ART underground
"India's first Digital Art Gallery, Archive and Interaction Facility"
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Launched April 5, 1997, from a 300 square foot space in Vadodara, Gujarat (Western India), this here's a project that's taken wing well at the forefront of independent creative digital imaging in India today.

Brainchild of Nandini and Amitabh Gandhi, alumni of the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, and well-known graphic designers themselves, the gallery began by hosting and exhibiting creations of Indian digital artists, but has moved on to also set up training facilities for contemporary fine artists, art educators, design students and even amateurs, including children.

One result on the side is that the gallery presently boasts of an archive of over 2500 digital images.

From all accounts, ARTunderground has been playing a pretty major role in popularizing digital art in India by moving upon the belief that "digital art is for all", and will therefore become the "folk art of the new millennium."

The texts below are verbatim extract from flyers of recent ARTunderground events, to help you get an idea of how they see themselves. Images accompanying this text, and in the video above are all assembled from a part of their archives.

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click here for a thumbnail gallery of the images in the video above, and close the new window this will open in to return here


Art Underground is a venture to explore the uncharted domain of digital creativity. Why call it a venture, it's more close to an adventure!

The environment of digital creativity is much like a sleep-walker's reality. The terrain is unfamiliar yet there are no obstacles. You travel far yet there is no fatigue. A reality within another reality. A virtual reality. It is there, if you can dream it. Almost. And if you have a dream, you can make it real. Almost. You are the architect and the creator. Almost. Art Underground itself is a blue print of one such reality. Well, almost.

Art Underground delights in the spirit of a creative endeavor and celebrates the vision of an uninhibited mind.

If we lose the capacity to dream, we will perish, Absolutely. Not almost.

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FOLK ART OF THE NEXT MILLENNIUM

Digital Painting is emerging as an art form so unique and vibrant that it leaves a lasting impression on a viewer's mind. Today the computer is not merely assisting us to manage or manipulate data but it is demonstrating its power as a tool to unleash creative energies and awaken the artists in each of us. The medium is fast becoming the message.
The 'state-of-the-art' in any civilization has been the true measure of its progress & prosperity. Art is the mirror of our society. We can't ignore it. With computers reaching out to every home, art can find its way back to where it really belonged. The Family. Now once again man can dabble in the 'Everyday-Art' to relieve his conscience of 'Everyday-Sins' and revive the forgotten 'Folk Art' in the 21st century. Today ironically even technologies are judged by the prefix: state-of-the-art. It is no less important to understand the role of technological innovations in the shaping of art.

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Who's afraid of a computer?
Maybe you and I are?
Even Paranoid, perhaps.
Children certainly are not.
For them it's a lot of "fun and games"
Why not!
That's the way it should be -
all their lives.

Since the advent of computers
we have given credence
to more myths about the machine
than to the truth.
Computers are accused of many evils.
Curbing creativity, robotizing
the mind and so on.
That's hardly true. If anything at all,
computers have helped to curb
the human skill of corruption.
Because computers can't lie.

While children appreciate this fact,
we fear it,
Perhaps our feeble conscience feels
threatened by its transparency.

Today computers are creating a reality
that breathes on
the fresh air of creativity.
The "Mindless machine" is a tool to
liberate the mind and facilitate
the freedom of expression.

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ART FOR ALL FOR ART

An exhibition of digital art prints by ARTunderground at India international Center, New Delhi March 7-14, 2001

ARTunderground, India's first digital art gallery, archive and interaction facility, based in Vadodara will exhibit a Group Show of 70 digital art prints created at ARTunderground by Baroda based artists, graphic designers, amateurs artists and children using computers.

The Group Show, "ART FOR ALL FOR ART' is an attempt at observing how the artist in each of us negotiates with digital technology in the making of art.

From the exuberance and candid immediacy of the children's digital prints, the playful fantasies by graphic designer, Amitabh Gandhi, that provide much 'food for thought', to the layers that delve into muralist Hina Bhaff's cryptic "Private spaces", the tactile visuality of graphic designer, Nandini Gandhi's formal explorations, and the monumentality of sculptor Asokan Poduval's images, the experiments in new media art at ARTunderground hint at the power of a new medium/tool to rediscover ourselves.

Perhaps more than anything the exhibition is a call to awaken the artist in each of us, to entice each of us to reconnect with the process of art making, the feeling "I can do it" through this synergy of mind and machine that extends the parameters of the possible.

The digital art prints have been created using 2D & 3D digital imaging software from MetaCreations and Adobe and printed in a variety of media such as Coated Paper, Canvas, Vinyl and Photoglossy Film on Epson's range of pro-inkjet color printers and printed by Epson India Pvt. Ltd.

The artists participating in this show are Jyoti Bhatt (Painter, Printmaker & Photographer) Asokan Poduval (Sculptor, MSU) Hina Bhatt (Muralist & Painter, MSU) Deepak John Mathew (Print Maker, MSU) Amitabh Gandhi (Graphic Designer) Ramesh Mulye (Digital Artist, Mumbai) Nandini Gandhi (Graphic Designer, NID) Biswabandhu Mohanto (Painter, Shantiniketan), Rashmimala Devi (Painter, MSU).

"The Emerging Palette" an Interactive on Friday, March 9 between 6~pm at the IIC, will provide a platform to those inquiring about new media art to share concerns emerging from the digital art form.

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ART FOR ALL: Can digital technology democratize ART?

This is not for the first time that we are here at the crossroad. In fact, we have often been here, in the perplexed moments of collective historical -cultural discourses. Skepticism, be it facile or epistemological, has been a basic elemental constituent of general human psyche. Tethered to it with a set of unresolved dilemmas at hand, we are intrigued with certain questions. The questions with regard to definition, reinterpretation and appropriation of "high art" and "artistic authorship", "political correctness" and "cultural power politics". May be we have also felt again that romanticist anxiety about losing the battle with the machine - the myth of dehumanization of art and artists endures. Because in this age of mechanical reproduction we have again encountered the emergence of a new social aesthetic order, a new art form. As was once felt by Walter Benjamin at the advent of photographic invention, may be we are again intrigued by the question as to how this neo-techno art form emerging from the now all pervasive digital technology will again change the central idea of art. Remember Chang-Yen-Yuan, the Chinese critic who had more than a thousand years ago condemned to hell that "contemporary" art was but chaotic, and the Munich critic who lamented the "death of art" at Picasso's Cubist idiom? But we know, if anything is constant that is the dynamics of change. At this post-modern juncture, the conceptual and the creative-imaginative order transcends the order of skill and technique. Mindcraft hovers over handicraft, as this time our encounter is in cyberspace with the form of digital art.

Standing at the crossroad, if we are perplexed, we are also wonder struck and thrilled. We see an infinite vista opening up with a range and sophistication, aided by the inherent technical devices of the medium unfolding with unique and distinct potentialities; the iterative nature and discursive quality of the medium embedded in the actual works of art. The only criterion for artistic endeavor being the faculty of imagination and the ability to make a choice. At one hand a unique poetic brevity, and at other the abundance of epic theatricality! But yes, for us the puritans, there has always been a craving for smell-touch-feel, the tactile quality, and our most cherished sentimental values. Then again, if not replaced, the new medium of course compensates the feel with its distinctive pace and rhythm, an essential marker of the time it belongs to. Hence for the artist like Akbar Padamsee, it is the ultimate dream of the formalist credo come true. For sculptor Asokan Poduval, it is the collaboration with another artist who has got great skills and does not know what to do with them.

Are we only talking about the artists? No, we are also talking about an art, which is for all. An art which arouses the artist lying latent inside each of us. For ARTunderground, India's first digital art gallery, archive and interaction facility, digital art is the new 'folk art ' of our millennium, where art belongs not only to the privileged, but also to each and everyone with artistic disposition. It promises to dismantle the aura of the "high art" and sets new premises to democratize it. Of course, the question of present inaccessibility of the medium to a certain extent may jeopardize the claim to democratization, but, in times to come, we all would be able to override this inaccessibility the way we enter the PCO booth at every nook and comer of the street. The initiation to this process has already been started by ARTunderground with various projects, this exhibition being one of such, bringing together, professional artists, children, amateur women, people of all walks of life into the hallowed precincts of creation and appreciation of art.

The graphic designer Amitabh Gandhi's witty playfulness to professional muralist Hina Bhat's subtle complexities in her "Private Spaces" render that life is all about layering; right from cooking to the relationships that we build up, interpersonal or environmental. If, for these artists the medium is an exploration and experimentation for new idiomatic possibilities, for children, it is a playful manipulation of form and light, translucence and infusion of space and depth. This is a candid revelation of their enchanting and spectacular world of dream fantasy woven by works such as the "Bird of Paradise", "Wisdom Tree", and "Cat in the Wilderness."

And for those amateur women with their peculiar psychedelic syndrome of "nothing-significant-to do at-this-time-of-life, it is a sudden liberation from the mundane-ephemeral-day-to-day-being of monotonous existential predicament. It is like a quick secret journey to the netherworlds without any messing around (no-paint-no-brush-no-canvas) and back to the daily humdrum with a refreshing break.

by ~ Moushurni Kandali, MS.University Baroda. 29th January 2001

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Artists who participated in ARTunderground's latest exhibition in New Delhi (early 2001)

Jyoti Bhatt is a senior painter, pnintmaker, photographer and a researcher of folk & tribaJ art in India. Though a senior artist Jyoti Bhatt has the humility of a perennial beginner, a sadhana that makes his art a spiritual pilgrimage. Jyoti Bhatt has taught painting at the Faculty of Fine Arts, Baroda, and has several solo shows to his credit in India and abroad. He has participated in International Print Biennials in Italy, Poland, Japan, Yugoslavia and Germany. He has been the recipient of State, National and International awards and scholarships including the Gold Plaque at the National Exhibition of Art; National Award at Lalit Kala Academy; Bombay Art Society Show; Gold Medal at International Print Biennale Florence, Italy; Gujarat State Special Award; Fulbright Scholarship for print making at Pratt Institute, USA and Government of Italy Scholarship study painting and etching in Naples.

Asokan Poduval, a sculptor by training has been exploring the idiomatic potential of computers since 1999, through a Digital Art Scholarship awarded by ARTunderground to explore the Emerging Aesthetic. In a short time Asokan has experimented with several 2D, 3D Multimedia and Web Software and designed and participated in digital art workshops for children with ARTunderground.
Asokan's digital works have been shown at NGMA Mumbai and ARTunderground Vadodara.
Asokan has exhibited his sculptures in several group shows at Delhi and Mumbai, including the path breakng "Seven Young Scutptors" Show at Delhi. He has participated in several art camps, and received prestigious awards, scholarships and research grants for his work including the Best Sculpture Award from the Kerala Lalitha Kala Academy in 1997.
Bom in 1957, Asokan Poduval trained in sculpture from the college of Fine Arts, Trivandrum and Post Diploma in Ceramic Sculpture from the Faculty of Fine Arts, M.S. University Baroda.

Hina Bhatt has studied at the M.S.University, Baroda. A painter and a muralist, Hina works with oils, watercolor, mix media and computers. Hina has participated in Group Shows at Baroda, Ahmedabad and Bangalore. She has had 2 solo shows of her oils and watercolors at Baroda.
Hina has been exploring the creative partnership of 'mind and machine' at ARTunderground since 1997.
Hina has extensive experience in digital art training and has trained children amateur women artists, students of design, fine artists and design professionals in digital painting.
The digital prints on display here are from Hina's first digital art prints portfolio "A Private Space". Ethereal, intimate glimpses that spring from her intense engagement with her personal spaces. From the darkness and the depth of oneself emerge the rays of inspiration the clues as it were.

Deapak John Mathew holds a masters in Graphics (printmaking) from Faculty of Fine Arts, M.S. Universily, Baroda. Deepak has participated in several National and State level group shows and has a solo show to his credit. He has been a recipient of Kanoria Art Center Scholarship the Inlaks Fine Arts Award and National Scholarship for young artists.

Amitabh Gandhi has walked many tracks: a stint at architecture, at the Center for Environmental Planning & Technology, Ahmedabad, Graphic Design at National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, Broadcasting from the Xavier's Institute of Mass Communication, Mumbai. Amitabh has worked as Art Director with advertising agencies in Ahmedabad, Mumbai and Delhi and meanwhile passionately scavenging collectibles. Amitabh brings his eclectic experiences, exposures and inquiries about art to his work.
The founder member of ARTunderground, a gallery exclusively devoted to digital art, Amitabh pioneered a movement which had few takers in 1997.
Amitabh believes that the digital medium is the folk art of our millennium. A chance for modem folks to dabble in 'everyday art' and relieve their conscience of 'everyday sins'. With computers reaching the home, art can find its place where it really belonged ~The Family.

Nandini Gandhi has trained as a Graphic Designer with the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad.
Nandini is the co-founder of ARTunderground. She has designed digital art workshops for children, amateurs and design students conducted at Vadodara, Surat, Bangalore, Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar.
For Nandini, her encounter with computers and the digital environment has been an empowering experience, a journey into an uncharted domain, and a chance to defy gravity. Her works are in private collections in Bangalore, Baroda and at the Seiko Epson headquarters Japan.
Nandini's digital works have been exhibited at Baroda and Bangalore.
Nandini works as Communication Manager with a state agency promoting renewable sources of energy, and is actively involved in renewable energy education.

Ramesh Mulye graduated from Sir J.J. Institute of Applied Art. He has worked in advertising as a creative director with leading advertising agencies and designed pathbreaking campaigns. Ramesh is an extra-ordinary perfectionist, constantly taking on the challenge of mastering new tools and technologies. Any tool in his hand is a magic wand. He was among the first few in this country to see digital dreams, and now runs a digital design studio by the name of "Digital Real". Ramesh exhibited his first solo show of digital prints at Mumbai in 1996.


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Amitabh Gandhi
ART underground
10 S.B. Landmark, Race Course Circle
Gotri Road
Baroda-390007 (India)

Tel: (91-265) 334619, Fax: (91-265) 300017
E-mail