impression that an artist capable of drawing this must have been to Russia at least a couple of times. But impressions can be misleading. The artist was born in Andhra Pradesh and has seen snow only once, when she went to Scotland at age of five.

Reni Soman also has snow in her picture, covering the building of Moscow State University. "Russia for me is snow, too. Then come beautiful girls and very colourful buildings," said the artist. She was a bit luckier and saw snow for two whole days in Ladakh.

Sabita Agrawal, another participant in the Art Camp, did not stick to the theme and painted nestling dolls, which she said "were the first things that attracted me about Russia."

"I found them very beautiful. For me, such dolls symbolise happiness and beauty. When I was young, I used to get Russian dolls from the market or my parents, who used to travel abroad," she explained.

The organisers are planning to improve the format of the Art Camp from next year. "We plan to provide our participants with paint, brushes and canvases," RCSC's Khokhlova said, adding that she would like the next workshop to be "complete with a cultural programme to enable the artists feel Russian culture".

The organisers plan to engage not only FIPA but also the Lalit Kala Academy and the Delhi College of Art to ensure greater participation next year.

The artists are certain that workshops of this kind will help them share not only their fantasies but also professional skills.

"I am a professional artist. And I always want to learn. A workshop is a kind of event, a gathering of artists where each and every one is doing a different kind of work with their own techniques and colour combinations," Mehta said.

The paintings will be displayed at the RCSC until Saturday.

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First Published: Fri, September 20 2013. 10:52 IST