Home India News Capturing essence of Connaught Place through art

Capturing essence of Connaught Place through art

By Madhusree Chatterjee, IANS,

New Delhi : What is it about Connaught Place, the sprawling entertainment and business hub in the heart of the capital, that makes Delhiites so nostalgic and draws thousands of people every day?

Keventers, the quaint pre-Independence milk bar, says Delhi-based artist Megha Joshi.

Joshi has captured the essence of Connaught Place with a solid three-dimensional installation of flowing milk made of over 200 Keventers milk bottles. She is one of the 25 artists at a unique art residency project called “Connaught Place: The Why Not Place” at the Religare Arts.I Gallery in Connaught Place Aug 8-27.

The 25 artists have been working round-the-clock at makeshift studios created in the gallery since May 27.

“When I was researching on Connaught Place, I realised that food bound Delhiites to Connaught Place, which is dotted with eateries. Most old-timers remembered Keventers, the rundown milk bar next to Wenger’s Bakery. Keventers is known for its iced milk and shakes served in oversized glass bottles,” Joshi told IANS.

She has created a twisted river of milk through a complex pattern of bottles — from the wall to the floor. The bottles have been cemented with glue. A shard of glass shaped like a droplet of milk flows out of the last bottle that touches the ground.

For artist Pratibha Singh, Connaught Place is like a shrine. Her installation combines a series of small format art works in fluorescent colours that shows the bustling city centre through the eyes of a visitor from outer space.

The canvases with hazy maps of CP, as Connaught Place is commonly known, and its surrounding energy fields are placed in a shrine of white chiffon strips — which takes off from the small temples found in the back alleys of the area.

“I imagined I was a space traveller coming down to Connaught Place. First, I saw nothing but pure energy fields and then a hazy outline of a bustling shopping centre. I used to walk around CP twice a day and I discovered that almost every tree had a shrine at its base with wish threads tied around them,” Singh told IANS.

The idea for the residency project, a part of the gallery’s plan to set up a 360-degree arts platform, came up in October 2008 when “we were looking at activities for the lean summer months that don’t see much of art-related events”, said Mukesh Panika, director of the Arts.I gallery.

“We decided to use the gallery space as studios and conduct a residency programme for the first time. We wanted to explore group dynamics of artists working together and conduct a thematic experiment. CP emerged as the theme as it is (one of) the capital’s oldest business districts,” Panika told IANS.

A central collaborative art work of Connaught Place by 25 artists is a 70-foot-diameter circular layout of CP with three concentric layers of art depicting the outer circle, inner circle and central square.

Radial art panels fan out of the circle showing the roads leading out of CP. Hanging on top is a fleet of “happy cars” suspended by strings. The cars have wings and tails.

The nameless and faceless population of Connaught Place ride an installation of a fancy iron rickshaw painted white by Megha Joshi, while a canvas compares the din of CP to the sound of the sea heard through a conch shell.

Medico-turned artist Sanjay Sahai gives CP a rural feel on his canvas that shows “a tea stall and life in the underbelly of CP early in the morning”.

Artist Satadru Sovan, who calls his works cyber-scapes — a psychedelic style which draws from images in cyber space — shows CP as a land of “cool dudes, hot chicks and flying birds floating in waves of bright neon colour bands through the huge white art-deco pillars of the inner circle”.

“The pillars are phallic symbols and my fantasy figures float through them as in cyber-space narrating stories about CP. My works have been inspired by a Facebook group known as Connaught Facebook that packs in information about the capital’s most happening stretch,” Sovan told IANS.