After a little business was discussed (about the Commonwealth Heads of Government Forum, GDPR and social media), there were two presentations:-
1 Rubi Bhattacharyya (Hon. Secretary WAC-UNA) spoke on “The Social Power of Women and Art”. Rubi met village women artists who did Mithila painting (later known as Madhubani), as a domestic ritual activity. She showed some examples of their work.
In 1934 an earthquake in Bihar collapsed their mud houses and British officer Mr William Archer (a prominent authority on Indian art, 1.2.1907 – 6.3.1979) "discovered" paintings on the newly exposed interior walls of homes. Stunned by the beauty of the paintings and similarities to the work of modern Western artists like Klee, Miro, and Picasso, he publicised their art.
The rural artists (mainly housewives with no formal schooling) learnt the skills (developed over 1000 years) from their relatives. These women stopped the deforestation in Bihar by painting religious figures on the tree trunks in ‘Madhubani Style’ and Government did not dare to cut these ‘breathing temples. This improved air quality of air in Bihar and raised the ecological and environmental awareness generally among the villagers and others. This non-violent movement caught world’s attention and their art work is in Art galleries of the world as contemporary art.
Now 225 local women artists together are painting, free of cost, the wall of Madhubani station. This painting is the largest, recognised by Guinness book of records. The talented artists by their unselfishness and strong willingness to work together, made a big impact in their simple lives and beyond.
2 Sally Spear (Chairman) spoke on “Using art to facilitate communication of ideas”.
She said that art was a valuable tool for improving communications and the understanding of our messages – after all “a picture is worth a thousand words”. She showed many examples. The artist has two languages to use – the obvious meaning and the hidden one, inferred by allusion, metaphors, association of ideas about characters, symbols and stories. People interpret pictures in different ways, hence the lasting interest in intriguing art. The artist’s vision can translate and simplify complex messages to suggest solutions to problems; stimulate thought, or capture nuances, clarify ideas, focus in on key points and generally raise awareness. People have biases and may resist acting on good ideas!
Art can cross language and cultural barriers. There are many forms of art – simple and clear graphic art, using cartoons, humour, etc.
The new statue of Millicent Garrett Fawcett (suffragist campaigner for women’s suffrage) in Parliament Square, London, made by a female artist, Gillian Wearing OBE, is seen by many.
The commemoration of the achievement of the UK women’s right to vote 100 years ago, produced many demonstrations - in Belfast, Cardiff and London and Edinburgh. There were thousands of women parading through the streets, with a mass of artwork banners which the Guardian called it a “living artwork”. This was colourful, eye catching and memorable. Art on a large or small scale can definitely be effective, livening social media.
Sally Spear, WACUNA