When Artists Transform A Village Into A Colourful Canvas in Himachal Pradesh

People say that some places grow on you. I never actually gave a thought to that. I keep travelling and wondering, covering many dots on the map. You travel, live those moments, share that laugh with strangers, admire nature and move on to another destination. However, it was not happening with me this time. Often I have been transported back to that remote mountain village I visited a few months ago . I tried digging out the reason behind it. And finally I found the yearning answer to it. It is not just the serenity of the place, but what drives me to this place is the compelling passion of a man whose love for the village and the urge to do something for the villagers simply hovered my mind so deeply that I became emotionally connected to this tiny village in Himachal Pradesh.

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Transforming a village into an Art Gallery is undoubtedly a long process. A village, which is literally off the tourist map and except a few travellers, is not known to many, has become an Art Village in a span of a month. Located in the foothills of the Dhauladar range of Kangra Valley, Gunehar is the remote mountain village where ShopArt ArtShop2 festival is being celebrated nowadays. A unique Art Festival, where some of the finest artists from across countries have participated in a paid residency to create unique Art. The rareness of this festival is when these art forms are exhibited in the empty shops of the village. The celebrated feature of this Art Festival is that, unlike other festivals, the art doesn’t exhibit in elite galleries, rather using those empty shops, the market squares and corners of the village. The inclusive process, where artists are invited to live in the village for four weeks, allotted the empty spaces, make collaboration with the villagers, and the interactive approach makes this festival a rare festival in the world. More than that, the beauty of the festival is the participation of the villagers to celebrate contemporary art and present it to the world is commendable.

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The brain Child of Frank Schlichtmann, ShopArt ArtShop 2 is part of his prestigious project called 4Tables Project. From the time of inception to execution, Mr. Frank has been instrumental in designing this creative project. While the first edition of ShopArt, ArtShop was about emerging artists and their ability to use the allotted space and convert them into an Art space, the second edition of Shop Art Art Shop 2, Frank has envisioned an ‘opening up the village to the world’ by artists. Infusing local influences to create a contemporary masterpiece to transcend the boundaries between local and urban is the driving factor of this project. Bridging the gap between local and urban, and traditional and modern, ShopArt ArtShop 2 has come out with a wide range of innovative mix of Art shops this year.

What’s there in ShopArt ArtShop 2?

Gunehar Pop by Ketna Patel

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London and Pune based Artist Ketna Patel’s colourful shop invites everyone to be photographed, write and paint in her shop. Ketna’s ‘Photo Ki Dukan,’ is one of the most vibrant shops of the festival. While drawing inspiration from the locals, Ketna intends to digitally create“Pop Art” narratives out of it. Ketna Patel’s creative project , to make a classic photo studio with Taj Mahal as a backdrop, has already drawn a lot of attention from the villages. This is one of the most visited and engaging shops in the village right now.

1-Rupee Cinema goes to Bollywood by KMLO

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KM Lo (Hong Kong) is a guerrilla filmmaker on a mission to prove that making films can be simple and easy. His Tuk-Tuk Cinema is hugely popular in Asia and he has been to Gunehar a number of times to work on the 1-Rupee Cinema with village children. He is one favourite man for the kids in Gunehar. 1 Rupee Cinema is the nosiest shop in Gunehar right now, where kids are excited to learn and act in the film workshop.This time, he and a select group of children are working on a set of short sci-fi films which they, as 2nd part of the project, will take to Mumbai to demonstrate them to some of the Bollywood directors.

The “Hidden Spaces” Collective by Sheena Deviah, Bianca Ballantyne & Co.

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Sheena (Bangalore) and Bianca (Goa/Bir) are illustrators, print maker and conceptual artists, who together with a group of artists from different fields, is using art installations to give meaning to the numerous dead-end ‘hidden spaces’ that exist in the village due to plan-less construction activities. They are using material, usually discarded by local people in their art installations, to give meaning to ‘dead spaces’. By doing this, they want to make the local aware of the uses of those abandoned materials.

The «From the Sky» and «Who lives in Glass Houses» Installations by Puneet Kaushik

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Puneet (Delhi) is a multidisciplinary artist and one of the most prolific and versatile faces of the Indian contemporary arts scene. His “From the Sky” is a multi-dimensional installation exploring the possibilities offered by the topography and structures of Gunehar. It can in its entirety, only be seen while flying/paragliding above Gunehar. This undoubtedly is the most creative concept I have ever come across.

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Puneet Kaushik’s “Who lives in Glass Houses” will blow your mind away. The brilliant use of rocks, recycled fabric and plastic bottles in an under constructed house is simply outstanding.

3minutestories by Amrit Vatsa

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Amrit (Goa) is the person behind the two immensely popular sites vatsap.com and 3minutestories.com. His ArtShop in Gunehar is a multi-media installation around a number of 3minutemovies, where he is showcasing simple stories around Gunehar. The simple yet engaging narrative of his short films make it a powerful visual diary of Gunehar. I like the style of his storytelling,which is unique.

Gunehar Fashions by Rema Kumar

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Rema (Delhi) is a reputed textile designer, whose Gaddi Fashion Show explores the possibilities of local fabrics, designs and people to create a line of clothing for a fashion show by local women in Gunehar. A very interesting shop called Gunehar Fashion, Rema Kumar is giving a new look of traditional Gaddi costumes with a modern twist to it. The local Gaddi women will be participating in the fashion show at the grand ceremony.

Market Square Graffiti by Gargi Chandola and the Kangra Miniature Painters

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Gargi (Delhi) is a graphic designer with a passion for Indian miniature paintings and has put together a collective of painters of the Kangra Miniature School with the support of The Kangra Arts Promotion Society to refurbish the Gunehar Market Square in a mixture of traditional miniature and modern graffiti styles. Gargi is intended to give meaning to Kangra miniature art form which is losing its visibility. If you are seeing the most colourful market square in Gunehar, this is due to her effort to transform the market square into a canvas.

The Terracotta Space Installation by Mudita Bhandari

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Mudita Bhandari, a renowned ceramic artist from Indore. Her large-scale spatial installation combining terracotta forms with local materials is transforming an entire wall. She is using stone and slate to create her architectural terracotta form.

Judy’s Kitchen

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Judy and Shayne Ballantine have taken over the 4tables restaurant for the duration of SA AS 2, cooking up some fabulous communal meals for artists and visitors during the festival. Come join them and other chefs such as Prima Kurien and Frank Schlichtmann for specially designed food events.

The Virtual Village

Ksenia Bosak, a young Russian web designer, has designed a colourful ‘virtual village’, through which anybody can travel to Gunehar virtually, enter the art shops, engage in conversations with the artists and can also see the whole process of creating art. Isn’t that awesome?

While getting all the updates from Gunehar, I could not hold my excitement to see the sea transformation of the village. The shops have become a colour palate where Artists paint their inspirations which are drawn from the village. Every shop has its unique concept which translates the passion to celebrate art outside a stereotype format. It’s incredible to see as to how inaccessible contemporary art can be celebrated in a rural setup with real people, who not just get the inspiration but they are also trying to understand the world of art by participating in it. The smile on the faces of every local simply defines the underlining purpose of the festival.

When the village is opening up to the world, that’s where one bridges the gap between local and urban. Join the Mela to celebrate ShopArt ArtShop2 in Gunehar.

DON’T MISS THE GRAND FINALE ON 14th JUNE.


For More information , Kindly visit http://www.shopartshop.com/


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2 Comment

  1. Wow. What a fantastic initiative. Love the various diverse kind of talent this event brings together…
    The Untourists recently posted…Walking Through LondonMy Profile

    1. Thank you so much. Its a great initiative. You must attend next time .

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