Cricket has found a new cause in the national capital ahead of the sixth edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL). Fifteen leading artists recently unveiled their “bat art” in support of the Delhi Daredevils franchise by flagging off a “Batting for Art…Khelo Front Foot Se” public installation project. The project, a joint promotional campaign by the Delhi Daredevils and Arts4All private arts platform, has brought cricket and art under one umbrella to raise awareness about Indian contemporary art and carry it to wider cross-sections of people as a commercial enterprise. Painted on giant wooden bats in bright colours, the public installations that will be displayed at the venues where the team will play, at Terminal-3 of the Indira Gandhi International Airport and at public venues where they will draw maximum viewers, co-curator of the project Archana Bahl Sapra of Arts4All, said.
The collection will also be exhibited at the marquee at the Ferozshah Kotla Stadium here where the Delhi Daredevils play their home games. The month-long IPL-6 begins April 3.
The roster of artists who unveiled the cricket art represent the regions where the Delhi Daredevils will play their matches. They include Paresh Maity, Jayasri Burman, Chintan Updhayay, Sanjay Bhattacharya, Thota Vaikuntam, Seema Kohli, Neeraj Goswami, Farhad Husain, Yusuf Arakkal, Kachan Chander, Khem Vaishnav, Binoy Verghese, Dileep Sharma and Satish Gupta.
“The idea germinated two years ago. We had begun Arts4All with small residencies inviting young artists from the smaller towns to work and train the capital. But we realised that we required money to pay for their travel. We came upon the IPL team by chance and decided to merge the two fields. We want to price art works between Rs.300,000 and Rs.500,000,” Sapra said.
Like sports, art challenges boundaries – of the body as well as the mind and its creative instincts, Sapra said. “It is this inextricable intertwining and dynamic play that the exhibition seeks to explore. The artists were invited to create a new language in their distinctive signature styles to turn lines, forms and colours into playing fields,” the co-curator explained. The imageries were a contrast to the bats – the medium. Inspired by Indian mythology, traditions and lifestyles, the artists interpreted anecdotes from Krishna Leela, Ramayana, lifestyles, nature, ethnic iconography and Indian figurative motifs to bring out the synergy between the culture of cricket and the Indian way of life.
Both are reflections of a certain culture, said Mumbai-based artist Chintan Upadhayay. “The idea was exciting to me. Cricket is something everybody is attached to – it is entertainment. For me, it is a cultural phenomenon. The pace of the game has game has picked up. The test matches have lost their popularity. The T20 matches represent the fast-growing economy,” Upadhyay told IANS.
His iconic metaphor Chintu – a naked male child which Upadhayay uses recurrently – represents the “new India” in his bat art.
“I was talking about the new Indian rich and Chintu represents them,” he said, adding that “both modern art and cricket are characterised by aggression and creativity”.
For artists Seema Kohli and Jayasri Burman, the bat drew parallels with Lord Krishna’s childhood sport with the ball and lore from Ramayana respectively.
“When I saw the scroll-like bat, I immediately wanted to tell a story because I paint visual narratives on panels. Ramayana was a spontaneous decision,” artist Jayasri Burman said.