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Digital Art Scene
The future form of artistic expression

Kalki by Saim Ghani: Indian digital artists can look back on a rich culture
Indian digital artists can look back on a rich culture. | © Saim Ghani

In the pandemic, many areas of life are being virtualised and shifted to the internet. This is also true of art. A lively digital art scene has emerged in India with a growing number of visual artists discovering virtual forms for themselves.

By Oliver Schulz

Making art together – it can be done in the midst of the coronavirus crisis as well: In an online session of Apple’s ‘New World’ program, Thukral & Tagra from Delhi showed participants how they create a virtual companion. A dog or a cat, for example. After all, loneliness has been a big issue in the pandemic. The internationally renowned duo, deeply rooted in traditional art forms, had already attracted attention with their humorous virtual games. In one of the games, the gamers were allowed to scream to their heart’s content in a car, in order to vent their anger. In another, two loquacious pappadams (Indian flatbread) were having a chat. The games were produced for Instagram through pollinator.io, an interdisciplinary online laboratory.

© Saim Ghani
Digitalisation is a particularly important subject for the fashion sector.

Whether interactive or not: digital art is becoming increasingly popular – from moving images and photography on the net to works produced by Artificial Intelligence or Machine Learning. Digital art offers endless possibilities for experimenting with new forms. Snapchat, Instagram, and Google, as well as trademarks ranging from FMCG to fashion labels are desperately looking for digital developers for art projects. Last year, for instance, Bharat Floorings commissioned artists to design floor tiles for a joint collection. Lay’s launched the ‘Artwork for Heartwork’ campaign, a virtual showcase of the works of 100 Indian painters, photographers, and digital artists as well as a number of Bollywood stars. The campaign helped the company collect donations and buy hygiene kits for farmers, truck drivers, and shopkeepers.

Revival of fashion illustration

Fashion illustration is also experiencing a digital boom. Saim Ghani, a visual artist from Kolkata, started creating animated illustrations on Instagram during the first lockdown in 2020. For instance, he transposed images of the ‘Butterfly People’ collection by the designer Rahul Mishra to the Ta Prohm Temple in Cambodia. “At first, I used digital art only as a means of dealing with my fear during the coronavirus crisis and diverting creative energy to another space,” says Ghani, who is a Senior Designer at one of India’s leading fashion companies. It was a completely new, completely unexplored area for him, he says. “There are fewer sources of error than in traditional art because the tools are so inflexible. Sometimes they restrict you. But with time, it becomes a highly emotional activity.”

Aditya Mehta, founder of the platform Art&Found, curates affordable digital art online. Aditya Mehta, founder of the platform Art&Found, curates affordable digital art online. | © Aditya Mehta Making art accessible was the motive behind founding Art&Found, says Aditya Mehta. He also wanted the value of Indian digital art to be appreciated at the global level. His online platform (artandfound.co) curates affordable art – and this, too, is increasingly digital. His challenges, he says, lay in access and authenticity. Traditional art was primarily for a group of art collectors, galleries, fairs, and curators. The rise of online art platforms now offers access to up-and-coming artists and to completely unknown artists. Mehta says each piece of work first undergoes a thorough appraisal before artists can register on his platform and upload their works. Only after yet another review is the work published.

Boom in NFT crypto art

In order to reduce plagiarism and to protect copyright, increasing use is being made of Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs). Each and every work is linked to a unique ID that is generated, shared, and stored over the blockchain. This technology allows crypto art to become collectors’ items and prices to skyrocket.

For example, Pulkit Kudiwal, an artist from Jaipur, recently sold five of his digital surrealist images on the Foundation and Rarible platforms for a total of 5,500 Euros. Prasad Bhat, a Bangalore-based illustrator, sold his first NFT – a caricature of Leonardo DiCaprio – for 3,000 Euros. That the market is booming is also borne out by Nishal Shetty who has created a successful NFT platform, WazirX, for Indian artists.

Will ‘digital’ become the new ‘normal’? The art of tomorrow seems geared to the virtual and therefore to the global world. The accessibility of the presentation and marketing platforms regardless of distance allows several artists across the world to strive for fame and money. However, given the sheer volume of artworks, random choices can soon become a handicap. “Today, the distinctiveness of the created work is even more important than its uniqueness,” says Saim Ghani. “Which is why Indian artists, in particular, who can look back on such a rich culture, are probably better placed than other artists worldwide.”