In 2016, as a tribute to the artistic works of the late K.N Ramachandran, Karthikeyan Ramachandran set out to curate and conceptualise a festival that celebrated the talent of scores of Indian painters coupled with the hottest musical acts from in and around the country. The festival took place smack in the middle of the foothills of Kamshet. The festival teamed up with various artists from UK as well. The 2017 edition of the festival saw over 70 Indian and British artists, seven workshops and seven exhibitions.
To provide a sense of context, each artist was provided with a choice of year from 1947 to 2017. They then molded their artwork to the respective year. and used that to channel their ideas and creativity. The end result was an extremely diverse canvas of work spanning over seven decades of rich culture and history.
The organisers at Razorlight were kind enough to book us a private cab all the way to the secluded hills at Kamshet. Once there, with the help of some locals we were finally able to navigate our way to Raikar Farms, the venue for Appa Art Fest 2017. My driver seemed to be in an irate mood; not fully anticipating how deep inside the roads would take us. Nevertheless, after a hasty goodbye, he left me in the middle of nowhere next to a beautiful lake, and without any cellphone reception. Down the road was a minimalist venue setup.
The minute you enter through the gates you’re surrounded with endless canopies of trees. Scores of paintings were hung up on bamboo stilts for people to admire as the pathway slithered its way downhill. There was a beautiful amphitheater stage with strategically placed rocks, which would serve as a platform for most of the evening’s musical acts. Ahead was the real festival highlight—under drooping trees and low-hanging branches sat countless easels bearing the weight of half-filled canvasses. Painters from all over India had started creating their masterpieces one stroke at a time. As I walked around, I spotted many South-Indian origin painters, which was understandable given the background of late, K.N Ramachandran. Among these established artists were Asha Rani Nadoni, P N Acharya, Suhas Bahulkar, K.G Lingadeveru and Yashawanth Hibare.
The trees opened up to a lawn, which had another stage set up for musical performances. As I made my way downstairs, the lush green foliage stretched out endlessly. Among the trees were installations by artists still far from complete. The final stage was at the base of the hill, with ample space for some fancy footwork. I made my way through a small gateway next to the lawn and voila! Undoubtedly the best view at the venue, the huge expanse of the Pawna Lake spread out in front of me. The organisers even went as far as to build a platform with bamboo stilts for people to chill, relax and get an unobstructed view of the gorgeous sunset. Bonus points!
Through the three days, there were many stand out acts who put out smashing performances. Kumail, Malfnktion, Zokhuma, Amy True/Logic, Bobby Friction, Func and Bandish Projekt were just some of the artists who lay down some serious beats in the forest.
THE SHOW-STEALERS –
RAAG NEWTON- THE 96-HOUR PLAY
The stand out attraction of the festival was a pregnant lady made completely out of bamboo sticks at the base of the lake. Designed as a long-term project, a small stage built inside the womb would act as a platform for the 96-hour play by the artists behind the idea. The artists hope that come monsoon, ferns and shrubs will take over the structure, completing the masterpiece.
Sapna Bhavnani’s pet project saw her channel her rage and frustration over the 2012 Nirbhaya horror. Using the symbolism of trees and the rise of a feminist movement, she successfully embodies her anguish about the tortured Indian woman in her photographs.
TRIBUTE TO APPA
A tribute dedicated to the last inspired works of K.N Ramachandran was housed in an exposed brick wall room. The exhibit titled ‘Tribute to Appa’ had paintings made by the gifted artist during his final days. After losing most of his motor skills, he made these last etchings completely out of lines and dots—rough, but overflowing with detail.
THE MUMBAI COLOUR WHEEL
Another installation titled ‘City by Colour’ boasted of a brilliant concept of capturing the many hues and shades of Mumbai in a series of photographs.
A VIDEO MAPPED COTTAGE
A hotel in the middle of the venue was converted into a special spot for video mapping exhibits. Once the sun set, the glory of the designs being projected and mapped on the walls was a total visual feast!