Father’s Day special: show, don’t tell

When I wandered through the Goa Museum on a balmy evening, the large ‘Carpet of Joy’, one of the museum’s main attractions, caught my eye as I walked up the stairs to the artist’s office. and owner of the museum, Subodh Kerkar.

I had been to the museum before and had seen this work, but only on Instagram. Like many museums around the world, the Goa Museum went online during the pandemic, opening its collection to anyone who loves art.

But I was curious: why would an artist open a museum and not an art gallery? And that explains why I stepped out of the virtual world and entered the brick and mortar office of Subodh Kerkar. I needed to learn.

Educate and organize

“Whatever activity I do, it is an activity beyond my own artistic ambition,” says Subodh. “An average artist, even a well-known one, is interested in establishing his own name in the art world, reaching a certain height in the art market. This is the usual trajectory of every successful artist in the country. I am an aberration. A lot of people even accuse me that MoG is the product of my artist ego. But it is far from being the case.”

Watercolor paintings by Subodh Kerkar on wood

The museum, says Subodh, was born from a moment of realization. The realization of the shocking truth that in a country of nearly 1.3 billion people, no more than a lakh of people connect with contemporary art.

“I’m not even sure this lakh is an exaggeration,” said Subodh. “This figure is based on my encounters and a lot of people don’t have the opportunity to connect with the work of great artists of our time. We have a few galleries, but they are businesses and they are interested in selling art. They are not interested in teaching art in schools and most of the galleries are located in five star spaces. An average person is even afraid to press the bell there! “

What he’s trying to do with the museum, he says, is make art affordable and bury the idea that art and collectibles are only for the rich.

“But I believe you can only connect with art when you are exposed to it,” Subodh explains. “Normally the idea of ​​art for most Indians is either a landscape or a portrait, but there are many things beyond that they have never been exposed to. ”

Art politics

Did you know Surat had a mini Eiffel Tower? “What is the need for a mini Eiffel Tower in Surat? Why spend so much money on it? he asks. “All of our heritage structures and ancient palaces were commissioned by princes and kings, who had knowledge of art and culture, unlike politicians today. When politicians choose art because they are in power, you can’t expect it to be good art.

Watercolor paintings by Subodh Kerkar on wood on canvas
Watercolor paintings by Subodh Kerkar on wood on canvas

He pauses to catch his breath and continues. “Art is a means of communication,” he says. “Although the viewer may have their own interpretation of art, as an artist I would also like to convey my interpretation of my art. Our curatorial language is a language of Tukaram. I would like to become the Tukaram or the Kabir of contemporary arts, to bring art to the common people.

Much of Subodh Kerkar’s art, although contemporary, has influences from the rich history of his state. In today’s hot political climate, isn’t a work of art that borders on religion daring?

“The Portuguese demolished Hindu temples in Goa. The story has to be accepted, but at the same time, you have to realize that the present has nothing to do with what happened in the past, ”Subodh explains. “Personally, I don’t have a religion because I don’t understand why religion should dominate all of my other identities. This has led to so many problems. I believe that the spiritual part of every religion has been done away with and that there are only rituals left. ”

Subodh gave up his medical career nearly three decades ago to become an artist, but he didn’t want to produce work that would soothe the eyes of only a few.

“Art is not about decorating walls and rooms. It is the decoration of a soul, ”he insists. “Art makes us more human. It breaks the dichotomies and makes us plural. In the republic of art, there is no barrier, it is an equalizer. Art gives you an element of truth, the viewer adds his truth and everyone’s truth is valid. Very different from the current regime.

Subodh paintings of a fisherwoman on wood
Subodh paintings of a fisherwoman on wood

For most of the past year and now this year, Subodh’s MoG has closed its doors to visitors. “I have never had such uninterrupted creative time,” he says. “I know it comes from a privileged place. Obviously I suffered significant financial losses, but I ensured that my staff’s salaries were maintained, I had time to read, travel long distances and draw much more.

Most of his work is now on Reels and has found many viewers. But Subodh is not sure if the art belongs online.

“There has been a bombardment of images, which makes it difficult for people to decipher what is art and what is not art,” he says. “For example, to become a music lover, you must first become a Kaansen before you go to Tansen. Likewise, with art, you have to become an Artsen.

The capitalist socialist

Subodh’s son, Siddharth Kerkar, is also an artist. But he’s also a social media influencer, and he’s the one who uploaded the MoG artwork.

Siddharth already had a good number of social media followers before heading to the UK to study at Chelsea College of Arts, affiliated with the University of the Arts in London. “Being in London gave me a lot of exposure to art. It’s about the connections you make and it’s more about living in London than studying in London, ”he says.

But his plans turned around after the pandemic and he had to return to Goa. “To change things, I hired a videographer and I’m trying to merge my two worlds – artist and influencer. People look at me more seriously and more and more interior designers come into my circle, which brings me business, ”he told me on a Zoom call.

Siddharth's last coin with copper and intricate designs for a client
Siddharth’s last coin with copper and intricate designs for a client

Although Subodh is the face of the museum, Siddharth plays a vital role in its management and was the head of the Goa Affordable Art Fest which operated successfully for three years until 2020.

But what does he think of his father who opens a museum? “It takes a lot of courage to take all your savings and put them into one project without the assurance of whether it will work or not,” says Siddharth. “For dad, it’s more than a business. It is about making the masses discover art, educating them about art, making them discover a whole new facet of contemporary art in India.

Siddharth insists on the need to create a strong brand presence. His approach is capitalist, he says. Subodh is much more socialist in his art. However, father and son have one strong idea in common: the idea of ​​the affordability of art.

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From Brunch HT, June 20, 2021

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