‘Art Across The Globe’ Lands In Natick
By Sean Sullivan
Art is a universal language, a means of expression that can be understood across lines of language and culture. And now, thanks to more-widespread adoption of teleconferencing, art can just as easily span the differences and difficulties of distance.
That’s the aim of “Art Across the Globe,” a series of live and interactive online workshops being sponsored in Natick. The sessions feature painters from India, wherein they demonstrate and describe their art, technique and traditions. Viewers meet and engage with the artists via video, which includes the chance to ask questions of their featured creator.
Participants are encouraged to mostly observe and engage in the live workshops - painting comes later. They can revisit the tutorial for up to three weeks following its airing, and render their own versions of the featured work during that time.
“My goal here is to give people primary exposure,” said Swati Biswas. She is organizing and facilitating the streaming workshops, working with the Natick Center Cultural District which has sponsored the project. A native of India’s West Bengal, Biswas designed the sessions to sample from a wider swath of the subcontinent.
“I said, ‘why don’t we go beyond my home state?’ To give a flavor of India. I try to work with people who are actually from that region.”
Held in January and February, the first and second of five workshops have come and gone, but artists interested in taking part in any of the next three can sign up. Scheduled for March 26, this month’s session will feature artist Gayatri Verma, who will create a traditional Madhubani-Style Painting. Verma hails from Bihar, a state in East India bordering Nepal.
Like many, Biswas realized the potential of streaming video during the pandemic. She’s a dancer, and in those days during shutdowns organized performers via video. She will also serve as interpreter during the online workshops, and will translate the sessions so they can be viewed over the subsequent weeks.
Though the pandemic shut many people in, one bright spot was the way it fostered connections across distance. Folks were forced to reach out via video, and those skill sets still resonate even as the hardships of the pandemic recede.
Keeping the artwork authentic also means adhering to traditional processes for making paints and pigments. That often entails creating colors from natural sources, including vibrant flowers and leaves, as the practice has endured for centuries in India.
The workshops serve creators and communities on both sides of the camera. Artists working in remote, rural places can have their work and culture seen and appreciated beyond borders. While other artists a world away, say in New England, can learn and connect, adopt techniques and ways of seeing from their foreign creative counterparts.
“It really feels good to have that support from everyone around here,” said Biswas. Part of facilitating the sessions also entails hooking up artists across oceans with the hardware they need to connect with audiences in the wider world.
These days, a cell phone or laptop computer is often all that’s required to host such a workshop - that, and an internet connection. The technology is becoming pervasive enough that people in more-remote areas can often access it. Even so, that might mean borrowing tech from friends or family, renting it, or making the trek to a local hub with connectivity.
Now a veteran of the video interactions between such disparate cultures, Biswas appreciates the impact the sessions can have.
“Some of the things are really mind-blowing when you react with them and see how little they have at their disposal,” she said.
Again, some things about making art are universal.
“They also take a lot of pride in their work.”